By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
DALLAS — The NAB/RAB Radio Show kicked into a new gear on Wednesday, highlighted by a standing-room-only lunch featuring Entercom CEO David Field, Cumulus CEO Mary Berner, and iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman. A packed schedule of info sessions continued what has become a theme for the radio show – podcasting.
Thursday continues that same trend with info sessions that include a strong focus on sales and podcasting, capped off with the Marconi Awards dinner and show, and the Marconi “after party.”
The three CEOs at the luncheon made a case that radio is making a strong effort toward the future.
“Time spent listening will soon grow the same as time spent gaming,” said Berner, who added that “radio right now has better reach than Google or Amazon.”
“85% of listening is broadcast radio. Radio keeps you company,” says Pittman, who also stayed on the podcast theme by adding, “All of us ought to be doing podcasts,” calling podcasts “a gateway,” and reminded the lunch crowd that, “A big problem for radio is the loss of the home radio, but radio must win the device war.”
“We cannot outsmart the consumer – we have to put out the best podcast possible,” said Field, who admitted that it’s vital to build listener relationships now more than ever, and as for podcasts, “We’re still trying to crack the code to monetize this.”
When it comes to podcasting, some of the best advice may have come from media consultant and strategist Andrew Kalb, who laid out a strong foundation for what it takes to create and compete in the podcast world.
“There are so many podcasts out there — hundreds of thousands. What you have to do to succeed is be special. Among all that content out there why would someone want to invest 20 or 30 minutes, or even 5 minutes in your podcast – it’s not just about subject matter, you have to stand out,” says Kalb.
Kalb says just having a huge media name doesn’t guarantee success, and shared with TALKERS what he believes works best
“Sell and tell is one way to stand out. Be strategic about telling people about your podcast and who you tell. You have to go where people are listening to podcasts, you have to literally go where the fish are swimming. Get on other podcasts and talk about your podcast, share with people who like that same subject matter, and work to get those people there to come over and listen to your podcast. It’s how you build a foundation for your audience,” says Kalb, who added that it’s not just using social media to build a message.
“You have to deliver each and every week. Stay true to your audience, and on social media when you say there’s new content on a certain day and time, you better deliver exactly when you say you will. That’s how you build your reputation.”
Dennis Wharton, the executive vice president of communications for the NAB, tells TALKERS, “People see the growth in listenership, the monetization of podcasting is now starting to happen, and we decided to go in the route of people getting to learn and network, brainstorm ideas and create partnerships for their own podcasts.”
When it comes to talk radio, Wharton says that podcasting is a great way for the next generation of talk radio hosts to build an audience and become relevant. He also says both stations and syndicators have already taken notice of podcasters, like Ben Shapiro, whose podcast is now syndicated.
“A lot of young people who are at the show have a lot of great ideas, and are here able to meet with station owners and syndicators and hopefully those partnerships will develop. It can help rejuvenate this industry and bring in creative ideas.”
It’s also not just the young who should be looking at podcasting. Famous oldies DJ Shotgun Tom Kelly recently found himself in unfamiliar territory when his longtime radio station home was sold, the format changed and he lost his job. Kelly says he had voiceover work to fall back on, but added podcasts are a great option for anyone who has a strong and clear message to send.
Kelly says, “You don’t need a big name, you need strong content and to entertain and inform who is going to listen to your podcast.”
During a hallway conversation about the needs of radio stations with Paul Rotella, president and CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and Luke Story, the executive director of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association, Story say he created an agenda for making sure Arkansas broadcasters and radio stations were given full attention.
“I started a statewide tour to meet with our Arkansas broadcasters and their radio stations, gauge their needs and work to make sure they had what they need. Our industry is changing so rapidly which means their needs are changing rapidly. I’ve visited nearly every radio station so far in the state and it makes a difference,” says Story.
“Smaller stations are finding it very tough to compete with these juggernauts, the big players in the game. They’re thinking – do we network together to help place advertiser buys more regionally? And the association is trying to help in that regard. Also, Arkansas has a lot of farms, so agriculture buys are important and this year faming has been a rough industry (trade issues) so this has also been a rough year for Arkansas radio stations, another situation we face to help our broadcasters overcome,” says Story.
On Friday, the 2019 NAB/RAB Radio Show concludes in Dallas, and we’ll highlight the Marconi Awards, and continue to discuss podcasting and what has worked and what trends seem to be gaining traction in this fast-growing facet of radio.