Our answer is that for some stations podcasting
will definitely be a plus but that will depend upon the station
to a very large degree.
We don't see podcasting in any significant way replacing the
output of a local station and where a local station is producing
a good local output tailored to its audience we don't see
other competitors including satellite and Internet audio replacing
it although they could well eat into audience and advertising
revenues to a small degree.
Let's flip the viewpoint, however, and if a station can handle
it efficiently we see podcasting as potentially adding to
that audience and also being able to add to revenues, although
the latter will be more easily done by the bigger media groups
who will be able to offer specific advertising and sponsorship
packages of a scale that small stations cannot match.
There are of course potential problems, particularly that
of music copyright - an issue that has also affected Internet
streaming but overall we think that they can potentially be
overcome, especially as technology develops to time-limit
the storage of a podcast, something the BBC, for example,
is developing with its Internet Media Player for TV.
What is essential
for a station podcast?
Like any other media a radio station
has to produce something that interests people and the starting
point for a podcast in that sense is the same as programming
If the programming is good, there is likely to be interest
beyond the local to some degree and, like other existing media
when it came to the development of the Internet, stations
start off from a point where in theory they should be able
to use their experience to grab much of the audience rather
than it going to newcomers.
The reason they haven't done so in our view is down considerably
to the fact that they didn't really regard streaming as important
for far too long and by the time they did, the newcomers had
gained a firm foothold especially as means of aggregating
audiences for sponsors and advertisers were developed.
With podcasts they have even more of an advantage if they
get their act together but so far stations, with a few notable
exceptions, have not in our view assessed this as sufficiently
So what could a station do? Even if we assume that for the
moment music shows are out of range for copyright reasons
- and stations should be working on this issue now - other
formats have a number of options.
Cheap and Cheerful
- MP3 posts only.
They can go the cheap and cheerful way and
avoid full podcasting but use suitable software to produce
MP3's of selected existing locally produced shows that do
not have copyright problems and post these on their web sites.
They can work on the basis that people from their locality
who are out of the area may well have an interest in a round-up
of local news, information and events and produce a special
show to post on the site if they don't air such a show.
They can use station resources to advertise and post suitable
"submission" criteria on their web sites and get
listeners to send them audio that they can then put together
and post on the site, thus creating an interest from both
groups who want to get their point over and also to listen
to local news and information.
All the above can of course be converted into "proper"
podcasts that listeners get automatically downloaded onto
their computers but this requires a little more effort although
it will increase listenership and also provide statistics
that are of value in attraction potential advertisers or sponsors.
We would also suggest that, in the way that organisations
like LIVE 365 offer an Internet streaming service, it won't
be long before similar podcast services are easily available
to the amateurs: Stations we think shouldn't wait for this
but should get into consideration now of some kind of properly
constructed industry web site rather than each organization
going it alone.
If properly set up as an independent body with firm rules,
there is no reason why the giants can't co-exist with the
minnows on a site that provides a searchable database of what
is available, thus potentially increasing the audience for
So what does the above offer listeners and advertisers or
We think there is a useful and saleable package here that
with a full podcast combines a fairly firm indication of who
is listening with a local tie-in that means advertising or
sponsorship, assuming some form of "aggregating"
system is used a way of offering a useful outlet to national
advertisers - including, if a show's listeners match the desired
profile, those like Durex who could not offer the same advertising
on a broadcast station - and also to local businesses. The
range is, of course, considerably extended, if music can be