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Audio Podcasting

Radio is getting DTP’ed.

The digital revolution swept through the graphic design industry earlier than most. With the amazing innovation of desktop publishing, a bevy of graphic related careers and businesses were displaced with the new digital WYSIWYG interfaces and output options.

My husband and I owned a high-tech marketing agency at the time and coined the phrase “Another industry just got DTP’ed.” The shockwaves continue. Radio is the latest niche to feel the sharp sword of digital restructuring.

Podcasting has been made possible, again, by the genius behind Apple Computing. The iPod ™ makes it easy for the masses – well, the technologically adept masses – to bypass the audio programming industry such as radio and with video podcasting – television and theatre.

The technologies making this revolution possible include:

  • Satellite radio: XM, Sirius, Infinity
  • New media: Yahoo, MSN, AOL Music
  • Podcasting services; Ibblott, Odeo, The Podcast Network

Industry players who are being DTP’ed include Viacom, Clear Channel Communications and all the local radio stations who own broadcast licenses. The digital trend could transform the $21 billion radio industry. My husband and I met working at a radio station in the heyday of radio. He was a disc jockey, engineer and I was a copywriter before women’s voices were allowed on-air. We’ve watched the transitions of AM radio from the dominant form of news and music delivery to the upstart of FM radio, to cable television, and now to the new Internet-driven delivery options. What a run up the keyboard!

It is intriguing to look at the changes in marketing that programming, as well. From spot ads and live remotes to telephone remotes to interactive, collaborative Websites and tv-radio broadcasts, the free market offers an endless transformation of the sound-biz revenue model. Subscription models were tried by satellite companies, Net radio players and cellular services. Pay to play is another option. Customized downloads with local traffic information and weather reports, sports tickers are debuting to satisfy the need for interactive programming.

Podcasts cover the content gamut and are growing alongside the proliferation of other industry DTP’ers: blogs and mp3 players. Even the new guys on the block are vying for audiences with tactics such as ad-supported sites offering unique radio feeds and studio performances by artists.

New delivery techniques extend beyond podcasting – with delivery mechanisms varying from satellite to cell phones. The direct to audience options bypass airwaves, licenses and frequencies – making it possible for the democratization of the sound medium.

Linear programming offered by your mom and dad’s media options has been transformed into interactive, on-demand services that offer tremendous variety, chaos and unparalleled quality ranges. The smart traditional radio stations are catching the new wave – they are turning to podcasting to make their programming available to this new audience. By chunking their content, they offer programming 24/7 – beyond their former linear capabilities. They are moving beyond their traditional cash-cow of drivetime audiences to attract listeners with handheld receivers and desktop programs.

The question for marketers in this new phase of the audio biz is how do we make a profit in the content delivery world. People will automatically delete commercials if given the choice…or will they? It’s time for marketers to get creative alongside their technology buddies. By making ads so appealing that they are desirable content, by making the shopping experience transparent…and by using techniques such as embedded product placements and sponsorships, marketing can keep pace with delivery innovations in the audio sphere.

Loyal communities will be more important than ever. Howard Stern is one example. Sirius has wooed the shock jock, hoping to suck his loyal fans into their subscription community. Traditional programmers are having to look at their ad revenue models because listeners change stations on commercial breaks – it stands to reason that subscription services don’t have commercial breaks, which has changed the model from apples to oranges – and there’s no comparison for the elite well-heeled consumers wooed by both advertisers and subscription program providers.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Watch for the wave to continue – HD radio – high-definition audio which provides CD-quality sound will be here by the end of the decade. Traditional radio stations are betting that HD will help them surf the wave of audio entertainment by offering a better quality experience.


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