Podcasting the big buzzword at Radio Alive 2018

Grant Tothill, Jaime Chaux, Julia Lowrie Henderson, Jay Walkerden at Radio Alive 2018

There are some interesting figures surrounding the rise in popularity of the Podcast and they’re pretty impressive for an industry that’s still finding its feet.

13% of Australians have listened to a podcast in the last week. The number of monthly podcast listeners is expected to grow to 8.9 million by 2022.

Commercial Radio Australia has responded by establishing a Podcast Working Group to spearhead the development of this growing industry.

The subject was tackled at the CRA’s Radio Alive 2018 conference last Friday, with three dedicated sessions. Industry leaders, creators and production gurus gave their insights into what makes a ‘good’ podcast.

PodcastOne’s Grant Tothill says they have a lot of people come to them with an ‘idea’ that could be mistaken for a radio show, not a podcast.

“We just don’t accept radio-style podcasts or stuff that is very topical. When you’re trying to commercialise it over a period of time that evergreen content becomes far more valuable.”

“One thing we’re trying to do is develop our own sonic signature; an Australian style of podcasting. We want to see if our style of podcasting can travel back to the US and other parts of the English speaking world”.

NOVA Entertainment’s head of podcasting Jay Walkerden says they’re selective in choosing which pitch they take up. He says podcasts like Addicted’ and Confessions of a Twenty-something Train-wreck are examples of fresh ideas that they look for.

“We haven’t gone with any true crime primarily because of the time it takes. That doesn’t mean we won’t, but right now we haven’t.

“There are a lot of ordinary podcasts, some OK ones and then there are some great ones. And we’re after finding the great ones, no matter what category they’re in.”

For those creating the podcasts, there’s a fair bit of freedom to tell the story. The time frame lets them tell the story in depth.

Investigative journalist Adam Shand worked with audio producer Matt Nikolic on the podcast series Trials of the Vampire. He says podcasts give him more space to work in.

“You have a five and a half hour running time and it could have been longer. Matt and I had not made a podcast together and we referenced nothing else.  

“We basically said, let’s mix my journalism with your imaging and sound world and create the environment that will hopefully have a 3-D quality.”

A recovering alcoholic, Ash Bradnam has bared his soul in his podcast series Addicted and says it’s the only way he could have told his story.

“I need the time to tell my story and I couldn’t tell it on brekkie radio. I realised the only thing holding me back was fear.

“I chose to do it as a podcast because from a selfish point of view, I had creative control and I liked the challenge of it and seeing how vulnerable and honest I could be in telling my story.”

Julie Lowrie Henderson is the award-winning creator of a five-part podcast on the founder of Bikram yoga. She says the strength of the story won over ESPN. But she came prepared.

“I was just fortunate to walk into a room full of co-workers and bosses, who heard me out and decided to take a chance and let me try it.”

“I came in with a pretty significant pitch. Looking back at it now, it’s surprising to see how much of what made it into the series is in that pitch.”

“Making a podcast or telling a long-form narrative story is a commitment. There is an underestimation of how much time it takes to make something really good. It’s a big endeavour. It’s sort of the equivalent of writing a book.”

With podcast consumption predicted the boom in the years ahead, there’s no doubt more people will find an avenue to tell the story

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