The podcasting opportunity for mainstream media

BBC News: Almost two million BBC radio podcasts were downloaded during December, with the corporation’s breakfast programmes the most popular with listeners. […] Simon Nelson, Controller of BBC Radio & Music Interactive, said: "It’s fantastic to see how the demand for radio downloads has grown since we first offered them in 2004. These figures underline the enduring relevance of radio in the digital world."

I think he’s right about relevance.

The BBC is a great example of a traditional mainstream medium which sees a new medium – podcasting – as an opportunity not a threat. The broadcaster has grasped it as part of the way in which it is evolving to remain relevant in a world where how people create, consume and share news and information, and get their entertainment, is rapidly changing.

A separate BBC story also published today reveals more indicators that podcasting clearly is now into the mainstream:

Suddenly, it seems, podcasting has broken through to a new level.

The BBC’s first published podcast chart reveals that the Radio Four Today programme’s main interview was downloaded more than 400,000 times last month, second only, among BBC programmes, to Radio One’s Chris Moyles Show.

But the real change is in the way other media groups are now using podcasts to challenge broadcasters such as the BBC.

Last week, The Guardian newspaper announced that the Ricky Gervais Show had been downloaded over two million times, having already topped the Apple iTunes download charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Now other media owners are racing to get into the audio business.

After the Gervais podcast on Guardian Unlimited, the Conservative leader David Cameron popped up in the new Daily Telegraph podcast. Two days later, it was Tony Blair, podcast by The Sun, which said it was as significant a breakthrough as the first radio broadcast by a prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

Then last Friday, Jon Snow appeared in Channel 4’s first podcast, a documentary about cannabis and the young.

So mainstream print media and other broadcasters see the opportunity equally as well as the BBC does.

The BBC’s Nelson again:

"I think we see our role as trying to stimulate that, trying to help people find the ways to do it simply," he said.

"We have a role in helping our audience find the best of what’s out there and we also have an opportunity to identify the rising talent emerging through podcasts."

That last view reflects much of what I heard from James Cridland, head of strategic development at Virgin Radio, when he spoke at PodcastCon UK in London last September – talk about identifying emerging talent amongst podcasters.

Different broadcasters but a parallel message.

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