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An Unqualified Jump to Broadcast

"Anna Faris is Unqualified" heads to broadcast radio, courtesy of iHeartRadio. What this says, and what it doesn't.

Anna Faris is Unqualified, arguably one of the better entries in the celebrity-does-podcasting genre, is heading to broadcast radio airwaves courtesy of iHeartRadio, which continues its attempt to slam podcast and broadcast together to spark some sort of fire.

From Fast Company:

Unqualified Media, run by Faris and Sarna, and iHeartMedia will produce a long-form version of the show to air weekends on the radio across Top 40 broadcast radio stations nationwide. Anna Faris is Unqualified will air on 30 iHeartMedia stations nationwide and will be promoted on more than 60. The show is also now officially part of the iHeartRadio Podcast Network, and its hosts will partner with the network to provide exclusive podcast content for iHeartRadio listeners.

Sarna is, for those unfamiliar with the show, Sim Sarna, Faris’ business partner on Unqualified Media and co-host on the podcast.

Podcast advertising for Anna Faris is Unqualified was handled by Public Media Marketing, and despite the podcast’s affiliation iHeartRadio Podcast Network, PMM will continue to exclusively handle podcast advertising sales.

I asked David Raphael, president of Public Media Marketing, why the jump to broadcast. “To grow podcasting, we need to look outside of our ecosystem for new listeners.  While advertising on other podcasts has worked, to really grow the space why not engage people who are already interacting with audio via terrestrial radio?” he said. “For Sim and Anna, they’re podcasters first and foremost. iHeartRadio’s massive reach will hopefully drive new listeners to the Unqualified podcasts and podcasts in general. They run into way too many people that do not know how to access a podcast.”

Yeah I don’t know about that. I just don’t think a lack of knowledge around access is the key issue here, and I highly doubt that a meaningful proportion of people developing a relationship with Unqualified on broadcast radio will end up crossing over to podcasting. It’s one of the more consistent things I’ve heard from people that’ve been involved with experiments where podcasts are promoted on the radio or redistributed through the radio; there’s almost always very little evidence that the repackage drives people back to the podcast.

The better argument — or, at least, the more meaningful one — is that broadcast radio has more money right now, because that’s where it’s always been, and if you wanna make money off that platform, go ahead. It’s a completely respectable move. Further, it’s a gesture towards a kind of multi-platform thinking that I suspect podcast publishers will have to grapple more with in the future. I’m still bearish on broadcast radio (and will probably always be), but I think we’re likely heading into a scenario where the various audio platforms crawling into podcast ecosystem — like Spotify, Pandora, Google Podcasts, and so on — will tack on their own specific monetization vehicles. In such an environment, we’re looking a situation where the podcast publisher will essentially be delivering their assets that will have their value be extracted in a bunch of different ways, even if there is relatively little variation in their products across those different platform environments.

That’s a much bigger future to unpack, but it’s one, I think, that speaks to the slightly reductive podcast-to-broadcast narratives we seem to be currently bumping into.