Changing Media: Podcasting

Will generation iPod change broadcast forever?

Chair: Neil McIntosh

Adam Curry, PodShow

James Cridland, Virgin Radio

Chris Kimber, BBC

Neil: Been described as the podfather. Tell us about the origins.

Adam: It’s a lucky convergence of portable media devices, protocols such as RSS so you can load stuff on to your device, bandwidth, and tools on the user end to create stuff. Tools have been a round for a while. Stuff people are creating eventually wants to get out beyond the DVD or CD that you can burn. So the network connects it, and I think that we had the sexy name, podcasting.

Not as big in the UK as the US, but I think that’s because radio in the US just sucks that much more. Still listen to the radio here. More cultural importance.

Podcasting clearly user-generated medium. My five-fifty rule – within 5 years, 50% of media will be created by the people consuming it.

Neil: The BBC are launching lots and lots of podcasts.

Chris: I think you’re talking about our tightly controlled trial. Have had the BC radio player for four years, and the problem with that is you need to be connected to the internet to listen on demand. the holy grail is to get them portable. In 2004 offered programmes for download, just single-file download. Then podcasting automates that and in those days there weren’t many people doing it, got good feedback. Then strategy – is this a threat or an opportunity. Clearly it’s both. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you’re listening to Adam you’re not listening to the BBC. But we also saw it as an opportunity to make radio on demand portable. Can also reach new audiences, people who think they don’t actually ;like radio, perhaps we can intorduce people to programmes they wouldn’t have otherwise have heard.

Early success is In Our Time, but we reached people who would never have listened on a Thu8rsday morning to that, so we’ve been ableto reach new auidences.

The main thing, as I’m sure we’ll come on to later, is that this is a way of introducing speach radio to people who thought they might not like it. E.g. Chris Moyles’ is obviously a speech radio, although you wouldn’t have sell it like that.

Possibly a way to discover new talent in the future. 20 or 30 years ago it was local or hospital radio. In the future it will be more about formats and ideas and talent.

Neil: Will the BBC do straight-to-pod shows? Or using others’ shows?

Chris: No one’s done it yet but it will be used. E.g. Radio Five Live use it for people to file reports from people abroad.

James; |the ;rationale for Virgin is similar. We should be out there, but more than that we should be making sure that people can hear our main shows, and put our main shows in front of people who might not actually otherwise hear them.

We did 113,000 downloads in January, so there is quite an appetite. I think it’s interesting that the session is ‘personalised radio’, and podcasting is half that. But where podcasting is ubiquitous, wifi is leading to even more personalised radio – listen to Today Programme without Thought of the Day, Virgin with no James Blunt, or Radio 2 with no Steve Wright. Personalised radio would provide customers with what they want to hear – less ‘the music we love’ and more ‘the music I love’. It’s more than just time-shifted and play-shifted radio.

Neil: Licencing stops you putting much music at all on. Are we closer to a solution?

James: My rather trite answer to journalists that ask that question, my answer is I’m not sure why we’d want to. Virgin Radio by and large is very mainstream. Hear the same type of music in the morning as in the afternoon, so there’s not much to be gained by downloading that. Why compete with someone’s iPod which already has their favourite music on it. Perhaps the trick is to give them slices of content to play alongside the music they really like.

Issues with DRM, the iPod issue, is one that will run and run.

Saw great video from ZDNet which called DRM ‘content restriction, anullment and protection’ – the iPod crap is different to the MS crap.

Chris: We have a commitment to specialist programmes, and so those fans would appreciate having more of their specialist music available.

Neil: Podcast-safe music.

Adam: Podcast is liberating – there are no rules apart form copyright. You can say what you want, do it as long as you want. Early on advocated that podcasters not play mainstream music. Don’t want the RIAA to come in and call us pirates and thieves, which all consumers are to them.

People in podcasting want to be the next Chris Moyles, they have something to say. They want to be the next James Blunt, because they want to make music. And they own the copyright.

So created the podsafe music initiative. Band heard in NY, good music, played on podcast, got picked up, and people started buying the band’s CDs through CD Baby. Good opportunity to pair up with bands.

US radio is so dead. No social recommendation ‘I fucking love this record and I’m going to play this every day til you do to’.

If you take 1000 podcasts, with an ave. of 1000 listeners, and you take one song and you have a million audio impressions of that song. We’re selling them now as MP3s, and we purchased the music because we wanted to support the artist. There are now artists selling 150,000 copies independently which is worth more than 250,000 copies through a label.

Social media networks now surpassing all the problems. I’d love to play older stuff, and I turn to BBC and Virgin for that. But the licensing issues aren’t getting solved.

Radio is on the decline and audience is moving away, and everyone will move in that direction too.

Chris: In the UK, I’m not sure that it is on the decline.

Adam: Listenership is up?

Chris: It’s certainly not down.

Q: Isn’t there a move by AIM to be licensing independent music?

Neil: We were unable to buy one of those licenses.

Adam: They want 12% of gross revenue, which is too much.

Neil: And they can’t tell who you are, so they can’t sell you the licence.

Adam: The artists are licensing it themselves under CC, they are getting it out there.

Q: But most musicians don’t knwo what CC is, they already have a deal.

Adam: Well hopefully conferences like this will help them find out.

Q: I imagine you share our frustrations that US podcasting is so weak. But the kind of rants and personalisation… podcasting could be more aspiration.

Adam: I agree that 98% is crap, by my standards, possibly a different 98% to you. All we do is take user generated content and turn it into a media property. We take that relationship between the producer and the audience and monetise it through advertising. And this is the beauty of it. We don’t stand for ‘this is the good stuff’, it’s more ‘1000 people like this, and it’s not for me to judge if it’s good’.

If I want news I can trust, I go to the BBC for the number of reasons. But it’s hard to build that kind of brand in this space. There are 30k podcasts, and I haven’t listened to all of them, but I know ther are some I like.

James: There’s a role for a trusted guide. If you look at what people are listening to – not iTunes because that’s crap – you’ll see all sorts of stuff, Virgin, BBC, Curry. These are all brands, people already trust these brands for quality. But a podcast where someone introduces you to new and exciting podcasts is valuable, that trusted guide.

We’ve had that in radio for years telling you what new songs to buy.

Chris: I’m not sure about trusted guides. The good stuff will rise to the top. There are some that are good, and a lot that are bad, but what you think is poor quality might be the best one for me. I don’t mind the fact that a lot are rubbish, because someone else might think they are good.

It’s a fantastic thing for radio. Podcasts are a huge attention for what is essentially speech radio. Getting 14 year olds to engage with speech radio is great, and if they call it a podcast that’s fine.

Q: Isn’t the BBC spending public money on an open-ended podcast trial, what is the accountability. And for Virgin, is that an issue?

Chris: Depends where you’re coming from really. We’re not creating new programmes, we’re offering ones we’ve already created so in some ways this is just distribution. It’s going out on FM, Sky, internet… so this is just distribution. We’re not going off and creating a whole new radio stations unapproved.

Q: But you’re doing a news blog.

Chris: Which is great value for money for the tax payer.

Q: But what about Little Britain. You don’t podcast that.

Chris: But there are all sorts of rights issues.

In terms of open-ended, it is a very strictly controlled trial. We’re offering 50 programmes and there is a start and an end point, and if you look at the impact on the market, look at iTunes, we are not dominating. We are doing pretty well, because we have an audience. But there’s great chance for education too. If you have Terry Wogan talking about podcasting, then that encourages people to get into it.

James: The web wouldn’t be the place it is today if the BBC weren’t involved. All of the broadcasters have to play together and pull in the same direction. That’s why all of us are on Sky, all of us are on DAB, on the internet. We all recognise the benefit of moving together.

I would also love to be in the position of having a guaranteed revenue, and to have a lot of lawyers, which the BBC has. But in terms of education they do a great job.

But how we earn money called, and sorry for this, called podverts. There are ads from large brands, some of them are doing it very interestingly, e.g. Bose selling speakers, bands selling music, and then the Special Constables advertising to people with a bit of spare time on their hands. Relevant media use. The money we’re earning out of podvertising is better than the pay-for route.

Q: How closely should a podcast resemble a radio show? Should it be as live?

Adam: There is something fundamental about this conversation which is the distribution. Trad broadcast have to pay for the spectrum, so these layers have been built up to create unwieldy organisational structures, and that’s reflected by the programmes you hear. It’ sin the DNA of the organisation. When you have unlimited space, you’re going to get art, and art creates all kinds of groups of people who like that particular art. So I don’t think there’s a good or a bad way to do it. I do my shows the way I want to do it. But there are at least 135 definable categories of formats in podcasting, and you may not want to listen to it all, but that’s beside the point.

Regarding podverts, we want content. And our audience wants content. I don’t sell ads on time. What if ads just became content? What does my audience want to hear? That’s where you create value for business models.

James: If you are trying to make a podcast that’s serious, but you sound like a poor version of Radio 4 that sounds like it’s been recorded in a cupboard, then that’s not going your brand any good. So how it should sound depends on what you are trying to do.

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