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What Makes Radio and Podcasting Different?

Jason Barrett

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Over the past two years, a rapid interest has developed in podcasting. While it’s actually been available for years, and personalities such as Bill Simmons and Adam Carolla have enjoyed great success in the space, the commitment from advertisers, broadcast companies, and personalities has grown significantly.

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One program which influenced a change in perception of podcasting was the show “Serial“. The program focused on an investigation into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old student in Baltimore, Maryland. Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, but his first trial ended in a mistrial. After a six-week second trial, Syed was found guilty of Lee’s murder and given a life sentence, despite pleading his innocence.

In February 2015, three weeks after the end of Serial’s first season, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed a decision allowing Syed to appeal his conviction. The Court also announced that another three-judge panel would address the question of whether new evidence from an alibi of Syed’s, would be admitted.

The interest in the case, and the information learned on the program, pushed Serial’s season one downloads to over sixty eight million. With the rise in popularity came a large amount of mainstream media coverage, which helped the show gain an extension for two more seasons.

Although Serial made a major splash, it isn’t the only program to experience massive success in the podcasting world. Other popular personalities like Joe Rogan, the Sklar Brothers, Shaquille O’Neal, and pro wrestlers “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Chris Jericho, have taken their talents to the podcasting arena too, and gained strong followings.

Comedian Marc Maron is another personality who delivers a strong audience. To date, his podcast has been downloaded more than one hundred million times. It was also the first podcast to welcome the President of the United States Barack Obama as a guest.

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Recently, CBS Money Watch said advertising on podcasts had grown to the tune of thirty four million dollars annually. PodcastOne Chairman Norm Pattiz (who’s company sells ad time for Carolla’s show), believes its closer to fifty million. He said “If it were $34 million, we’d be way over 50 percent of the business, and I don’t believe that we are“.

With advertiser interest growing, more personalities wanting in, and audiences displaying a heavier appetite for the content, is there a stark difference between podcasting and radio? Sometimes in our industry we latch on to new things, or reimage old ones to become excited again, but in this case, I do believe there are some big differences.

In the past week alone, I consumed fourteen different podcasts to gain a sense of what each program’s recipe was for serving their audience. What I found was that each program was different, and that alone fueled my desire to learn more about the platform’s approach.

The programs I listened to were:

  • The Big Podcast with Shaq and John Kincade
  • The Adam Carolla Show
  • The Stinkin Truth with Mark Schlereth
  • Talk Is Jericho
  • The Tony Bruno Show
  • The Ross Report
  • The Bill Simmons Podcast
  • The SI Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch
  • Sklarboro Country
  • Bernie and Randy
  • Franco and Kags
  • Dennis and Callahan’s Breaking Balls Podcast
  • Radio Stuff with Larry Gifford
  • The Podcast About Sports Radio with Zach McCrite

In comparison to radio, there were a number of similarities, but there also were some major differences. I put a chart together to outline some of those items.

SUBJECT SPORTS RADIO SPORTS PODCASTS
CONTENT & FORMULA Follows a Clock & Format Free Flowing & No Rules
SHOW LENGTHS 2-4 Hours 30-90 Minutes
DISTRIBUTION Everyday 1-2x per week
ORIGINAL PROGRAMS Set Lineups M-F Tons of Variety
SPORTS UPDATES 2-3X Per Hour Rarely any
COMMERCIAL BREAKS 3-4 Per Hour Rarely any
COMMERCIAL TIME 12-20 Minutes Per Hour Rarely any
LIVE READS/MENTIONS Avg. of 2-3X Per Hour Avg. of 2-3X per episode
REVENUE UPSIDE High/Lots of opportunities Low/Limited opportunities
SUCCESS MEASURED Nielsen Ratings Total downloads/Time Spent Per Episode

If you’re an audio listener, and you spend two hours, one with a radio program, and the other with a podcast, you’ll receive much more content from a podcast. Commercials are not part of the strategy, and because they don’t consistently interrupt the flow of the shows, it’s a major benefit for the audience.

Some other positives include the show lengths which are usually 30-60 minutes. Most commuters can consume an entire show during a drive to or from work. There’s no feeling of “I’m going to miss out“. It’s more in line with television’s approach to programming. Those who listen to a podcast, are likely to listen to others too.

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The opportunity to listen to long segments, unfiltered discussions, and gain a peek behind the curtain are other reasons to listen. This allows the talent to be comfortable and authentic. For example, when I listened to Adam Carolla, he got into some very explicit discussions on sex. If the same show had aired on terrestrial radio, Adam either would’ve avoided the subject or presented a PG/R rated version. If he said what he did on his podcast, he would have been suspended or fired, and his employer would’ve been subject to an FCC fine.

What I really enjoyed hearing was how loose most of the personalities were, and how unscripted the programming was. In certain cases I heard shows welcome guests who I’m positive would’ve been declined on local radio stations because they didn’t play into the strategy of delivering ratings. Certain interviews also provided interesting nuggets of information because the discussions were allowed to materialize, and weren’t trying to fit inside an allotted amount of segment time.

There were three great examples of this that jumped out to me.

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First, John Kincade and Shaq had a conversation with Kobe Bryant that was as good as gold. If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out. It was fascinating because Shaq and Kobe were able to relax, and reminisce without it feeling like they were under the microscope, and John had a great sense of when to get involved and when to sit out.

Because the environment was soothing for Shaq and Kobe, the interview entered areas that I don’t believe it would’ve had it taken place on a local radio station. If you have the time to listen, it’s worth it. Make sure also to listen after the interview to the conversation between John and Shaq about “Deez Nuts“. It’s very entertaining.

The second piece to produce a similar result was Richard Deitsch’s podcast with WWE personality Paul Heyman. There was no time limit on the discussion which kept it from feeling rushed, and because Richard does his homework, he’s able to get into certain areas with his guests, and pull things out of them that a listener can appreciate. Hearing Paul discuss how he prepares for his next promo on Raw, why he connects with eloquent people, and how he feels about professional wrestling gaining more mainstream media coverage was very insightful.

The last example I want to highlight was from Larry Gifford’s Radio Stuff podcast. His subject was the rise and fall of Cumulus Media, and he utilized a lot of audio clips in it to help him tell an interesting story. What jumped out the most though was his conversation with Tom Leykis. When I heard Tom say “Cumulus is one of the prime murderers of the broadcasting business” I was intrigued.

Tom then shared his personal account of how Cumulus treated him during negotiations, and how their approach pushed him away from returning to the radio business. While I wasn’t privy to his situation, and am sure there’s another side to it, I felt like I was in the room because of the way he presented it. It was a riveting piece of audio, and one that I don’t believe I’d hear on a local radio show.

While each of those examples above highlights the many benefits being provided by podcasts, I also discovered some negatives.

First, nothing is more aggravating as a content consumer than clicking on a button to hear a show, and then having to wait two minutes for the personality to start the program. This happens because the hosts are reading ads right out of the gate. While I understand the challenge of generating revenue on these programs, this will become a bigger issue for advertisers in the future.

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The biggest reason is because every time a program starts with a talent reading a sponsor message, I fast forward past it. One of the great tools of digital listening, is that you have more control over the way you consume it. When you’re in the car, you either endure commercials, and sponsor mentions, or you change the channel, and hope to return to the station, and not miss anything important. When you’re at your computer or listening on your phone, you can skip to the good stuff, and eliminate the bad.

It’s very similar in my opinion to the DVR. If you record a television show and watch it back, you’re more likely to skip past the commercials than sit through them. The same holds true when listening to a podcast. I’m sure advertisers would rather not hear that.

Sticking with business, I did find my recall of advertisers was higher with podcasting than with radio. On podcasts, sponsors are woven into the programming during select times, and because the interruptions are fewer, and shorter, I sat through them, and remembered them.

There’s also a positive vibe you feel towards the client because they’ve invested in a unique show that you listen to. You want to reward them for that association. I also heard many hosts supporting their clients, and providing good strong personalized reads, rather than breezing past them as we often hear on radio shows.

If I can keep my critical cap on for a moment, I’ll add that because the programming is often recorded, and not touching on LIVE events, there is less of a feeling of urgency to consume it. If listeners don’t check back often, and traffic decreases, that could hurt revenue.

Another challenge that can’t be ignored is that podcasts offer less programming than local radio shows. Top flight personalities on radio provide fifteen to twenty hours of content per week, while podcasts deliver one to two hours. If you’re in the advertising world, that means less opportunity on podcasts, and more opportunity on radio.

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There was one one other tidbit I picked up on that I felt was worth a mention. It applies to the difference in the way the podcasts are presented. Certain talents like Deitsch, the Sklar Brothers, Jericho, Austin, and Simmons, present their shows differently than Bruno, Gifford, McCrite, and Bernie and Randy.

This stems from some podcasters being radio personalities who are used to delivering content a certain way, and others more focused on talking, and less worried about structure and presentation. I can list the pros and cons for each approach, but the one you’ll gravitate towards is the one that appeals to your personal tastes.

For those personalities I listened to who are working for local radio stations, I appreciate them providing something different on their podcasts than what they treat listeners to over the airwaves. That’s very important.

For example, in the case of Bernie and Randy, they don’t do a daily radio show together. Both men are popular to St. Louis sports fans, and occupy drive time slots on 101 ESPN, and by creating the podcast, it brings them together once per week. This helps the station offer a unique program on its digital platform, which gives listeners an extra incentive to visit.

If there’s one piece of advice I can pass along to those who partake in creating podcasts, make sure you’re providing a different experience online than the one you present on-air. Taking your radio program, posting it online, and calling it a podcast is not accurate. Promoting that the show is available on-demand on the website is fine, but podcasts are different. Based on these numbers from Triton, you can see why it’s important to be in this space, and offer original programming.

triton

Earlier in this column I asked if there was a big difference between podcasting and radio, and in my opinion it’s a complicated answer. From the content standpoint, there’s little difference. It’s still programming built around people sharing opinions, stories, and parts of their lives that make them interesting. The format may be different, but it’s still an audio broadcast.

Where things change is when you analyze the business, and content creation strategies. Are personalities providing too much content on radio by broadcasting fifteen to twenty hours per week? If the average listener in a top 5 market consumes thirty to forty minutes per day, does the additional time matter?

How much of that programming time is spent on creating memorable content versus filling air time with calls, and serviceable material? With attention spans shrinking daily, I wonder if we’ll see a shift towards short-focused programming, and a reduction in long-form content.

As far as business is concerned, if commercials aren’t included, and sponsor reads are limited, then how much more money can the platform generate? Downloads, and time spent listening may increase, and that will help the narrative when requesting higher premiums, but there’s still a lack of inventory, and not enough regular programming. Unless that changes, or listeners start paying to consume the content, I struggle to see how the revenue gains will be significant.

If you’re a listener, that’s not your issue. You should love what’s happening with podcasting. You get to enjoy a lot of great talent, content without disruptions, and insight into situations that don’t have a chance to materialize often on local radio. You can also consume it faster which leaves you time for other things that are important in your daily life, and because the programming is offered weekly or bi-weekly, you typically are treated to something good.

podcastcharts

As you can see on the image above, younger audiences are growing up listening this way. If this becomes the future of audio delivery, then media companies better start figuring out how to monetize it better.

From where I sit, I believe podcasting provides enormous opportunity. CBS and Hubbard Radio have already entered the fray by making sizeable investments, and I expect other groups to follow suit in the future.

The only thing debatable in my mind is whether or not the platform can tip the scale for broadcast companies, and become the additional revenue stream they need to pull themselves out of the abyss they’ve been stuck in for the past decade.

Is this a fifty million dollar business that will experience slight economic growth? Or is it a model that’s representative of the future, and will deliver ten to fifteen times it’s current number? That’s radio’s problem to solve, not the audience’s. They’re doing their part by showing up and supporting it.

Barrett Blogs

Julie Talbott to Receive The Jeff Smulyan Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists.”

Jason Barrett

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Each year at the BSM Summit, we take time to recognize some of the true difference makers in the sports media industry. It’s become a special part of the event, and it reminds everyone in the room of what’s possible if you do your job well and create impact.

Four awards in total are presented over the two-day event thanks to our friends at Premiere Networks. Each award has a different focus.

The Jeff Smulyan Award is presented to a radio industry executive who has led by example, taken risks, produced results, and made a significant difference for the sports radio business. The Mark Chernoff Award is given to sports radio’s top programmer. The Mike and the Mad Dog Award is presented to the top local sports radio show in America. And The Champions Award along with a financial contribution from BSM is given to an industry member who has used their platform to make a difference for others.

Since we began taking the Summit live in 2019, Mitch Rosen and Rick Radzik have been recognized as winners of the Mark Chernoff Award. Adam Schefter and the team of Keith Murphy and Andy Fales have been recipients of the Champions Award. And the top rated combination of Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti received the first ever Mike and the Mad Dog Award at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC.

Which brings us to the Jeff Smulyan Award.

A number of top notch executives have joined us to accept this honor over the years. It started in Los Angeles with Kraig Kitchin, continued in New York City with Dan Mason, and then Traug Keller took home the honor during our last show, which also took place in the big apple.

As we looked to 2023, the goal was to identify someone who’s been active in growing their company’s footprint across the sports radio industry. Equally important was someone who has the full confidence and trust of their people, a track record of delivering results, and has uncovered new business opportunities to lead their company forward.

After a brief conversation, Jeff and I knew exactly who the right person was.

It is my honor to announce and congratulate Julie Talbott, President of Premiere Networks on being named our recipient of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Julie will be present in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC to accept the honor at the 2023 BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award – especially with Jeff Smulyan’s name associated with it. I’ve been a fan of his throughout the years” shared Julie Talbott. “Premiere Networks and FOX Sports Radio are dedicated to delivering the best multiplatform sports audio content the industry has to offer, and this award truly recognizes the amazing efforts of our entire team, who I couldn’t be more proud of.  Thanks to Jason Barrett and BSM for this incredible honor.” 

“I have known Julie for many, many years and our industry doesn’t have a better ambassador than her” added Jeff Smulyan. “She has worked tirelessly to build Premiere into a remarkable enterprise and she has made legions of friends and admirers along the way. She is so deserving of this award and I couldn’t be happier that my friend, Julie Talbott is the winner of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Nothing makes me happier than to present it to her this March at USC!” 

“FOX Sports Radio’s growth under Julie’s watchful eye has been impressive, but when combined with Premiere’s performance and reach, and seizing opportunities in the digital space by launching strong brands such as The Volume, in partnership with Colin Cowherd, you start to see how she’s put her magical touch on the industry,” explained BSM President Jason Barrett. “The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists, and few have the respect, trust, and confidence of their people better than Julie Talbott.”

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Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media and Silver Tribe Media to Appear at the 2023 BSM Summit

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is five months away but the process to build sports media’s annual industry event continues. We’ve already announced 11 participants for our next show including Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome and Joy Taylor, but by the time this show takes place, attendees can expect to hear from 50-60 people as the agenda becomes action packed.

I do want to share one thing for those inquiring about speaking. Though I appreciate the interest, I’m selective in who we feature on stage because it’s important to keep the show fresh and full of actionable content. There are tons of smart people in this industry but I can’t accommodate everyone. I try to create sessions that benefit radio, digital and television executives, programmers, general managers, talent, agents, salespeople, production staff, etc. and to do that, we’ve got to cover a lot of different subjects over a two-day span. My goal is to send folks home with ideas and information to improve their brands, while providing a space for groups and individuals to meet since it opens the door to additional business. We’ve been fortunate to have good support and participation over our past four events, and I’m expecting this one to be even bigger and better.

Before I announce the latest additions to our speaker lineup, I want to thank Premiere Networks for their continued support of the Summit. They’ve been wonderful partners for years, and I appreciate them joining us to create the annual Awards ceremony. It is always a hit with attendees. More to come soon on this year’s honorees.

I’d also like to thank Harker Research for returning as a partner of the event, and MRN Radio for signing on as a new partner. Harker has sponsored all of our live events, and MRN has been in attendance for those shows. Having their support makes a difference. They join Premiere Networks, Stone Voiceovers and Core Image Studio as Summit partners. If you haven’t secured a sponsorship but would like to be, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com. She can update you on what we still have available.

As far as the content is concerned, I’m excited to announce a very cool session we’re adding which will include involvement from Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media, and Silver Tribe Media.

Everywhere you look these days, athletes are taking more control of their own messaging. They’re also more interested in content creation and are investing in people to help build today and tomorrow’s sports media empires. Whether it’s been Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or broadcasters such as Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Dave Portnoy and Pat McAfee, the era of personality-led audio networks has arrived. This session will examine where we are, where we’re going, what’s been learned, and how it will affect change across traditional media moving forward.

Jack Rose of Silver Tribe Media will moderate the session. Joining him on stage will be Logan Swaim, Head of Content at The Volume. Richelle Markazene, Head of Audio for Omaha Productions, and Mike Davis, President and Executive Producer of Dirty Mo Media. Each of these folks have great insight and experience with leading personality-built brands, and Jack’s understanding of the media landscape through his work with Michael Klein’s company make him an ideal fit to guide the conversation. This is a session that traditional media folks are going to want to be present for.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket or booked your hotel room, don’t wait until the last minute. Everything you need to be in attendance for the Summit is available at BSMSummit.com. We are excited to host the show at The Founders Club at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. This is a great location and the biggest room we’ve run our conference in yet. I’m hoping to see you there.

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Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Scott Shapiro, Scott Sutherland and Evan Cohen To Participate at 2023 BSM Summit

“The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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Building an annual sports media conference is no day at the beach. It takes months to assemble and involves a lot of different steps. We analyze what matters to those attending, brainstorm ideas, create a sketch of the show to make sure there’s enough variety to satisfy different segments of the industry, pursue tons of speakers who have experience and an ability to add something unique or valuable on stage, and create sales decks and talk to existing and potential clients about supporting the show. If all of it doesn’t flow seamlessly, we run the risk of not delivering the type of event I expect us to.

Fortunately, over the years we’ve put together a pretty good conference. I’m proud of how it’s grown and that’s only possible because we’ve had great support across the industry. If you work in sports media and value learning, relationship building, and connecting with teammates, peers and competitors, this is an event you need to be at. It’s one that companies looking to reach sports broadcasting professionals should be involved in from an advertising standpoint too. Though there’s a lot of work still to be done, when we arrive in Los Angeles for the 2023 BSM Summit at USC’s Founders Club at the Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023, I’m expecting our team will deliver another top-notch performance.

To help us make that happen, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have participation from some of the industry’s most accomplished broadcasting professionals. Joining us on site for our awards ceremonies will be the man who started the sports talk format, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Also making the trip to the west coast will be former WFAN program director and CBS Radio/Entercom/Audacy sports format captain Mark Chernoff. Both men are honored annually with awards in their names. We’ll reveal the winners of both of those awards in the weeks and months ahead.

Additionally, I’m pleased to welcome back Scott Sutherland. Scott serves as the Executive Vice President of Regional Media Operations for Bonneville International Corporation, and is responsible for the strategic development and business growth of the company’s market leading sports brands in Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Also returning to the Summit is FOX Sports Radio’s Vice President of Programming Scott Shapiro. Scott is charged with guiding FOX Sports Radio’s daily content strategy, and always enjoys lending his perspective on key issues facing talent, brands, and content leaders.

I realize many of you reading this who work in the industry are last minute planners. That’s ok, but I’d encourage you to reserve your hotel room in advance if you wish to stay close to the Galen Center. Our hotel partner is the USC Hotel, and you can learn more about the discounted rate we’ve established for attendees by clicking here.

The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals. The sports media industry is rapidly changing and the more we can learn from one another and take advantage of information and relationships, the better it’ll serve us moving forward. To attend this show, you must be involved in the media business whether it’s on-air, digital, behind the scenes, in management, sales, ad buying, talent representation or something else. We will also allow college students to attend the show in person if they are pursuing a future in sports broadcasting. Details on student tickets will be made available closer to the holidays.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure you have a seat in the room to enjoy the sessions and network with industry professionals, purchase your ticket(s) by visiting BSMSummit.com. I look forward to seeing you there.

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