By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — If you saved back issues from when TALKERS was a print tabloid, dig-down about 20 years into the stack. A couple times a year beginning then, I was reporting from conferences then called The Podcast and New Media Expo, which later evolved into NMX and BlogWorld and other incarnations.
As I was typing-as-fast-as-I-could in the back row, I was hearing a new medium take shape.
- These energized events had the mojo radio conventions used to. But radio was already struggling as consolidation eliminated many on-air jobs, a bloodbath that continues today.
- Meantime, plucky podcasters were self-publishing about high-affinity Long Tail topics too narrowcast to broadcast on AM/FM radio. And because it is a World Wide Web, they were growing a following far beyond local broadcasters’ footprints.
- As a link in last week’s column outlined, that can add-up to more than beer money. ICYMI: https://www.talkers.com/2020/07/06/monday-memo-1000-true-fans/
Suddenly, EVERYONE had one. Then, just-as-suddenly, everyone didn’t. Because Apple rolled-out iPhone, which could also tote your tunes, and do thousands of other things. Yet the term “podcasting” – which first referred to the device – endures.
What’s remarkable about the podcasting phenomenon, is that users – not the device manufacturer – came up with the idea. iPod was designed as a music player. But it was We The People who reckoned that audio-is-audio and started self-publishing radio-without-radio.
“P-O-D” = “Programming On-Demand.” Think Netflix for audio.
- But unlike Netflix, stations aren’t investing aggressively in on-demand content. Short-staffed, it’s all they can do to feed multiple transmitters robotic programming.
- Meanwhile, enthused podcasters are generating content, some of which is amusing quirky boutique topics. And, embarrassingly, others are doing, effectively, local news, now in shorter supply from AM/FM radio.
- Smart stations are buddying-up with these DIY creators, showcasing their sponsorable stuff. They’re creating audio, we sell audio.
At some colleges and universities the shape of the fall semester is still a question mark. Others have already disappointed students (and parent$) with plans that amount to a glorified correspondence course. Many students are opting for a gap year.
As radio firings continue, more and more on-air people are also forced-into a gap year. If that’s you, DON’T stop creating audio. The link embedded in last week’s column explains why.
Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books. Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download. And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke