Edison Research, the measurements and market research company responsible the annual “Infinite Dial” report that gives the podcast industry its benchmark numbers, gave the opening keynote at the Podcast Movement conference a few weeks, and presenter Tom Webster gave the talk a suitably conference-y title: “Podcasting’s Next Frontier: 100 Million Listeners.”
Webster adapted the talk into a Medium post that he published yesterday, and though it’s a long one (~4000 words, or the length of an average Hot Pod issue), it’s well worth the read. I’ll unpack it fully on Tuesday, but in this newsletter I’m just going to highlight the most prominent idea from the post.
It’s best represented in this chunk right here, talking about commercial radio:
Commercial AM/FM radio still has incredible reach in this country, but ad revenues are down, and media buyers are migrating more and more to digital. Commercial radio certainly has an image problem — and so for years, commercial broadcast executives have lamented what they consider the REAL problem — they aren’t telling their story as an industry well enough. But look, all the PR in the world can try to change your mind about the medium of AM/FM radio — but what would it say? That radio is the transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves of radio frequency, especially those carrying sound messages, and that you need this device to hear it, and here is how you operate that device? Absurd. It didn’t work, and it doesn’t work, because people don’t care. But give them The Handmaid’s Tale, and they’ll figure Hulu out right quick. Where commercial broadcast radio is underperforming is in marketing THE SHOW. Unfortunately for commercial Radio, most stations are either playing music or syndicated programming. They don’t own a translatable show to market. It’s Billy and The Beanbag in the morning and classic hits all day long.
A translatable show to market: you know, like how Howard Stern is literally the only reason I know that SiriusXM might matter to my life, or how Fixer Upper is a signal that I totally want some HGTV in my life, and why I have convoluted subscription arrangements to gain access to both those shows.
To put it another way: it’s a marketing gap. Or to put it in terms more consistent with my pretentious values: it’s a problem of collective narrative.
For what it’s worth, I think Webster is completely spot-on with his argument. But I also think it’s a starting point — the core challenge is in the “collective” part of the concept, not the “narrative” — and that there are larger related questions to consider beyond the sole focus on getting the medium to 100 million weekly listeners.
More on Tuesday. In the meantime..