Podcasting’s Tipping Point?

Feels like it

It’s not like podcasting is brand new. I brought this podcast to your attention more than 5 years ago, and he had been producing it for at least 5 years before I found it.

Still, it seemed like one of those long tail niche things, like Gary Vaynerchuk’s video blog about wine that turned an unknown into a new media mogul.

You know there had to be tens of thousands of people around the world who tried it based on his success and never found one viewer outside of his/her family.

Then, late last year, SERIAL appeared. It didn’t hurt being linked to a quality content source like This American Life on NPR.

But it was a risk for them too because this was going to be a radio drama which we wouldn’t hear on the radio, but on podcasts, which we would have to download to hear. It was as new for them as for us, the listeners.

Ahhh, but it was GREAT! It was ranked #1 on iTunes immediately and word soon started to spread on social media and through word-of-mouth. Free marketing is a beautiful thing.

Friends who have nothing to do with radio were asking me about it. I heard people talking about episodes Friday mornings at Starbucks.

It quickly became the most popular podcast in the world, hitting #1 ranking in Canada, the UK, and Australia. It averaged over 1.2 million downloads every week and it has already been funded for two more seasons.

The season one episodes ended up being downloaded more than 68 million times. Serial won a Peabody Award, the first of its kind, for being an “audio game changer.

But that’s not the only thing creating street talk about podcasting.

Earlier this week, President Obama visited a guy we’ve never heard of, to tape a podcast in the guy’s garage. It’s called WTF and the NY Times says it was downloaded over 700,000 times within the first 24 hours of its release.

Just yesterday, Kurt Hanson’s RAIN quoted Edison Research findings that podcasting reaches the most educated, affluent and mobile audience — exactly what is needed to make big bucks today.

Talk about listener engagement! These podcasts create appointment listening, and the producers have made it easy to capture and hear their content wherever we are, worldwide.

So, who on your staff could produce a podcast that would be downloaded 100,000 times? 20,000 times? 2,000 times?

What content does your station offer that is compelling enough to be downloaded as a weekly podcast, as SERIAL was?

Discomfitting, huh?

If Radio is to thrive in the future, these are questions we should answer, don’t you think?