Welcome to episode 27 of the Richard Dally podcast where I bring you a UK perspective on the latest news and developments from the world of podcasting and Internet Radio
In the show this week I discuss the 2017 Infinite Dial Report from Edison Research and Triton Digital, some controversy over the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, a new podcast about the movie Psycho from Mark Ramsey and the views of a listener to the typical format of commercial radio.
Websites and articles mentioned in the show:
A review of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast – http://www.vulture.com/2017/03/missing-richard-simmons-podcast-review.html
Cherie Hu for Forbes on why the music industry is finally taking podcasts seriously – https://www.forbes.com/sites/cheriehu/2017/03/14/why-the-music-industry-is-finally-taking-podcasts-seriously
Google’s first podcast, City Soundtracks – http://www.androidcentral.com/google-now-making-its-own-podcasts-and-first-one-really-good
The ShoutOut Live! The Festival taking place on August 5th in London – https://www.solivefestival.com/
The Edison Research and Triton Digital Infinite Dial Survey for 2017:
- Download the whole report from the Edison Research website,
- Commentary on the Infinite Dial report from Rain News: http://rainnews.com/the-download-on-podcasts-podcast-completion-rate-its-still-about-length/
- Discussion on the report from Todd Cochrane, Rob Greenlee and Rob Walch on the Pod to Pod podcast – http://www.podtopod.com/podcast/ep-23-mark-ramsey-better-podcasting
Soundcloud for sale? – https://www.recode.net/2017/3/10/14887806/soundcloud-sale-investment
Why Better Podcast Metrics Matter, by Steven Goldstein – http://www.amplifimedia.com/blogstein/2017/3/9/gfh2yw1gdwa4w7irh64pou1if23bec
Inside Psycho, the first audio graphic novel in the podcast space from Mark Ramsey – http://www.markramseymedia.com/2017/03/secret-revealed-mark-ramsey-media-signs-content-deal-with-wondery
Mark Ramsey interviewed on the Pod to Pod podcast – http://www.podtopod.com/podcast/ep-23-mark-ramsey-better-podcasting
Nickie O’Hara blogs about her thoughts on the format of commercial radio – http://www.iamtypecast.com/2015/04/random-things-i-hear-on-radio.html
Let’s start this week with some controversy in the podcasting world. A new investigation style podcast in the vain of Serial has gained a huge amount of publicity in recent weeks. Missing Richard Simmons follows the true story of Dan Taberski as he tries to find out what has happened to Richard Simmons.
Now for listeners outside of the US it is probably worth explaining that Simmons is a bit of phenomenon in the fitness world. A larger than life character he was, until recently anyway, known as a fitness guru with a popular exercise studio and he was celebrated for being very generous with his time. For unknown reasons, Simmons suddenly withdrew from the public eye.
The podcast is very well produced, it mixes narration and interviews and encourages the audience to contribute their ideas and thoughts on the reasons Simmons might have gone missing. So what’s the problem you might ask? Well, questions are starting to be asked about how ethical this kind of investigative show is.
Nick Quah from Hot Pod says he loves the show but is finding it difficult to ignore the moral quandary that looms over its production. Nick asks – what right does a documentary producer have to waive a person’s right to privacy? Now, we don’t know why Simmons withdrew from the public eye and that is where much of the concern lies? Does he just want to be left alone? Has something bad happened? We don’t know and there has to be a concern that speculation could make things worse.
So, you might ask, why do I mention this story. Well, I think there is a lesson here for all podcasters, whatever your topic. It’s simply that it is important to think about the impact on others with anything you talk about on your podcast.
A final point on the Richard Simmons story – as some observers have pointed out – it’s interesting that in the main the discussion on this controversy is being had in the traditional media and is being less discussed within the podcasting industry, aside from Nick of course.
Cherie Hu has written an article for Forbes.com, Why The Music Industry Is Finally Taking Podcasts Seriously. I love Cherie’s writing and she is one busy lady according to her bio!
In this article she discusses the extent to which the music business is starting to invest in podcasting and how podcasts are becoming an integral part of the future of the industry. Now as I mentioned on the last episode, Spotify has just launched their first original music based podcasts and Google Play have now also announced their first original podcast called City Soundtracks.
City Soundtracks gives listeners a guide round the musical highlights of different cities, with each stop on the tour chaperoned by a local artist. Major labels, like Sony Music Entertainment are also experimenting with short-form audio podcasts which are centred around their back catalogs in the main.
The question that Cherie poses in her article is how successful will these companies be in taking the traditional podcasting models and repurposing them for the largely revenue-driven music culture. What these companies, and similar ones have, is experience in developing advertising and subscription models as well as the use of tools like metadata and recommendation engines to increase listening time.
Now the point of all this is, of course, that the music industry is starting to see a financial link between music and podcasting. I think this is going to lead to rapid innovation in podcast monetisation. We will see an acceleration of dynamic ad insertion and further drives towards better metrics. It remains to be seen how this will really benefit the independent podcaster. At least it starts to legitimise the use of music in podcasts which has always been a bit of a challenge.
News now of a UK podcast festival. ShoutOut Live! The Festival takes place on August 5th in London and aims to bring the best podcasts out of the US as well as highlighting the best of the UK. They describe it as a full day of banter, commentary, and recklessness. I don’t have a lot of details at this stage but it looks like a number of US based podcasters will be in attendance and there will be meet and greet type opportunities. Tickets go on sale April 3rd 2017. You can follow the organisers on Twitter at @SOLiveFestival.
This week saw the release of the results of the latest Infinite Dial survey by Edison Research and Triton Digital. This is an annual survey that explores the use of digital platforms and new media by Americans. It is always eagerly awaited by podcasting commentators and it always seems to contain one or two surprises. You can check out the whole report on the Edison Research website. I’ll put a link in the show-notes to the download page.
The study is put together through 2000 interviews with people selected at random. Brad Hill for Rain News noted that one of the most interesting statistics this year was the podcast completion metric. The number came as a pleasant surprise to many in that 40% of listeners stick through entire podcast episodes, and another 45% listen to “most” of their shows. Brad writes that this means that 85% of podcast listeners hear any pre-roll and mid-roll advertisements, assuming they don’t skip through them of course! For Brad this one statistic gives the Infinite Dial report all the authority it needs. Because, of course, consumption data is the one statistic advertisers really want.
Brad goes on to provide some supporting graphs on listener drop off from specific networks with data from NPR and 60db showing how longer episode length encourages drop-off. This is well worth a read on the RAIN News blog. I’ll put a link in the show notes – richarddally.com/27.
Let’s look at some of the other stats and takeways from the report that will be of interest to podcasters and online radio DJs and station owners. Both podcasting and online radio continue to see steady growth. As an example of this the share of Americans who report being monthly podcast listeners is now 24 percent, that’s 67 million people, which is a 14% increase over the previous year.
The Weekly Online Radio audience is now 140 million Americans, or 53% of Americans aged 12+. Do realise that this includes platforms like Pandora that some of us might not really consider to be radio. The average weekly time spent listening to online radio rose from 12:08 to 14:39, a 21% growth year-over-year.
Podcast consumers listen to an average of five podcast episodes per week, while the average number of podcasts that listeners subscribe to is six. In terms of numbers, there are some 8 million people who listen to six or more shows each week. 60 percent of Americans 12 and older have heard of podcasting, which is up from 55 percent last year. 40 percent of those surveyed have ever listened to a podcast, up from 36 percent last year, and 24 percent have listened in the last month, that’s up from 21 percent last year.
The report contains many more statistics and lots of graphs so I think I’ll let you check out the rest of them for yourself!
For an interesting discussion on the podcasting stats in this edition of the Infinite Dial report I suggest you listen to episode 161 of The New Media Show podcast, published on the 12th of March. The hosts Todd Cochrane and Rob Greenlee are joined by Rob Walch of Libsyn to discuss the survey results in detail.
Rob, as always, knows his stats – Libsyn has billions of downloads from their hosting platform and he mentions on the podcast a couple of times that 57.2% of their downloads come from the US. I emailed Rob to ask him if he could tell me what percentage of Libsyn downloads come from the UK and he very kindly sent me the answer, it’s 6.7%.
Why are these numbers useful? Well, on the podcast Rob uses the US figure to estimate the total number of monthly downloads coming from the US. Todd Cochrane does a similar rough calculation using the total number of podcasts in iTunes, the number of active shows that Blubrry, his company, hosts and the number of downloads they get.
As you would expect, Nicholas Quah has done a quite in-depth piece on the report for his Hot Pod newsletter as well. As this episode is already quite full, I think I’ll leave discussing the topic that Nick majors on until next week. He has some useful thoughts on the challenges of programming and discovery in podcasts that the report highlights. Though I should say he kind of disproves the often stated issues of discovery and focuses on his ideas to improve programming.
Last thing to say about the report for this week is that Edison Research and Triton Digital have also said they will produce a more extensive podcast report in the next couple of months.
Once again Soundcloud is looking for more money. Apparently they have been trying for the last few months to raise about $100 million. That is on top of the $70 million dollar investment they received last year from Twitter.
I’ve mentioned before that Google was a potential buyer and Spotify has also been mentioned but no deal has been done to date. Apparently SoundCloud is now looking to accept a reduced sale price – perhaps as low as $250 million. Soundcloud themselves will only say the company is talking to potential investors and strategic partners.
Soundcloud’s user base should be interesting to potential buyers – in 2014 they claimed 175 million monthly unique users, though they haven’t provided any updated figures since. Most of those users won’t be paying anything of course, as on Soundcloud it’s mostly the contributors who pay. And many of those DJs and producers have walked away because of the issues of takedowns caused by the copyright algorithms that the platform uses. As a comparison, Spotify has more than 50 million paid subscribers, while Apple Music says it has more than 20 million.
Soundcloud has tried to increase revenue by adding a paid subscription model to its free core service but this doesn’t really seemed to have worked. They have also just launched a $5 tier – a lower price point than all of the other streaming services. There are some suggesting that Soundcloud might just shutdown with very little notice – potentially leaving some podcasters who host their shows there stranded. I think this is unlikely but if you do use the platform, either for podcast or music hosting then you really should make sure you have an offline backup of all your content. Of course you do that anyway don’t you?
I’ve seen before the pain that can be caused by a Soundcloud account being deleted following copyright disputes – with an online radio station losing years of recorded shows.
Another week, another article saying that podcasting needs better metrics. Naturally it’s all about the perceived needs of advertisers rather than to help the podcaster deliver a better show for his or her listeners. This is from Steven Goldstein of Amplifi Media.
At the recent RAIN streaming audio and podcasting advertising summit in New York Steven moderated a session on podcast metrics. Steven notes that at the Summit Spotify and other streaming audio suppliers talked about the huge amounts of listening data they can provide to advertisers. They know who is listening, what is being listened to, when it is being listened to and even the personal habits of individual listeners.
Now Steven makes an interesting point, which is that this level of understanding of the usage is way beyond anything broadcasters in the past have ever had. Now here I’m talking about television and radio, and let’s be honest, they’ve never done too badly from advertising have they?
During the podcast panel it seems there was little discussion of using data to profile listeners and fine-tune the content. Steven puts this down to podcasters being resigned to the lack of data provided by Apple. Yes, I think we’d all like more data, it’s just that, in the main, we want it for different purposes.
Finally, there seem to be plenty of advertisers who are more than happy with their investment in podcast ads – perhaps it more the agencies and podcast platforms that are trying to sell advertising that are really driving this discussion on metrics.
I’ve mentioned media strategist Mark Ramsey a few times on this podcast. His podcast with Tom Asacker, Media Unplugged, is one of my personal favourites and he tends to bring a radio perspective to podcasting topics. Mark has just announced that his company, Mark Ramsey Media, has signed an agreement to develop content for the on-demand audio publisher Wondery.
The first show created under that agreement launched earlier this month. It’s called Inside Psycho, and Mark bills it as the first audio graphic novel in the podcast space. The show is a six-part deep dive inspired by the making of the classic movie Psycho. The show is heavily produced with clever sound design and a strong sense of drama. This seems designed to make you feel part of the show by immersing the listener right into the story.
The show is available on iTunes and other podcast directories and it’s well worth a listen. I’ll be honest that it’s not quite my cup of tea. I’m not sure whether that’s because of the subject matter or the production, but I do recommend you give it a go and try it for yourself.
Mark also appeared as a guest on episode EP.23 of the Pod To Pod podcast recently where he shared his experience from years in media and talked about how that could be applied to better podcasting. The interview with Mathew Passy discussed the importance of putting out content that you care about and the importance of finding a niche.
Mark says that following both of these ideas will make it more likely that you will produce something unique and interesting as well as helping you find an audience that is interested in what you are saying. Don’t fall victim to vanitycasting says Mark. This is the idea of just making a show for the sake of having a podcast.
Finally today I thought I would look at a really interesting blog article written from the point of view of a radio listener. Nickie O’Hara writes about “Random Things I Hear On The Radio” and discusses how commercial radio shows tend to follow the same structure. Now this is actually from 2015 but still makes interesting reading, especially if you work in radio or are thinking of starting your own online radio station.
Nickie works in an office environment where they have a commercial radio station on all day. What she has noticed is that commercial radio tends to follow the same structure and there are four parts to it: talk, news, music and adverts. In her blog article Nickie breaks out the four parts and provides some great insights.
Talk: Really listening to the radio takes a lot of concentration, which is why there’s not a lot of real talk in commercial radio. The talk that does happen is not opinionated, and there’s no discussion about the real happenings of the day. Nickie concludes that talk is just filling space between the news, the music and the adverts.
On News: Nickie says commercial radio tends to concentrate on local news and that she never really knows what’s going on in the world until she gets home and can catch up properly online using Twitter. It’s interesting to note that she says Twitter and not more traditional news sources.
With Music: Nickie references, perhaps without realising it, the small music playlists that most commercial stations use when she says that Uptown Funk is the most played tune she can remember in her lifetime but luckily she’s not sick of it. She also jokes about the genre or period features that all commercial station seem to use and how they always have catching titles to promote them – “Fun Time Five at 5”, “70s at 7”, “80s at 8”
Finally, Adverts. Adverts are a strange one. Like the news, they are generally very local but probably the same in every region. Nickie’s thoughts on adverts and particularly the voiceover artists used, show that that they do make listeners think but the language used can often be a little strange. I love Nickie’s conclusion: “And that’s it really. On a loop. Hour after hour after hour.”
You can see more of Nickie’s writing on her blog at iamtypecast.com