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Series on Podcasting 

(April 2, 2019) Podcasting is a red-hot conversation. But will it go the way of AM Stereo or HD Radio? Mike Stark worked at KNAC in the 1990s. He was the West Coast producer of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. He is now the owner/operator of the LA Radio Studio (laradiostudio.com). Mike shares some thoughts about questions posed by LARadio in our on-going series about podcasting:



If you are podcasting, what are the challenges you are facing?

Stark: My studio, the LA Radio Studio (
http://laradiostudio.com) is currently in transition after our eviction in Ports-O-Call Village in San Pedro. We are currently in the final stages of construction of our new studio, also in San Pedro on the campus of the non-profit AltaSea.org.

Our focus at the new location will be on helping companies and small businesses develop podcasts as marketing tools for their services and products. That, we are hoping, will be the “monetized” side of our new business model. How that model will look is what we’re still trying to figure out, but the whole podcast business is still in a state of growth. It’s really only been since the demise of our first location that the podcasting business is starting to be taken seriously, as evidenced by your inquiry and podcasting growth stats. Before shutting down we had already produced some podcasts for SCAN Health Plan that they were very happy with and we hope they will be back after our hiatus.
Have you figured the panacea for attracting listeners? How have you set yourself apart from the 650,000 podcasts currently available? What is your marketing hook?

Stark: The beauty of working with companies in doing their podcast is that most of these questions are dealt with by the client, who probably already has a data base and niche audience to work through. They don’t really have to “set themselves apart” from others, because the content is locked into their product or service and is an extension of their existing marketing program. We do believe that the only money we can count on in our new configuration will be from companies and businesses that buy into our service – out front – to have professionally produced audio to pitch their products on a weekly or monthly basis. 

The key for us is to try to find businesses that are interested AND are interesting enough to be able to sustain a weekly or monthly podcast.  Our friend Dave Beasing is already doing something similar to this with Trader Joes, which to me would be the perfect client because so much is going on in that store that could be talked about. However, those questions are harder to answer if you are doing individual podcasts on a variety of topics.  We – and most of the other 650,000 podcasters – are having to work through these issues as we develop each individual podcast.

We got pretty good at doing podcasts at the old location, trying different types of formats, different lengths and with various niche topics. These roughly 15 podcasts will pick up where we left off at the new location. The hope is to monetize these podcasts, but with more of the idea that this will be the “creative” side of the business model that just involves “fun” and “making shows.” Honestly, some of these shows have potential, so we’re never going to give up hope that we couldn’t someday go with a subscription model or add advertising to them.

Content challenges?

Stark: I’ve given up thinking I understand what makes good content. We started a show called “Bat Chat” that is based around Halloween and the people that celebrate it year-round. Not at all of interest to me. A niche audience for sure, but I was surprised at the number of people that were interested in it. This is a show with a little proper promotion (which we will work on after the studio “reboot”) could be huge.

The little podcast that I considered a “throw away,” Radio Waves that Richard Wagoner and I do, based on his weekly column, has had a great success building listeners. Just two radio “geeks” rambling [and worse] about radio every week, has been really accepted by many of YOUR LARadio People and we’re looking forward to rambling some more once our studio is available. The real draw of Radio Waves is when we get long time LA radio personalities in studio for “career spanning” interviews. We’ve done a bunch of those that we are VERY proud of and hope to do more in the future.

Are you getting revenue support?

Stark: One of our problems at our old location was that we were top heavy with creative people with no one able to handle any kind of sales to try to entice advertiser to buy into our existing podcasts, so that is also something we hope to correct this time out.

Another problem is getting accurate “metrics” for shows. It’s above my pay grade to know why it is hard to get good, comprehensive, true counts on listener, but we've yet to be able to hone in on how to do that.  We hope, in our new configuration, to have someone who knows about that side of the business join our team.  With good metrics you have a better opportunity to sell your shows to advertisers and lately, even ad agencies. There is still a lot to be learned about how to do a successful podcast.

To have Mr. Jayme Wilson as my partner, who was willing to grow the business for eight years only to be forced to tear down and rebuild, is the blessing of my life. I'm pretty much retired and THIS new LA Radio Studio will be my swan song in the audio business and we’re hoping to be able to subsidize my retirement a little bit in the process. If nothing else, we’re going to have fun doing it. All of our current podcasts can be reached at the studio website - 
laradiostudio.com.

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