Audio Tours and Changes
Visiting Canada and audio deals
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, and as always much of it is audio-related, alongside a decent chunk of wedding prep!
The big thing I’ve been working on is forming a partnership with Haymarket Media Group to acquire our podcast awards business - including the British, Australian and Irish Awards alongside our work on the conference Podcast Day 24.
Matt Hill and I created the British Podcast Awards six years ago as we felt there was an opportunity to help the discovery of great local shows. As we launched it, what we realised was that there was also a huge demand for a space to celebrate success and bring the whole industry together. Podcasting is so broad from people creating shows in their kitchens to the involvement of publishers, companies, charities, broadcasters and tech platforms. Not everyone’s objectives are the same, but the Awards are designed to be a ‘big tent’ that brings everyone together. We think we’ve managed to do that.
We’ll be revealing the nominees for this year’s British Podcast Awards, powered by Audible, on Monday and you can join us in London for a drink, if you’d like to be there. Getting all of our nominee lists ready, I’m always really proud to see the breadth of great shows and creators featured, and this year’s going to be no different.
We’ve always been focused on trying to support all creators, no matter what size. Alongside the Awards we’ve done training events, webinars and conferences for the industry. It’s also grown internationally with us taking on the Australian Podcast Awards and launching the Irish Podcast Awards too. What hasn’t really expanded is the team behind it - it’s mainly been just me and Matt H keeping the show on the road.
We were keen to ensure that not only could we keep doing what we’ve been doing, but also that we can do even more things for the industry, with more resources and less of the worry too. Haymarket, who run over 50 awards ceremonies a year, will help us do that. We’re also very much not going anywhere and will be a key part of all of the Awards’ activities for many years to come.
It’s also a good time to remind you about our Grow event, supported by the BBC Sounds Audio Lab on Friday 22nd July. If you have a podcast, or you’re a publisher that creates podcasts, this is an event focused on growing your audience, impact and revenue. It’s very inexpensive, at just £50+VAT. You can get your tickets here. There will be lots of case studies and take-aways to help your podcasts grow.
We announced the deal when I was in Canada, taking part in a radio conference that was part of Canadian Music Week. It was my first visit to Toronto and I loved what I saw of the city and country. It was also great to catch up with Ex-XFM presenter and now storytelling business coach - Marsha Shandur. Marsha’s a great example of how skills you develop in one industry are super-relevant to another.
Like any trip, you compare the differences to home and it was no different when watching many of the sessions. What struck me was the numbing effect of regulation on the market, and a lack of digital broadcast developments. What this means is a predominantly analogue environment, with little venturing to new brands or spin-offs. Radio is still healthy in Canada, with around 90% of the population listening, just like here and Australia, but the lack of competition means there’s some complacency.
Regular readers will know that I often talk about ‘radio as a product’ - that being all the stations available, packaged up for listeners. The steady growth of DAB here, and in other markets like the Nordics and Australia, has meant we’ve all built out a much broader, richer, product for listeners. Radio is full of lots of high quality choice (from commercial, community and public broadcasters) and that’s got a better chance of keeping listeners interested and engaged - for all of us.
What is similar, in all markets, is how radio can compete and co-opt, the growth in podcasting. Often radio broadcasters think they’re firmly got a foot in the the podcast world. In reality, they often have made much of a mark.
I remarked at the event that on that morning in both Canada and Britain, only one of the top 15 shows in both countries (in the Apple Podcasts chart) was from a radio broadcaster - one BBC and one CBC. Today, if you take it out to the Top 100, commercial radio broadcasters are only appearing twice in each country. Over in Australia, it’s marginally better, but seemingly just five appearances from the commercial radio stable. All around the world, if commercial radio wants to play meaningfully in this field, then it’s going to have to up its game.
One of those UK shows from a commercial radio broadcaster, was an original from Global - Spencer and Vogue. Over the past year Global have made a concerted effort with their originals, alongside repping other podcasters and of course their own radio podcast output. Having built out their digital ad exchange - DAX - a middle man that connects ad agencies with digital audio content, they’re in a good position to monetise their own, and other people’s audio content. Indeed, at the moment, DAX does the ads for stations like Boom Radio and music streaming services like Soundcloud.
Yesterday they announced they would be providing digital audio advertising to (and taking an equity share in) Odeeo, a company that offers game developers the opportunity to make money from audio ads. It’s hot-ish on the heals of a similar deal where they acquired Remixd, who provide ads in spoken word versions of articles.
The challenge for DAX, and competitors like Bauer & Wireless’ Octave, is ensuring that as well as providing all this ad inventory, that they have enough customers to fill it. Whilst the digital audio ad market is growing, there’s a real need to get more brands using the technology, and then publishers can get their fill-rates up. Otherwise the existing money will end up being spread very thin.
In Canada, there was another local speaker, well a Dane that’s currently residing in Britain at least. Tobias Nielsen is the Director of Premium Projects at Bauer - responsible for the roll-out of their subscription service. Here in the UK it means that listeners who stump up £3.99 a month get ad-free, and music-skip-able access to Scala, Planet Rock, Kerrang, Jazz FM and as of last week, the Kiss stations. Absolute Radio’s suite launches soon too. The same service has rolled out to some of their other markets too.
When I’ve used it, the tech works pretty flawlessly - no mean feat. If you’re a big listener to one or two of the stations, and you’re in an IP-friendly environment most of the time, I think it will work well.
Both Tobias, and Kiss’ Content Director, Rebecca Frank, who spoke to me for an upcoming Media Podcast, were both on the same wavelength by saying it’s the result of some listener insight, but also an experiment to see what can work in that space. I think subscription for audio - both for linear and podcasts - is a fascinating thing to keep an eye on.
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