Earlier this year, we returned from CES 2018 in Las Vegas, brimming with new ideas and innovations. But one of the most important concepts – one that can impact the radio broadcasting industry – has nothing to do with drones, the Internet of Things, 5G, AI, or autonomous cars.
It's about partnerships – how two (or more) companies can work together to feed off each other's core strengths, thus speeding up the innovation process.
We blogged about the many company collaborations we ran across in a post titled, “At CES, Was ‘The Next Big Thing' Partnerships?” It highlighted a fascinating interview with Sky's Director of Business Development and Partnerships, Emma Lloyd, on the C-Space stage at the Aria.
Emma talked about how partnerships with Roku, Facebook, and Google – among others – speeds up the development process, allowing her company to purse a faster track to success in new digital spaces.
Yesterday, we witnessed one of those savvy strategic partnerships take place in public radio. And wouldn't you know it, it's focused on podcasts.
PRX (Public Radio Exchange) and PRI (Public Radio International) have joined forces to create a single identify designed to score early and often in the podcast space.
A Wall Street Journal article – “Public Radio Networks to Merge in Big Bet on Podcasts” – by Anne Steele summed up the core logic behind the merger in its lead sentence:
“Public-radio companies PRX and PRI are merging in a bid to capitalize on the surging popularity of podcasts and other digital formats as listeners and content creators migrate away from traditional broadcast radio.”
It looks to be an exciting, high-pitched marriage. PRX has been around for 15 years, and has focused on podcasts. Its novel Podcast Garage (profiled in our “Radio's Most Innovative” feature) concept is a brilliant way for audio publishers to connect with their diverse local communities. PRX also created Project Catapult, an amazing venture that discovers and coaches fledgling podcasters or those with a great idea for a podcast.
PRI is a public radio program and podcast syndicator (like NPR, but smaller), producing programs that include “The World,” “The Takeaway,” and others.
Much is still not known about the merger's details, but the new company will be based on Boston (that's where PRX is headquartered). Its CEO will be Kerri Hoffman, a dynamic player in the podcasting space, and a repeat guest at our “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” track at Podcast Movement. PRI's Alisa Miller will become executive chairwoman of the new venture.
Clearly, both organizations see the need to move even faster in the podcasting space, especially given the rapid-fire public radio environment. As NPR CEO Jarl Mohn discussed in our Podcast Movement keynote, public radio writers, journalists, and producers are adept at storytelling – the secret sauce for many podcasts.
As much as commercial radio broadcasters need to understand podcasters and their community, most are in the dark when it comes to public radio's domination of the medium. I spoke with a number of radio people yesterday who never heard of either PRX or PRI.
And that speaks to commercial radio's insular focus – a way of thinking that requires some healthy pushback now that AM and FM stations compete against everybody.
For too many years, public radio stations were invisible in Arbitron rating books. Literally. Their numbers weren't even published, and so, many commercial radio managers and programmers only knew about NPR and public radio from those (in)famous “Schweddy Balls” skits on Saturday Night Live. These parodies depicted the medium as kooky, nerdy, and slow, thanks to the brilliant comedy of Alec Baldwin, along with Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon.
These days, public radio networks, stations, and podcasters are anything but. They're cashing in on podcasting, while expanding their audiences to reach newer and younger consumers. And if you work in a market like Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and many others, you're only too aware of public radio's progress – and often dominance – every time a new Nielsen PPM monthly is released.
Commercial radio broadcasters would do well to do some monitoring down at the left end of the FM radio dial, and familiarize themselves with names like Ira, Jessica, Phoebe, Jarl, and Sarah, and the podcasts they write, produce, and publish.
And a some smart strategic partnerships would be a bad thing anyway.
Below is the SNL bit: “Schweddy Balls.” It first appeared 20 years ago this December. It may not be totally SFW, but it is hilarious. It also bears zero resemblance to the public radio of today.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.