Within the Margin of Error...
Plus some thoughts on Podcast Revenue Potential
I spoke last week in Dublin at the Learning Waves Podcast Day. It was a really interesting event, both in terms of the expertise and experience of those who presented, but also in terms of who came to the event.
Firstly, comedian and podcaster Jarlath O’Regan was really excellent as a speaker, engaging and entertaining but also full of insight. It was extraordinary to hear him talk about ten years as a podcaster, from the early days, when his launch made the front page of the Irish Times, to the various reinventions of himself and his shows he has had to do over the years.
I’ve been running a daily podcast – The Smart 7 – for just over three and a half years and I felt his pain, as you really do have to go back to the drawing board every so often to keep things working, but maybe more about that next week.
Apart from the wisdom on offer from the speakers, it was a strange mixture of people in the room. For an event targeted at radio stations, with the intention of providing insight and expertise on podcasting, there were remarkably few senior radio people there.
Is Podcasting Important for Radio?
I think that’s partly because podcasting is still a minnow in terms of potential revenue and maybe more of an annoyance or a distraction if you’re already busy running a local radio station.
It’s a shame though, because I think what emerged from the day is that podcasting offers lots of potential for radio, both in terms of content and ideas, and in terms of finding new talent and expanding the reach of your radio universe.
One of the most interesting discussions was around how podcasts could and should be part of the overall Audio Advertising landscape. Advertising Revenue has been growing in Podcasting, at a phenomenal rate, but it was still only £76 million pounds in 2022.
That’s just about 10% of Commercial Radio Revenue in the UK, which was £740 million pounds in 2022 and bear in mind, the BBC makes up slightly less than half of radio listening and it is of course commercial free and licence fee funded.
Where’s the Money?
When people talk about big money in podcasting, it’s not really from the advertising side, it’s usually more in terms of the commissioned shows and spending from big Tech companies, like Spotify, Audible, Wondery and so on…
However, that big spend on commissioned shows and the likes of Spotify’s talent deals for Joe Rogan, the Obamas or even Meghan and Harry’s Archewell Productions seems to have largely ebbed away.
But, podcasting, which is heading towards 30% of the population listening weekly, with strong growth and interest from the audience and from people who are actively seeking ways to educate, inform and entertain themselves has huge potential as part of the audio landscape.
Branded Content as a First Step
That’s where there needs to be some kind of crossover between radio and podcasting, most likely in the branded content space. Making high end branded content for clients that already spend money with your radio station, offers really strong added value for them and could add revenue for your station.
Creating new and interesting shows and formats for existing clients, is a relatively painless way to develop podcast skills too… Find a producer with potential, discover new voices and create something that is rich in audio and sound production, that can tell the story of your client’s business.
Then, those skills can be put to good use on your own podcast series down the road.
Rajar and the Art of Measurement…
One of the things I have been very impressed with is the way that the UK’s Rajar survey quietly reinvented itself during the pandemic…
The art of radio measurement is a complicated one, with most countries still using a form of self-reported historical listening figures. It’s in stark contrast to the way Television, or anything online is measured.
At any given moment, on any given day, I can tell you exactly how many people have downloaded the current episode of The Smart 7, I can dive in and see what the average listening time is and I have a fair idea of what age and social profile they are too.
For radio, it’s still a bit of a lottery when the latest listenership book arrives. You’re never quite sure whether that good feeling you had will be born out in the book, or whether you’re going to suffer a heart breaking drop in numbers.
We’re Over EXCITED!
Most radio people are not statisticians at heart and without meaning to be unkind, a lot of radio promos and press releases around listenership figures should have the words “WITHIN THE MARGIN OF ERROR” stamped across them.
In Ireland we still use “Next Day Face to Face Interviews” to assess the performance of radio brands… So, you open your front door and a nice person with a clipboard and a survey form will ask you “What Radio Station did you Listen to Yesterday?". That response is then added to a vast data pile and averaged out over 12 months, so it’s not a quick response survey.
Smart Methodology, Better Results
In the UK, Rajar very smartly updated their system, which was traditionally diary based, relying on panellist to fill in their listening diaries, which could lead to occasional swings depending on sample sizes and the enthusiasm of participants.
They tweaked their methodology to add a panel, to better monitor Share and MediaCell, which allows passive monitoring via a Smartphone app. It’s all helped to add greater credibility to the Rajar figures, and it’s coincided with a real boom in radio listening.
Last week’s Rajar figures showed good growth across the board for some of the biggest brands and Commercial Radio celebrated it’s third consecutive highest ever Audience Reach as it celebrated it’s 50th anniversary.
A blended approach to radio listening, augmented by technology seems to be working in telling the story of Radio in the UK and its probably time for Ireland to think about doing something similar.
This has been the 19th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam