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Podcasting in Public Media: Can On-Demand Audio Content Help Community Radio?

By March 23, 2016August 9th, 2019Digital Strategy

We’re living in what many are calling the Golden Age of the podcast.  But even though they’ve been around for a decade, whether these downloadable audio programs are good for business remains unclear.  Last year, a lot of fresh new research and data surfaced about podcasts.  Here’re a few facts we dug up paired with takeaways from the recent NFCB webinar on the subject where we heard from Current Media’s host of The Pub, Adam Ragusea and Lara Jones, Community Content Manager at KRCL Community Radio, Salt Lake City, Utah.


Today we know that there are about 250,000 podcasts currently listed on Apple iTunes, mostly distributed in the English language.  Altogether, they’ve generated an estimated 1 billion subscriptions with roughly 3,000 to 5,000 listeners per podcast.  Among those listeners, 64 percent use their mobile device to consume this on-demand content.


Despite podcasts appearing on the rise, its audience is still really small.  According to findings released by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcasts still make up only two percent of audio consumed by the average American listener.  The most likely group to download these shows are considered highly educated and affluent where the median age hovers around 30 years old equally among men and women.  

So far there is little to no data that’s been conducted by race or ethnicity.  But one statistic that may be particularly appealing to community radio stations are findings related to commuters.  More than half of people surveyed who spend time in their cars say they are more likely to consume digital media on their devices during their commute.  


So what are people listening to?  It turns out some of the most popular radio programs come from public radio.  In December, Time published a top 10 list of the most popular podcasts of 2015.  Among them were public radio shows that American’s have been fans of for years.

Adam Ragusea of the show, The Pub, encouraged community radio stations to take cues from one program, There Goes the Neighborhood, a podcast produced by WNYC and The Nation that explores the narrative of gentrification in America set against the backdrop of character-driven stories in Brooklyn, New York.  “In a sense, this is a universal topic,” said Adam.  “It’s very local but something that you might eventually experience in your own city or town.”

Already test-driving this local-to-global audience approach is community radio station KRCL-FM in Salt Lake City, Utah.  There, Community Content Manager, Lara Jones turned to five volunteer producers to come up with interview-driven shows that have widespread appeal — podcasts like Culture Jock hosted by Lance Allred, a former NBA basketball player who is mostly deaf.  Born and raised in polygamy, Lance’s show is all about exploring different life situations, confronting ironies and reversing misconceptions.  Among his interview profiles includes a seven-foot firefighter, an undertaker’s daughter, and even Lara’s crusade with community radio.  But don’t expect to be able to subscribe to Culture Jock on iTunes, yet.  For whatever reason, it’s not there.  “We’re still working it out,” said Lara, signaling the many planning obstacles podcasting entails.  


If large-market public media is the powerhouse of podcasts, then KRCL is the brave pioneer for community radio. Lara’s commitment to attempt new approaches to attract listener participation and explore content generation is exciting to see and an inspiration for all stations.  Please check out their website.  We wish them great things down the road.  

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