Are video and other forms of digital media the future of public radio? Obviously, there is a huge demand today for digital content, with an ever-expanding audience that is easily accessible through the Internet. Public radio fills a niche that is very welcome on the Internet, providing an opportunity for an unbiased perspective—especially a bi-partisan perspective as the election season rolls closer and closer.
However, this rise of digital content has forced public radio stations nationwide to adapt quickly in order to compete for listeners, resources, and content that is relevant to their audience. This causes one to wonder if public radio stations will soon become a thing of the past, replaced by an open field of independent podcasts.
There are some business and financial minds that support this transition for the public radio industry. Leading figures in the financial world, such as Anton J. Levy, Managing Director at General Atlantic and Board of Trustee member at New York Public Radio (WNYC), agree that public radio is a valuable resource.
This sudden need for change is one that has been hard on public radio. While they certainly appear (so far) to be up to the challenge of keeping up with independent podcasters and holding onto audiences, tensions are still quite high between public radio and podcasts. A heated conversation between Jarl Mohn, president of NPR, and the staff of the “Planet Money” podcast in December 2014 is a great example of this tension. Tempers flared when discussing audiences and their consumption habits; specifically, how young people are exposed to new music.
Podcasts are booming. There are many podcasts that have gained notoriety and that are normally listened to each week. Many, though certainly not all, of these podcast come from WNYC, including Death, Sex & Money, On the Media, Radiolab, and Freakonomics Radio.
To continue on this success, WNYC held a women’s podcast festival in June, the first of its kind. Women podcasters, including big names like Anna Sale, Roxane Gay, Lulu Miller, and Crissle, gathered to workshop the future of dynamic podcast content creation. You can read more about this event by clicking here.
As it stands today, the public looks to be in good hands with the rise of intelligent and thoughtful podcasts creating valuable content. If public radio follows suit, then we’ll be even better off.