Why podcasts are the next frontier in broadcasting

Media houses must re-invent into business models that are in tandem with current financial needs and realities. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Technologically-enhanced journalism has seen proliferation of online broadcasting channels, blogs and online newspapers. All these are set up in a bid to mainly attract curious millennials, and to offer alternative platforms to the wider content consumers.

In Kenya, online newspapers and TV streaming services have been touted as the next frontier in the media industry.

Legacy media outlets find this both as a challenge and opportunity at the same time. As much as they are a source of new revenue streams, these new digital channels offer tough competition that has seen the traditional media outlets’ earnings substantially shrink.

The reduction in revenues is attributable to the existence of variety of players so much so that consumers are spoilt for choice. The slow pace at which the old outlets are embracing the new technologies is also hampering their bid to reap from such new innovations as podcast.

According to Cambridge dictionary, podcast is a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) deputy chief executive and head of programmes Victor Bwire, says podcast is the next frontier in radio journalism.

“Advertising revenues have migrated to online platforms, so radio has no option but to follow suit,” he said.

Although podcast looks set to supplant radio in Kenya, this innovation is still little known.

A recent study by Africa podfest, shows that 34 percent of Kenyans have never listened to podcast. For those who have, 64 percent are aged between 25 and 35. It further indicates that 34 percent of people listen to podcasts on transit, 64.3 percent listen to it for about two hours daily, and 35 percent uses it daily.

Another study by Infographic Journal on Meteoric Rise of Podcasting, describes podcast as “the most compelling audio format”.

There are currently about 700,000 active podcasts, 29 million episodes, in 100 languages worldwide, says the study, which also demystifies popular believe that podcast is merely for youthful pop culture and entertainment, noting that it also carries mature content on society and culture, business, comedy, news and politics and health.

The research reveals that most of the listeners are well-educated and with good incomes, with 45 percent more likely to have a college degree, 56 percent more likely to have undergraduate degree, and 68 percent more likely to be post-graduates.

Also podcast listeners are 32 percent more likely to have over $75,000 (Sh7.5 million) annual income, 37 percent more likely to have over $100,000 (Sh10 million) annual income, and 45 percent more likely to have over $250,000 (Sh25 million) annual income.

Most of the listeners use smartphone for consumption. Fifty-four percent use Apple iOS ecosystem, 43 percent on Android, and 3 percent on other platforms.

In the United States, 80 percent of consumers listen to an entire podcast episode, or most of it, with 49 percent listening to it at home and 22 percent while driving.

Further, podcast listeners subscribe to an average of six different shows and listen to an average of seven shows weekly, spending about six hours weekly.

Studies also reveal that listeners are likely to follow companies and brands on social media, where 69 percent of them agreed that listening to podcast made them aware of new products or services, the report says.

Growth trajectory of podcast ads is also telling, expanding by nearly 10-points in five years, posting $659 million (Sh65.9 billion) in 2020, compared to $65 million (Sh6.5 billion) in 2015.

However, despite the worldwide podcast hype, which over the years is poised to trickle to developing countries including Kenya, there are concerns on the level of professionalism of presenters and quality of content they disseminate.

In an interview with Digital Business, the MCK deputy boss said measures should be taken to ensure that professonalism is upheld.

“Professional training and professionalisation of the industry,” said Mr Bwire, should be offered to those with talent or interest in the media.

Technology disruption, he noted has to be embraced, nurtured, and exploited to grow locally in order to open up media space, tap into millennial talents and create employment for the youth.

“It (podcast) is already happening and a number of stations have incorporated them,” he said.

“Technology has positively impacted on radio, which has revolutionised radio work. You can now live-stream or dance and record yourself, moving radio away from just being an audio medium to both sight and audio.”

Media houses, he added, must re-invent into business models that are in tandem with current financial needs and realities.

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