(By Matty Staudt) Eleven years ago, I left my popular morning show at Alice Radio in San Francisco, where I was the executive producer and on-air talent, to join the startup team at Stitcher. I had no idea how big podcasting would become, but I saw in the content a lot of things that made a radio guy who enjoys talking a lot happy. Since then, I have been straddling the lines of podcasting and radio, having just served as radio’s first VP of podcast programming at iHeartRadio. What I have learned over the years is something every person in radio should understand. Podcasting and radio are a perfect match for many reasons.
When fans from my old radio show see me, the first thing they usually bring up is a story I told on the air about something (usually embarrassing) that happened to me. Great stories and great storytellers have always powered great radio, and they power podcasting 100 percent. With radio airtime continuing to shrink, podcasts are a great place to work out your storytelling or go deeper into stories that only get quick airtime. Most of us got into radio to talk. Podcasting gives us a new way to improve that skill and scratch that creative itch.
Anyone who tells you that all you have to do to have a podcast is pop a mic and start talking hasn’t spent much time around podcasts. Great podcasts are well produced, by great producers. We have done a terrible job in radio of growing and nurturing great producers, and podcasting is changing that. Producers are needed and can thrive in the podcasting world. Radio can benefit from mimicking the production of podcasts, to up the on-air game of its shows.
Radio consultants love to work on morning show roles, but when the side characters get a few minutes of airtime each day, how can they cultivate their roles and make the most out of those few minutes? Co-hosting a podcast is a great way to do that. I have worked on many morning shows, both new and legendary, and everyone has told me that hosting a podcast together helped their on-air product by giving them a different environment where they could talk and work out those roles we love to assign.
Nobody in radio likes to admit it, but there is a problem, and the problem is that tastes have changed in the ways people consume their media, especially with Gen Z. I have taught at a university for eight years and have seen the switch among my students in how they listen and what they listen to.
They want on-demand content that doesn’t follow all the rules of commercial radio and isn’t stuffed with commercials. Podcasting is how radio can deliver that content to them, and at the same time introduce them to its on air content. I have young students who love listening to NPR, and the way they found NPR was via podcasts.
Radio and podcasting are both audio mediums, but they are not the same beast. Radio needs to understand that podcasts are not a “digital thing” only. Podcasts are where our medium has evolved to, and they need the same attention and loving care that is given to live radio shows. Podcasts and radio can and should grow together.
Matthew Staudt is the former vice president of podcast programming at iHeartRadio. He recently launched Jam Street Media and can be reached at 415.310.5146 or firstname.lastname@example.org