As one of the largest local TV station groups makes a major podcast move, it’s time for every local TV station to realize the power and value of local news podcasts.
By Tim Wolff, VP, TV and Digital Publishing Innovation, Futuri
With news this week that Sinclair, one of America’s largest local broadcast companies, has hired a VP of Audio Programming, it’s clear that local TV leaders are starting to understand the growing power of audio.
There have been efforts before; Tegna has made inroads with original podcasts in sports and true crime, Graham has used local expertise to launch niche podcasts, and Scripps even owned podcast platform Stitcher for several years. At the local station level, individual stations have had start-and-stop efforts ever since the iPod launched (including a podcast I created at a local station in 2005).
Many local TV podcasts have failed over the years for three reasons: lack of staffing time, lack of revenue, and lack of audience. All three are changing now, and the opportunities have never been more significant for local television stations to grow audience and revenue with podcasts.
The biggest shift happened during the pandemic. When people started working from home, they started listening to podcasts. And when they returned to commuting for work, they took the podcasts with them.
The audience is there now, but for all the options that exist in the podcast world, listeners have few options for daily local news. At the same time, as evidenced in the Futuri/SmithGeiger Future of Audience and Revenue study, we know that local news is what consumers want most. With local television stations having earned extremely high levels of trust with their audience, and with the ability to do several hours of live news each day, local TV stations have an excellent opportunity to expand their audience and drive stronger connections with viewers and listeners by launching their own daily news podcasts.
Finally, there’s a solution to help local TV stations capture these opportunities with no drain on their staff, and automatic revenue opportunities built in. Recently, Futuri launched POST for TV. Futuri has been well-known in the audio world since 2009, and POST for TV is aimed directly at helping TV stations take advantage of audio opportunities and reach podcast listeners. POST’s custom setup allows TV stations to take live newscasts from TV and instantly turn them into podcasts distributed to every major podcast platform–with no additional staff time.
POST for TV also comes with easy ways to generate revenue. Stations can run ads and sponsorships they sell on their own, use the Futuri Ad Network to run ads in the podcast and share in the revenue, or go with a combination of both. That means that if their sales teams take a while to get their podcast sales efforts firing on all cylinders, there’s still revenue coming in from the Futuri Ad Network.
In other words, it is now possible for TV stations to create local news podcasts with no extra staff, distribution to every major podcast platform, and built-in revenue generation.
More podcast ways to expand your brand
Making your local newscast available as a podcast is a great way for TV and other local newsrooms to expand their brand’s reach — right to the audiences they want.
Stitcher reports that adults 18-34 are the group most likely to listen to podcasts. Podcasthost.org shows that 41% of US podcast listeners have a household income over $75k, which is 10% higher than the US average. Civic Science data shows that 22% of podcast listeners made a purchase after hearing an ad on a podcast. Sound like an audience you want your brand to reach?
More incentive for local news brands: podcast listeners are 10% more likely to follow the news closely (AudienceScan data) but might not be traditional consumers of your media products. Reaching them in a podcast may bring them to your television newscast.
Opportunities with original podcasts
Beyond podcasting daily local newscasts, there are two areas where the expertise and relationships local TV stations have translate well into podcasts.
First, as we’ve seen with Tegna, sports are a big winner for any market with pro or big-time college teams. Any sales leader in those markets can tell you that advertisers are often looking for ways to sponsor coverage of those teams, and sports fans will readily listen to podcasts about their teams.
Second, local media often overlook the key interest areas that would expand beyond geography. Say your market is home to a major Navy base, and you have well-informed reporters on the base, which is one of your biggest employers. Use their expertise to launch a Navy-focused podcast, and suddenly you have the potential of a worldwide audience. Or maybe you have medical experts or auto manufacturing or insurance companies as vast parts of your market. Starting podcasts around those areas can tap into the national or global interest and build a large audience that resonates with advertisers, all while growing audience interest in your station.
The time to embrace podcasting is now
For media brands, audience and revenue growth opportunities don’t come along every day. The explosive growth of audio consumption over the past several years represents a major opportunity for TV brands, and those who don’t work to capture those opportunities will be left behind. Getting in the game by effortlessly podcasting your local newscast gets your audience accustomed to audio from your brand; following that up with original podcasts that play on your brand’s expertise is a powerful one-two punch.
While it’s still relatively early for TV and podcasting, things are moving quickly, as evidenced by Sinclair’s new hire. Grab onto the opportunity to have first-mover advantage in your market — and by all means, don’t be last.
Tim Wolff is Vice President of TV and Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri. He has 20+ years of experience as a digital and broadcasting leader who’s led top-performing teams across the country at companies including Gannet, Belo, and Cox Media Group Ohio, which includes three daily newspapers, three radio stations, WHIO-TV, and more. Wolff, who holds a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri, also makes a mean green chile stew.
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