Podcasting is a great way to put your creative talents to good use. Whether your podcast covers technology or pastry, there are a number of ways you can expand your show’s reach and build a larger audience around it. Lately, I’ve seen quite a few podcasts that I’ve followed go from being simple hobbyist projects to full-blown radio shows and Web series. It’s funny how that works, but the fundamentals of getting your podcast picked up can be as easy to grasp as submitting your stream to iTunes.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: You do not have to have a big budget or the best audio equipment to produce a great audio podcast. Furthermore, your audio show does not necessarily have to have a giant audience to qualify to be picked up by affiliates.
We can also throw out the notion that terrestrial radio is all that really matters. Internet radio has been going full swing for almost two decades now, and their audience numbers are stronger than ever. Talk radio especially has a great following behind it, and that’s where your podcast comes in.
Getting Your Show on Terrestrial Radio
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be affiliated with a network to get your show on multiple radio stations. Yes, networks like Premiere and Genesis Communications (GCN) are a great platform on which to get your show coverage, but in the end program directors want to set their station apart from everything else in the market. If your show delivers on that promise, you have a shot.
Terrestrial radio is very different from Internet radio in that it has a clock schedule you have to abide by. While you can split your podcast up into timed segments, many of these stations have live broadcasts for the purpose of making commercials only slightly more fluid. It’s best that you find a clock that works for you and stick with it. Some stations operate off a set clock that does not change throughout their entire broadcast day, but the vast majority of them shift their commercial breaks to match the needs of a network and/or program with which they’re affiliated.
Premiere Radio Networks, for example, has a multitude of different break clocks they go by. You can find them here, and see just how radio commercial breaks are run. Without commercials, a station typically goes under very quickly as it’s often its only source of income.
If you feel as though your podcast can be designed to fit in a schedule like this (with roughly 1/4 of your hour spent in commercial breaks), then you should be ready to take your show to that next step. Don’t be afraid to submit demos of your show to program directors along with a detailed one-sheet explaining what your show is and why it needs to be on that particular station. Keep in mind that changing the format and/or timing once you’ve started being played on that station is highly unusual and often results in that station dropping you.
You might be surprised how many locally owned stations will pick up a podcast if the information being covered is broad enough to maintain the interest of a larger audience, and polished enough to pass for a mainstream program. Foul language and other signs of mediocrity are best avoided here.
Another alternative are the micro FM stations. These are often not technically allowed by the FCC because they hold no registered license and are operating on areas of the FM band not currently occupied by a licensed radio station. In short, it’s pirate radio. These stations are almost always run on a talk radio format. One example would be TXLR out of Austin, TX which broadcasts political talk shows from a Libertarian/Conservative point of view. Reaching out to someone who operates one of these could easily land you a spot in the station. Keep in mind profanity and other restrictions are just as important with pirate radio as it is with licensed stations. Simply put, the FCC tends to care a lot more when fines can be imposed.
Internet radio is so much easier to get involved with. Program directors are often readily accessible by way of email or a contact form on the station’s homepage. Many Shoutcast streams even have an email address baked in to the crawl. Either way, this is the best first step for a podcaster wanting to get involved with radio.
One example of a talk Internet radio station is Rant Radio Talk. Online since the ’90s, Rant Radio Talk features commercial-free shows made by podcasters with interests ranging from technology to survivalist strategies. The station itself doesn’t have a huge following (compared to mainstream stations), but it does have a long-standing reputation that lends credibility when promoting your show to other Internet radio affiliates.
Internet radio also gives you the advantage of having more lax restrictions on language and/or content. Profanity often isn’t an issue, but more corporate-level affiliates will certainly ask the broadcaster to tone it down. It depends on the program director, really.
Reach out via email and give the program director a link to your RSS feed. Often, being picked up by an Internet station is as simple as that. The station grabs your latest episode and plays it at a designated time. You could even stream a live feed to the station for a live broadcast.
Rules of Thumb
Always Thank Your Affiliates – Especially when you’re first starting out, you’ll want to list off your affiliates at the opening of your show to let your listeners know where they can hear your latest broadcast, especially if it’s streamed live. This makes affiliates very happy. When you have five or six, a quick nod to them at the opening is all you really need.
Be Consistent – As mentioned before, changing your format and/or timing can be a big deal to an affiliate. Develop a flow that works for you and your affiliates, and stick with it. If you do need to make changes, do it gradually and keep your affiliates informed of any major changes (new host, clock, etc.).
Obey the Rules – It can be hard to remember just how many people are listening on your affiliates versus your podcast. Often, being picked up by a station means not plugging your podcast as directly. Premiere Radio has a standard deal in which podcasts of the programs can’t be released for 24 hours or even a week after they’ve initially aired. This gives affiliates a chance to play pre-recorded episodes on their own schedule without your podcast jumping in and taking their traffic. You don’t want to compete with your own affiliates. They’ll leave you faster than you could imagine.
Be Committed – Opening your program up to radio play is a commitment that you can’t drop as quickly as a stand-alone podcast. Stations may sell ads against your show or even work out deals where you get a cut of a sponsorship. That’s a good thing, but it won’t happen if you take vacations on a whim. Line up a replacement host to substitute for you when you can’t host, and commit to being there 95% of the time or more.
Listening To Music by Petr Kratochvil