WNYC plans new podcasts in push to build on successes

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Indies aren’t the only public radio producers to recognize that there’s gold in them there podcast hills (related story). Among the top radio stations and networks seizing on podcasting’s potential, New York Public Radio’s WNYC has been out front, developing an extensive slate of new productions.

“We’re looking very aggressively at creating more brands,” said Thomas Hjelm, chief digital officer of NYPR, which operates WNYC-FM/AM, classical WQXR and New Jersey Public Radio. ”We’re certainly looking to expand our portfolio of content.” And podcasting figures prominently in the expansion.

Hjelm (Photo: New York Public Radio)

Hjelm (Photo: New York Public Radio)

Hjelm’s reference to NYPR podcasts as “brands” is, perhaps, one more sign that the jargon and values of the commercial world are seeping into podcasts as well as public radio itself.

In addition to the podcast versions of its radio shows, WNYC distributes Freakonomics, a podcast with an irregular broadcast presence that has nearly as many listeners as the podcast version of Radiolab, WNYC’s most popular nationally distributed program, according to Hjelm.

WNYC’s five podcast-only productions are The Sporkful, a food show; Here’s the Thing, a recently revived interview series with actor Alex Baldwin; The Longest Shortest Time, a parenting podcast hosted by Hillary Frank; Death, Sex & Money, hosted by WNYC reporter Anna Sale; and TLDR, an Internet-focused podcast produced by On the Media staffers. Classical WQXR produces a podcast titled Meet the Composer.

Though Hjelm declined to discuss specific metrics for the individual podcasts, he said the whole portfolio generates a total of nearly 12 million downloads a month. Revenues from the most popular helps support “other properties we are trying to bring along.” Look for a number of new podcasts from WNYC by the end of March, including one or more devoted to health.

Hjelm doesn’t worry that podcasting will cannibalize WNYC’s broadcast audience, which, he said, is growing. The Freakonomics and Radiolab podcasts, he said, have generated a substantial number of new memberships for the station.

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