Comparing the Australian and British Podcast Awards

One of the things that I enjoy doing the most is helping to nurture the British Podcast Awards. We’ve just had our fourth ceremony and it was the biggest yet, even though this year it had to be virtual.

The UK podcast sector is pretty diverse, from established radio operators like the BBC, to print publishers like The Times, from indie audio companies to individuals as well as some of the biggest technology companies in the world. Our job is try and create something that reflects them all and provides a meeting place for the sector. We are, as we often say, a big tent.

We’re just in the process of gearing up for the Awards next year (get in touch if your company wants to be a sponsor!) and it will no doubt be even bigger than 2020. Our plans for it certainly are.

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Getting A Podcast Discovered

A flurry of activity on social media last week, as Spotify’s Wrapped told users about their most listened to music and podcasts. Many then shared it across the internet. What’s great about this is that it surfaces different, personalised recommendations.

It’s a notable piece of activity because, in general, podcast discoverability remains pretty limited.

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Making Money Out of Audio

All content businesses have seen huge changes over the last ten years. Much of this is driven by a combination of the advertising market and changing consumer behaviour. Radio and audio is no different.

In the radio market, for thirty-odd years, the revenue has been split between local and national advertising. If you’re a station in Weymouth, you’ll have your own sales team who will make calls and knock on doors to tell potential customers the benefits of advertising on your station. Aware that national advertisers will also want to advertise on your station, but knowing they don’t really have the ability to negotiate deals with over 100 radio stations, you delegate some space on your station to a national sales house.

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Picking Songs for the Radio

I don’t think I’ve met a person, of any age, who isn’t up for a spirited chat about songs on the radio.

Radio’s pretty pervasive in the UK. 89% of the population listen to at least five minutes a week and even 82% of 15-24s tune in at some point. Music makes up a large proportion of what’s played, so it’s no surprise everyone has an opinion.

So what’s the best way to pick songs for the radio?

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New York Times Buys Serial

News last week that the New York Times had bought Serial Productions, the podcast producer of Serial and S-Town for around $25m to $35m.

Serial came into being as a spin-off from syndicated radio show, and popular podcast, This American Life (TAL). That show was created by Ira Glass with WBEZ, a public radio station in 1995. In 2015, Ira took full control of TAL after agreeing to share some ongoing profits from it, and Serial.

Serial’s radio connections are sometimes forgotten. The first episode of the show ran on TAL (to its 2.2m radio listeners) as well as its podcast. It acted as a sampler and teaser that encouraged people to log on and listen in October 2014. Serial’s appearance, and radio promotion, alongside the default installation of the iTunes Podcast app in 2012 all together really kick-started mainstream podcasting.

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As you may have noticed, I’m publishing these at Matt on Audio now. Sign-up to the free newsletter there to get the full text of these posts in your inbox each Tuesday morning.

Apple Makes Its Own News Podcast

Apple have launched their own daily news podcast – Apple News Today. Their description:

Join Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino every weekday morning as they guide you through some of the most fascinating stories in the news — and how the world’s best journalists are covering them.

Apple, like many internet mega co’s, get all confused when they get into content. The clunky transition from arguing that they’re just a platform – helping others to be successful – to content publisher, means they have to contort themselves by suggesting that this too is a platform to push to other journalism. “Hey we’re just surfacing other people’s great work”, whilst at the same time adding a new well-marketed competitor, putting even more pressure on regular journalistic endeavours.

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As you may have noticed, I’m publishing these at Matt on Audio now. Sign-up to the free newsletter there to get the full text of these posts in your inbox each Tuesday morning.

British Podcast Awards Thoughts

It’s been a busy old time with one of my side projects, the British Podcast Awards. We had our big ceremony on Saturday – the culmination of around 9 months work. Of course, our plan – The Roundhouse had booked and paid for – wasn’t meant to be, so we did a very fun livestream instead.

In the middle of April we had a chat with our production company, Create, suggesting that we’d like to do a stream that includes all the nominees on-screen and handing out the awards live on winners’s doorsteps. It wasn’t bad for a less than three months turn-around in a pandemic!

So here are some things that popped into my head, which are hopefully interesting for anyone doing events or organising a big project.

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Black Information Network Launches

To us Europeans, the flexibility of broadcast radio formats in the US is quite different to our very regulated environment. Here, on FM it’s very difficult to change your station’s format between rock and urban, whilst in America the ‘format flip’ is something that’s always been an option.

Is your Country station under-performing? Don’t worry! Tomorrow it could be Smooth Jazz!

Of course in the digital world – both online, but also DAB (our broadcast digital radio) – it is a little easier to pivot and change direction. And in 2020 all media, regulated or not, needs to be more fleet of foot to better represent the changing world and new business opportunities.

In the US, last week, the largest radio operator – iHeartMedia (previously ClearChannel) blew up 15 broadcast radio station formats (in Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, GA, Detroit, Greenville, Macon, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Riverside, San Francisco and Seattle) to launch a new mostly-national speech service – BIN – the Black Information Network.

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How to Launch a Media Project: Watching Times Radio Take to the Air

30 years ago, a launch of a radio station was a big thing. Guaranteed coverage in the local newspaper (balloons, wide grinning faces) and the regional TV would turn up to film the board room champagne toast, a DJ doing the opening link, and then raising an eyebrow and light questioning of the economics.

Today, of course, a new media launch is a regular affair – hard to generate noise and awareness, let alone encourage sampling.

Monday’s Times Radio launch got a wrap-around newspaper front page, it did however need to own the newspaper to get it.

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RAJAR Q4/2019

Sadly the day job, and a super early flight for Thursday has somewhat got in the way of writing a RAJAR blog post tonight. Apologies!

However, one quick thing, and then I’ll try and get into some more analysis when I have a little more time this week.

There were quite a few articles about children’s declining radio habit and many connecting it to the rise in smart speaker use. Here’s the normally excellent Matthew Moore’s piece in The Times. It’s based on Ofcom’s study: Children and parents: media use and attitudes.

The line in the report states:

“Of all the devices children aged 5-15 use, however, the smart speaker has seen the largest increase in use – from 15% in 2018 to 27% in 2019. As such, smart speakers have now overtaken use of radios, which declined from 26% to 22% over the same period.”

Of course, the interpretation is wrong, whilst the data is accurate. The use of a device may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean the consumption of the product is. Live radio remains the most used thing on a smart-speaker, so just because someone’s unplugged a radio set and replaced it with an illuminated blue puck, doesn’t mean that radio consumption has dropped. Indeed, it may mean that radio use has increased as children start to use a device better suited to them to listen to the radio.

In my day job of running a children’s radio station, I often speak at conferences and talk about the status of the radio in kids’ lives. In the car the radio is at the front, where parents sit, a child has to negotiate to get something played on it. In a kitchen, the radio is high up on a work-top, again it requires negotiation for a re-tune. In the lounge, it may be part of an expensive DO NOT TOUCH Sonos system.

The smart-speaker on the other hand, needs no hands. Any child can demand of it what they like, and, according to some research I watched, when I child leaned in to the researcher and whispered conspiratorially “it never says no”.

Growth in smart speaker use is something we’ve seen hugely at Fun Kids. On the 25th December in 2018 and 2019 our daily stream starts doubled and this then remained (and grew steadily) over the year. Smart speakers provide the bulk of hours to our internet listening now.

It’s also perhaps a contributing reason to why Fun Kids has had its best ever RAJAR results. Regular readers will know that RAJAR is an oddity for Fun Kids, you need to be a part of it to be seen as a ‘proper’ radio station, but it only measures 10 plusses – which is a bit annoying for us as our station is for under 10s! Therefore though we’re national we just measure our London audience.

So, according to the latest data, we now have 120,000 listeners in London and that’s outside our core demo! Just think what it would be if it actually measured all of our little listeners and we surveyed the whole of the UK.

I always like to do a sort of all the radio stations audible in London, by 10+ reach and see where we rank. This book’s been a good one to do that. In my list of 69 stations we’re the 39th. This means we’re bigger than (deep breath) the new Hearts (Heart 70s, Heart 90s and Heart Dance), Capital XTRA Reloaded, Magic Chilled, the Hits Radios (Hits Radio, Greatest Hits and Country Hits), in fact all the country stations (Smooth Radio Country and Chris Country Radio), Smooth’s other spin-offs Smooth Radio Chill and Extra, Heat, Kerrang!, talkRADIO and talkSPORT2, three of the Absolute digital stations (Absolute Radio 60s, Absolute Radio 70s and Absolute Radio 00s, Scala Radio, the Jacks (JACK Radio and Union JACK) and Virgin Radio’s current RAJAR’d spin-offs Virgin Anthems and Virgin Chilled.

So well done to our little team who works so hard.

It’s also perhaps an answer to the often mentioned, and frequently misinterepreted “but kids don’t listen to the radio”. Well, there might be fewer of them listening to a radio, but and more and more seem to be finding what we’re doing every day.

if you’re after a more comprehensive RAJAR round up, Radio Today has a great piece here and Adam Bowie some excellent analysis here.