One thought on “Podcasts vs. local news: an either-or proposition?

  1. My big concern about getting out of the daily news biz is that your station is no longer giving the local populace a reason to tune in every day. I see cognitive dissonance on this every day: the expectation that everyone in a region will tune in to their local public radio station every day simply because they’re the local public radio station. That’s a recipe for disaster; you must ALWAYS be giving a REASON for the populace to tune in. ALWAYS. If you stop giving a reason, they’ll stop listening to you. They’ll either listen to the other public radio station in town. Or listen via npr.org or the NPR ONE app. Or just not listen to public radio at all.

    And without that reason to listen every day, how will they even know your podcast exists? Much less have a reason to listen to the podcast?

    Serial didn’t become a hit podcast because it was excellently produced, or because the topic captured the zeitgeist, even though both those things are true. Serial became a hit because This American Life got free airtime (I’m still waiting for my reimbursement of your carriage fees, Ira) on 400+ radio stations for it. Online, every podcast competes against a cacophony of millions of other podcasts. On the radio, at worst you’re only competing with a one or two dozen other stations. Maybe none at all if you’re the only pubradio outlet in town.

    Focusing on podcasts to the detriment of your daily news product is so insidious because the downsides aren’t apparent quickly. Culture lag can make things look just dandy for months, even a few years, but as anyone in radio can tell you: it takes a long time to make a P1 listener, and even longer to make them a donor. By the time you realize you’ve hemorrhaged audience to, say, npr.org (where listeners can get the exact same content more conveniently than you can give it to them) you could be years behind the eight-ball to get them back.

    This is not necessarily an argument for “feed the beast” daily news coverage. But podcasts are the shiny-shiny new thing and it’s real easy to forget the fundamentals.

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