There's a theory that of all the disruptions to hit music-listening in the past ten years, the least talked about is the rise of the podcast. Until the mid-2000s, podcasts didn't exist outside of a few niche players, but in the past ten years, the medium has exploded. There are podcasts on every topic under the sun, including podcasts that drive national conversations, like Serial. There are bonafide podcasting celebrities like Marc Maron, and more and more brands are launching podcasts, with the actual content to be determined at a later date. Podcasts are all the rage, and they're capturing an increasing number of ears -- and taking listening time away from music.
But with all the hype about podcasting, there are several issues that could prevent it from growing much more -- or even lead to a decline in the format. For one, podcasting has a handful of superstars, and then a massively long tail of niche players. Finding podcasts is cumbersome -- you have to know what you're looking for and search it out, and then manually add a podcast to an app in order to make sure you hear new episodes. And podcasts still rely on old school ads, which are easy to skip through -- and there's no way to tell whether listeners are skipping the ads or not.
For existing properties, podcasting is a great way to increase reach -- KCRW and Public Radio International are already producing news shows like "To The Point," but podcasting makes the show available to people in other markets whose NPR stations don't carry it, or who miss the show on its initial broadcast and want to listen later. But podcasts without a larger sponsor, aside from those helmed by celebs, will have harder time. Plenty of podcast hosts see them as a loss-leader or brand building exercise -- but how long can they keep allocating time and resources to the format if it doesn't pay off.
At the same time, talk radio is emerging as a bigger force. We've seen this in the current election cycle, but it also crosses political lines. Talk radio is just easier to use and provides that lean back experience that many users want -- there's no searching beyond finding the initial station, no downloading, and no apps that can fill up your phone if you can't manage to listen to all your podcasts. And while anyone can make a podcast and post it, talk radio stations have a bit more of a filter, meaning the quality will likely be higher than a random podcast. At Dash, we've seen incredible metrics on our talk stations in the form of listenership that's nearly double that of our music stations.
For advertisers, talk stations have real metrics to see who is listening to ads -- no more guessing. Additionally, because talk radio is live, advertisers can adjust content to be more relevant and up-to-the-minute -- they don't have to worry about people listening to old ads on back issues of podcasts then being confused as to why a deal is no longer live. Talk radio shows can flow together and the hosts can easily co-promote, as opposed to podcasts, which seem to live in isolation.
This is not to say that the podcasting format will disappear; rather, it will likely rightsize as it comes back down to earth. But talk radio is ever-more ascendant, and advertisers should take a closer look.