How radio stalwart Global is adopting podcasting

Radio and entertainment company Global has been increasing its podcasting capabilities over the last three months. On Nov. 29, it introduced 1,500 podcasts into the Global Player app, the company’s one-stop shop for all Global content.

Global Player will house popular podcasts like “How Stuff Works” and “Serial” alongside Global’s radio show podcasts, and its few original podcasts like Classic FM’s true crime series “Case Notes” and more recent releases “Tomorrow’s Nerd” and “The Food Medic.”

“The simple strategy is to get more people spending time with Global products,” said James Hickman, Global’s director of digital. “We want to cover the day with radio. There are times throughout the day where listening isn’t as strong, like during the commute or at the weekends when people have more time to invest. This is about driving incremental listening and potentially new audiences.”

In the last three months, Global has built a centralized podcast team where between six and 20 people will be working on podcasts at any one time. It’s produced around 10 new podcasts during this period, and it plans to add more of the most popular third-party podcasts chosen by a combination of editors picks and technology.

“This is not a catalog of everything, only the best,” said Hickman. With podcasts that Global has commercial relationships with the publishers it can monetize the content through Dax, its digital audio ad platform. Dax makes it easy to monetize U.K. audiences on U.S. podcasts, which tend to advertise DTC brands like food delivery kits or mattresses that don’t ship overseas.

Global hasn’t pitched the commercial benefits of the expanded and improved Global Player to Charlie Yeates, commercial trading partner at Mediacom, but additional data is welcomed, particularly as listeners can log into the app, which would give a richer picture of listening habits. “Podcast metrics are extremely opaque,” said Yeates. “We know someone has downloaded; we don’t know if they have listened.”

The recent push into podcasting, despite the company’s long heritage in audio, comes from the ability to monetize it more effectively now, said Hickman. “We want to make it easy to find great podcasts.”

However, having just 1,500 podcasts could be limiting for Global if it wants to be a destination for podcasting. “Becoming the main U.K. podcasting app is a challenging business. You have to match Apple, Google and Spotify if you want to play in that space,” said Matt Deegan, a consultant covering the radio industry.

Global will initially get the word out across radio brands on air, digital and social campaigns. The company recently acquired outdoor ad companies Primesight and Outdoor Plus.

“For Global, it’s exciting to be in the market to bring podcasts to more people,” said Deegan, “Fifteen hundred is not a bad start if they can help drive up that 13 percent (of U.K. podcast listeners). That’s a good place for any commercial radio broadcaster to be.”

Commercial radio brands like Radio X and Capital cater to the younger market, so Global doesn’t have the same need as the BBC to launch an audio platform for younger people. BBC Sounds doesn’t offer access to third-party content, although it has said it plans to.

Global Player was originally launched in November 2017 as a place for audiences to listen live to Global’s dozens of stations, including Capital, Radio X and Classic, and catch up on shows. The company wants to put more emphasis on the Global Player app, turning this into a more consumer-recognizable brand, rather than through radio brand apps. Global wouldn’t share how many people currently use Global Player, although it said its brands reach 32 million people a week.

An added feature that allows listeners to skip songs while listening to live radio — currently available on just three of its radio brands — increased listen length in the Player on average by 60 percent and the average number of sessions by 50 percent, although it wouldn’t share specific numbers.

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