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May 12, 2017

How Local Fix Readers in Honolulu and Kansas City are Gaining Audience for Local Podcasts

In April, we asked Local Fix readers how they are growing audiences for their local podcasts.

In addition to getting some great recommendations for other podcasts to listen to and newsletters to read, such as this list of podcasts from outside of the coastal bubble from the newsletter The Bello Collective, we received several responses on the audience growth work newsrooms have been doing, with many questions to follow-up on.

Here are highlights from responses we received from newsrooms working on podcasts in Honolulu, Kansas City, and in newsrooms using Hearken. They have been published with permission, and edited for length and clarity.

We’ll be sharing more on local podcasts in the future from Nick Quah. Quah, author of the popular newsletter Hot Pod, is researching how podcasting could help transform local newsrooms and the revenue opportunities it can offer. If you have thoughts to share about local podcasts, email them to localnewslab@democracyfund.org.

Offshore by Honolulu Civil Beat: Ben Nishimoto, Honolulu Civil Beat Director of Philanthropy

“We recently celebrated one million downloads. That’s a huge milestone for us, and a testament to [Jessica Terrell’s] reporting. 

We’ve made it a priority to strengthen our local listenership for this and subsequent seasons. Towards this end, we’ve held two Offshore events aimed at generating greater local awareness.


Photo courtesy Ben Nishimoto

Last month, Civil Beat hosted a Listening Party for season two of Offshore, which looks at the intersection of culture and technology through the lens of Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope. Guests listened to clips of Season 2 under the stars of Bishop Museum’s planetarium, and then heard from Civil Beat podcast reporter Jessica Terrell.

Last November, we held an event titled: Hawaii Storytellers – What Can Hawaii Teach America About Race. The event featured storytelling performances from six recognizable Hawaii personalities whose stories were based on the themes and questions of race and identity raised in season one of Offshore. In addition to the storytelling performances, the event also included pre-show interactives such as caricature drawings, a printmaking workshop, and a zine station. 

We’re planning another Storytellers event to promote Season 2 of Offshore in June.

In addition to events, we also partnered with Hawaii Public Radio to turn Offshore into a radio broadcast. The podcast finale of season 1 was released back in December.  In March, HPR began to broadcast the season 1 as a stand-alone program on Saturday afternoons. We rebranded the podcast to include our name, “Offshore by CivilBeat.org” and negotiated with HPR to allow us to include strong identifiers and calls to action before and after each episode to ensure that Civil Beat received credit for our work… Through this partnership, we were able to introduce Offshore to a local, non-podcast audience. It was also effective in encouraging season 1 broadcast listeners to download season 2 as a podcast.”

Midwesternish, Question Quest, Statehouse Blend Kansas ,Statehouse Blend Missouri: Sylvia Maria Gross, KCUR Storytelling Editor 

“I have a been a local show reporter and producer for 12 years here at KCUR in Kansas City and have been thinking about how to develop audience for local shows on-air and online that whole time.

In the past year, I’ve worked with our digital team to launch two podcasts – one called Question Quest (a documentary-style exploration of fun questions in our area.)

And more, recently, in Midwesternish, we’re using content from one of our daily talk shows but re-structuring, making it shorter and more podcast-y. The originating show, Central Standard, is a story-driven, arts + ideas show, and has it’s podcast feed, essentially an archive. We’ve intentionally avoided marketing the two as related, because we’re really hoping to draw a new, podcast-first audience, as opposed to dragging audience over from the station or the show. We had more of a marketing strategy around this launch than we ever have before.

We also have a couple of podcasts for the two states we straddle – Statehouse Blend Kansas and Statehouse Blend Missouri.

Besides the political podcasts, which are supposed to be niche-oriented, the other shows are aiming for a regional audience. This is something I have a lot of questions about, because I’d love to think about producing podcasts that are of service to our local community as well – though obviously that limits the potential reach of the audience. I think it’s a really important topic for local stations to address, and I’m interested in how metrics and goals enter in.”

Hearken: Julia Haslanger, Engagement Consultant

“Hearken recently held a virtual meet-up for the partners we have that produce local podcasts or are considering wading into the podcast world. Marketing was definitely a big topic for the group, and a struggle they’ve all faced. Some low-budget approaches included stickers, bookmarks, postcards and, of course, partnerships. Some higher-budget approaches included ads on the BART in San Francisco for KQED’s Bay Curious.

There was also a good discussion around the challenges of creating a profitable local podcast (not just monetizing), since the best known profitable podcasts all had or have national audiences. People are still trying to figure out if it’s possible to make back production costs and then some without a national-size audience. (Several of these partners do make some money with their podcasts through sponsorships and ads, it’s just not enough to cover full costs of staff.)”

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