In this week’s podcasting news updates there are two new podcasting networks. One comes from the mainstream public radio world, while the other comes from the universe of local commercial morning shows.
PRI Launches SoundWorks
Public Radio International is catching up with NPR and PRX by starting its own podcast network. According to the network SoundWorks is “a set of PRI personalities who will expose and explore issues that are shaping both daily life and global trends.”
At launch the network has four shows: One with Farai, hosted by journalist Farai Chideya; Sideshow hosted by Studio 360’s Sean Rameswaram; Radio Ambulante Unscripted, which is an English-language offshoot of novelist/journalist Daniel Alarcón’s Spanish-languageRadio Ambulante show; and The World in Words, hosted by Patrick Cox, who runs the “language desk” for PRI’s daily news magazine, The World.
Similar to PRX’s Radiotopia, PRI is using SoundWorks as a platform to develop new shows that might move to broadcast, as well as create born-digital shows–like The World in Words–that complement existing programs. The project is funded by PRI’s New Voice Fund, supported by grants from the Sara and Evan Williams Foundation, and Maureen and Michael Ruettgers.
The cost of production combined with signing up affiliates has long been a significant factor in slowing down the development of new, innovative public radio programming. It’s nice to see that podcasting is giving networks and distributors both a means and rationale to try out new shows and approaches, ostensibly with lower risk. What remains to be seen is how much influence these new public radio podcast networks will have on the mainstream broadcast offerings.
Twin Cities Morning Host Hopes To Join Podcast Big Leagues
Tom Barnard is a popular long-standing morning show host in Minneapolis who has also started his own podcast network. Unlike Adam Carolla or Tom Leykis, who left broadcast before starting their online shows, Barnard added podcasting to his portfolio alongside his broadcast endeavors.
Tech journalist Julio Ojeda-Zapada profiled Barnard’s podcast operation for the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, comparing its approach to more established podcast networks, like Leo Laporte’s TWiT. Barnard estimates he’s invested $250,000 to start the network, which has a staff of six. The flagship Tom Barnard Show is supported by advertisements that sound more like traditional radio spots than the kind of free-form host-read ads on shows like WTF. Most of the advertisers seem to be local to the Minneapolis area rather than national, which is similar to Leykis’ Southern California-centric show.
Network manager–and Barnard’s nephew–Sean Barnard says that the Tom Barnard Show sees 200,000 downloads a month. Given that it’s a daily program, that works out to about 10,000 downloads per episode, which is respectable start, but pales in comparison to more nationally-known podcasts.
It’s interesting to see commercial talk hosts like Barndard move to podcasting, though it seems that very little changes in their format, even if the podcasts are a little looser and aren’t restricted by FCC indecency regs. I can see the appeal of these shows for local listeners who can’t or won’t listen live, but I’m skeptical about how popular they might become outside their home markets.
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