With the work I do on the Podcast Awards, here in the UK and Australia, I often get asked lots of questions about podcasting. They include topics like monetisation, hosting, content, what success looks like and then often how to get more people to tune in.
After someone’s been doing a regular podcast for six months to a year there’s often a point where the team think “jeez, this is hard” and “we don’t seem to be growing very fast”. Whether it’s a big corporate one, or a solo project, everyone tends to hit this wall.
This can either spur them on, or make them quit.
I think there’s a couple of things that podcasts that have been going for a while get wrong, and that’s what inhibits continued growth.
Happy Sunday. A bit of an experiment today as I’ve been thinking about maybe publishing some longer form interviews with audio folk in the newsletter on the weekend. Is that something, dear reader, you would like me to do? Do reply to this and say so, along with any suggestion of who you would like to hear from.
This first one is with Stig Abell, who’s Executive Editor at Wireless, was the launch Director for Times Radio and now also presents its breakfast show. I caught up with him for the Media Podcast to talk about his first RAJAR figures, and Times Radio in general.
The interview’s a transcript of our chat, just tidied up to make it clearer to read. If you want it in audio form, the aforementioned the Media Podcast is where to go.
The latest RAJAR data is out, and there’s a lot in there. An 18 month wait, massive consumer change because of the pandemic alongside gradual consumer changes happening anyway, new stations, network re-brands, new talent. Plus all the normal ups and downs. Phew. I can’t cover it all in here, so you get the best of what I’ve noticed in a few hours.
The other important thing to notice is that RAJAR has changed how it measures audience figures. As I talked about earlier in the week there’s a broader methodology. For this reason, like for like comparisons of data are not really fair. However it’s hard to talk about the data without mentioning changes. It’s therefore up to you, dear reader, to keep that in mind as I talk about old and new data below.
For something new to be successful, a number of things have to align. Of course there has to be a great idea, but you need to know where it fits in a market as well as have an understanding of your consumer.
The latter two aren’t as fun as coming up with the product or idea, but the research and knowledge helps you make better decisions.
For the radio sector, and for its audio competitors, there’s two releases of information that will definitely help shape current and future projects.
The business of audio in the UK has always had public and private elements. Radio of the 90s and 00s combined the licence-fee funded BBC (with guaranteed spend for independent production companies) alongside commercially-funded stations.
The public element existed because governments (and citizens), felt that there was value in creating media that wasn’t just the “commercially viable” stuff. A similar thing happens in other countries, in a variety of different ways. European countries tend to have publicly funded content through taxation or a licence fee. In America, PBS and NPR have some government funding, but much is from pledge drives with listeners and individuals/foundations who write big cheques.
Today, radio’s dominance of ear-time has receded as new audio opportunities, like streaming and podcasts have grown. So it’s interesting to think about whether public funding, providing public value, should still exist, and if so, how it should evolve.
Greetings from Lisbon. I’ve had a lovely few days at Radiodays Europe. The pandemic had somewhat got in the way of the event’s usual planning, but they put on a great event with four simultaneous streams of sessions over two days. They also streamed the streams to people who wanted to attend, but not in person.
Unsurprisingly, Coronavirus was mentioned a few times. Yes, there were mentions of how it caused teams to work in different ways, but I think it had a more fundamental effect on how many practitioners thought about their audio medium.
Apple released a new type of chart last week, showing the relative success of its new Apple Podcast Channels product. This is the thing where you can group together shows, or offer a single show, and then make it something that people can pay real money to subscribe to.
Here’s the pay-for list (with some context on each offer courtesy of Podnews)…
Radio and TV is a complicated business, and for a medium that used to ‘just’ have to worry about a transmitter network, today’s world means keeping on top of lots of endpoints – places where your content and channels end up.
Of course, the need for wide distribution is now an issue for everyone in the media sector. If you’re a musician are you on all the streaming platforms? If you’re a podcast are you listed on all of the apps and directories?
One of my day jobs is being part of a team that looks after a lot of DAB distribution through our MuxCo network. We look after hundreds of radio stations, broadcast over a hundred transmitters. It’s a network of many elements and many things that can go wrong. We’ve been doing it a long time, however, so when there’s a problem we have a pretty good idea of what (or who!) has caused it, and can get it fixed pretty quickly. Sometimes though, there’s just some outliers that are hard to plan for, as Arqiva found, when one of its key transmitters burned down last month, knocking out Freeview for a million people (and affecting our radio customers too).
What fascinates me about audio at the moment is that the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each of the different players in the sector, keep revolving and changing. No matter whether it’s Spotify or Apple, Global or the BBC, the audio strategies keep adjusting. There seems little desire to stick to what they’re known for.
I think part of the problem for many organisations, audio included, is that they misunderstand the business they’re in.
The oft-used example is that Kodak thought it was in the photographic film business when actually it was in the memories business. Through the memories lens, digital cameras would have been an opportunity, rather than a product they developed and quickly buried.
It’s seemingly been on a longer hiatus than One Direction, as its panel building was somewhat kiboshed by the Coronavirus.
It’s always popular to knock RAJAR (or any research methodology) but most wailing is pretty uninformed. RAJAR is one of Europe’s largest surveys with nearly 100,000 people participating in a regular year. It’s demographically and geographically representative of the UK’s listeners (and non-listeners) and that requires some effort. How do you get someone to fill in a survey about radio listening when they don’t listen to any? It’s important to track that group too!
People also fail to recognise that RAJAR isn’t one national survey, it’s hundreds of inter-locking surveys that give robust data about individual stations’ TSAs (their coverage area). So you need to be representative in Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth individually, as well as across the combined regional area too.