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Miscellaneous examples of podcasts heading over to broadcast radio

Plus: A technical hiccup at ESPN, a ballooning HelloFresh, and watch the WNYC transom

Follow-up on Podcasts-to-Broadcasts

Turns out there were more than I originally thought. After sending out Tuesday’s item about podcast-to-broadcast repackages — and how they aren’t exactly new — several publishers reached out to highlight their own previous attempts to jump the divide, including:

  • American Public Media, which has apparently done it a few times beyond the Dinner Party Download pickup. Most notably, the network repackaged In The Dark, the 2016 true crime hit from its investigative unit APM Reports, as five hour-long broadcast specials hosted by Lizzie O’ Leary.
  • The Motley Fool, the multi-media financial services company with a considerable publishing (and podcasting) operation, has been converting its Motley Fool Money podcast into a hour-long broadcast product for terrestrial radio pick-ups since 2010. It is now being distributed over 42 stations, and you can find spot the list off the right rail of the show’s website here. “I love seeing more podcasts making this move,” host Chris Hill wrote me. “There was a point in time when terrestrial talk radio program directors could (and did) complain about the lack of options when it came to compelling programming. That is no longer the case. The more shows like [NPR’s] ‘It’s Been a Minute’ and [CBS News’] ‘The Takeout’ move to traditional broadcasting, the better.”
  • Another reader reminds me: SiriusXM has been re-broadcasting primarily public radio podcasts on its own “Insights” channel for a while now. We went back and forth on whether satellite is the same thing as terrestrial, but really, do words really matter any more.

Another publisher, who asked to remain anonymous, talked to me about the strategic goals of such podcast-to-broadcast transitions, and how many of those goals usually don’t pan out as expected. The original idea, typically, is to essentially have the broadcast editions be a commercial for the podcast — listeners would stumble onto it, and perhaps be hooked enough to dig up the rest of the story on the podcast version. That publisher wasn’t able to spot any data that suggested this to be the case, with the methodology there being to watch whether there were bumps in downloads in the geographic area in which the broadcast had been aired. The publisher then produced a few theories as to why this was the case, including inopportune time slots, identity complications between the podcast provider and the airing station, some reaction delay between listen and subscribe, the nature of the content, and the old nut of broadcast listeners being a creature separate and apart from podcast listeners.

I’m tempted to buy some stock in that last hypothesis — but the larger reality is that there simply isn’t enough experimentation data to make any definitive judgments about this. As it stands, there seems to be one completely solid reason to get into such arrangements: broadcasters need interesting and varied content to fill time slots, and publishers can pocket some money from giving them product (provided that the amount of work to do so isn’t excessive). That can, and should, be enough reason for some, but generating more data to discover more benefits in doing so could be another.

A Peculiar Technicality

Two weeks ago, a strange thing went down with ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Football podcast, where listeners who were streaming the October 20, 2017 edition of the show seemingly encountered an ad they could not skip. Any attempts to scrub forward, or even pause, would result in the episode restarting. Daniel Dopp, one of the show’s hosts, later acknowledged the problem on Twitter: “Aware of problems with podcasts restarting when trying to pause/fast forward/rewind. Tech team is working the issue. Updates to follow!”

The technical problem would later get resolved, but not without causing some listeners to be wary. “I’ve been waiting for the day that we’d be forced to listen to ads, and it seems that it may be upon us,” a reader wrote me.

I checked in with ESPN, and I’m told that the problems stemmed from a technical issue on the part of a vendor that the company uses to oversee podcast ad insertion. They declined to name the vendor when asked.

I bring up this incident to simply to highlight the following: in case you didn’t know that play-event complications can be triggered from the hosting side of the stack, now you do. It previously didn’t occur to me that it was possible, but so it goes.

Two quick things. 

  • Always useful to keep tabs on what’s happening among advertisers: “HelloFresh is growing three times faster than Blue Apron and is worth twice as much.” (Recode)
  • In a recent exchange with WNYC’s comms head, I was told to keep an eye out for a big piece of news “in the coming weeks.” Watch the transom.