Discoverability is a huge issue in the podcast space – while fans of the medium (this author included) will often wax lyrical about the intimacy and authenticity of a good podcast, it’s still the case that these products are only reaching a small section of the UK audience each week (18% according to the Spring 2020 MIDAS report – up from 14% this time last year).
One company is trying to change all that: Podcast Radio is a London-based station that broadcasts podcasts 24 hours a day. We sat down with the station’s founder, Gerard Edwards, to chat about his goals as a broadcaster, curating this dynamic space, and – importantly – how his station is helping listeners in London and Surrey discover and engage with new podcasts…
Podcast Radio – Helping Listeners Discover and Enjoy Podcasts
HR: What is Podcast Radio? Where can audiences listen to it?
Gerard Edwards: Podcast Radio is a broadcast radio station across Greater London and Surrey, available on everyday radio devices like your car radio and your wireless in the kitchen.
We didn’t stop there, as we knew demand for audio crosses into the online world – so we launched our own app, Alexa skill, and can be heard via our website using the licensed Radioplayer tools.
HR: What inspired you to start Podcast Radio? What are your goals for this station?
GE: Luckily, throughout my career, I have been given the task of designing radio brands from scratch. Handed a blank piece of paper, the owner of a company would entrust me to build a new brand with a pen and a blank piece of paper… followed by a lot of spreadsheet work.
I’ve always admired companies who were willing to try something new, so this time, I decided to get the ball rolling myself.
“Our overriding goal is our slogan, keeping it as simple as possible: showcasing podcasts”
Podcasting has intrigued me for years, and I found myself discussing podcasts over and over in everyday conversation. After helping friends and colleagues produce their own individual series – and seeing my own co-hosted 7-episode podcast reach the UK comedy top 10 on Apple – I felt podcasts needed to be heard over the airwaves.
Our overriding goal is our slogan, keeping it as simple as possible: showcasing podcasts.
Podcast Reach - All Audiences
Podcast Share - All Audiences
Radio Reach - All Audiences
Radio Share - All Audiences
Source: MIDAS Spring 2020
HR: There are so many podcasts out there – how do you choose which ones to feature on your station?
GE: Absolutely every podcaster and their dog can submit podcast content!
To answer the question though…we listen to them. We check the audio quality, as we are a radio station and we think people’s ears need good audio – which is not to be confused with expensively recorded audio. We then check the content doesn’t cross Podcast Radio’s moral boundaries. From here, we work with the creator to see how and where we can showcase them.
The journey starts with a podcaster applying via our website – we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible.
HR: As a newly minted ‘podjock’ are there any podcasts that you think are particularly exciting right now? Which ones, and why do they interest you?
GE: I love powerful podcasts – those that teeter on making you cry. Don’t ask me why, I just do. It was the same when I was driving to football training aged 17, always blasting sad songs and then thinking it was great afterwards.
In saying that, the particular podcasts that excite me at the moment are Alan Alda’s Clear+Vivid. Although it has celebrity names in it, the content is all about communication and adapting to become a better person.
Not quite Hollywood celebs, but another podcast I enjoy is We’d Like A Word. Two authors sit and discuss life and writing with another guest from the writing world. However, the subjects go into incredible places and can be surprising – often showing a listener that their own interests are much wider than they first thought. I listened to an episode about flies the other day – I was transfixed.
HR: Who is this channel aimed at? What kinds of audiences?
GE: In reality, Podcast Radio is aimed at a very wide demographic. We don’t believe in pigeonholing audiences by gender or a single interest. We think a sports-lover can also enjoy theatre; a comedy-lover can be fascinated with space travel; and we know that everyone loves crime to some strange degree!
We help tackle the issue of discovery within the podcast industry because we introduce a listener to both old and new subjects – always discussing both with passion and vigour. As the old phrase goes, don’t judge a book by its cover – perhaps it should now be “don’t judge a podcast by it’s genre”. You just may love it after all.
“As the old phrase goes, don’t judge a book by its cover – perhaps it should now be “don’t judge a podcast by its genre”. You just may love it after all”
If you really want to keep my answer short, forget everything I just said and remember this: “Podcast Radio is for anyone open-minded”… but I hope I explained the logic a little bit.
HR: Traditionally, we think of Radio as a ‘broadcast’ medium – speaking to lots of people – while podcasts or much more ‘narrowcast’ – aimed at people’s more niche interests. How does Podcast Radio work to bring these together?
GE: I’m not sure I fully believe that distinction.
First of all, I believe the podcast industry has been chasing a form of ‘broadcast’ for years. For instance, I challenge anyone to show me a podcaster who hasn’t been genuinely excited by bigger download numbers and more listens as their podcast has gained momentum!
Secondly, we think a podcast made with passion on just about any subject is happily consumed by an open minded listener. So that’s what we hope to deliver to our audiences – a selection of podcasts that we believe in and which – we feel – offer something special to the listener.
HR: What has the feedback been like from your listeners?
GE: We have really enjoyed the response. Some big names in media circles have responded very positively, and a talkRADIO commentator is even quoted as saying they “downloaded a full series because they liked it on Podcast Radio”.
But more importantly, it’s the everyday individuals we hear from who simply enjoy the ongoing nature of a curated podcast discovery source.
“It appears our listeners enjoy passionate content, breaking news, and a guiding voice to give context to the content!”
One great example has been positive feedback from people who drive through busy London traffic for work. They have been pointing out how refreshing it is to have diverse subjects and guests, rather than a single ‘theme’ or ‘host’ with a similar style every day.
We also keep listeners updated with news and daily context with our podjocks, so the listener can catch everything in one place. It appears our listeners enjoy passionate content, breaking news, and a guiding voice to give context to the content!
HR: In a past interview for RadioToday, you mentioned that (before Podcast Radio) there had been “no serious attempt to create a station devoted to playing and talking about podcasts.” Why do you think that’s been the case? And why is now a good time to start one in London? (*In general, beyond the current COVID-19 period*)
GE: We believe a ‘Podcast Radio’ style station has to help the listener meet the podcaster – it can’t just be focussed on the ‘station’ element. This is an idea that we dedicated a lot of time to during our design and development stages.
Our website and discovery tool supports this idea, and we purposefully don’t have big posters up around the city saying how great our podjocks are (even though Gene Baxter is actually brilliant!!).
With our model, all podcasts on the planet are welcome to be featured, not just a certain style, country, or limited to big production companies.
Overall, London seems like the perfect blend of open-mindedness, multiculturalism, varied lifestyles, and general wonder to appreciate the world’s podcasting talent in one place, broadcast into homes, cars, and devices.
HR: What challenges have you faced since starting the project?
GE: We hoped for applications, but we didn’t expect so many! That certainly doesn’t mean we’ve finished taking applications though – the more the merrier. It does mean there is a time delay on getting through them.
Perhaps (with a grin) the ‘challenge’ is choosing a stand-out podcast of the week – so many have such great qualities, and we only get to pick 52 Special Mentions in a year.
And, as caveat to that, since we’ve launched, the number of global podcasts has grown to hit the 1 million mark. Cue a Doctor Evil joke here.
HR: What do you think the future holds for Podcast Radio?
GE: We would like to be broadcasting to more areas, so watch this space.
We also have a long list of interviews and programming developments in the pipeline. We can’t say too much, as you’d imagine.
There are many ways for Podcast Radio to grow – but the important thing is that we aim for all of those ways to include more listeners, more podcasts, and most importantly, more discovery between the two.
Thanks again to Gerard for speaking with us about Podcast Radio. If you enjoyed this blog, you may also want to take a look at our interview with the producer of kids ethics podcast, Short & Curly (a show that explores big questions like ‘Can I lie to my parents?’ and ‘Is Cannibalism always bad?’) or our interview with the creator of podcast alarm.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any other interviews or thoughts from us, why not sign up for our monthly newsletter? It’s free and chock-full of interesting things about podcasts, radio, and the entire media ecosystem…