TV Upfront

Ira Glass: 'Public Radio Is Ready for Capitalism'

Upfront For Station Trio Pitches 'Serial' Success, Intimacy of Podcasts

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Julie Snyder and Ira Glass took the stage to discuss the power of podcasts.
Julie Snyder and Ira Glass took the stage to discuss the power of podcasts. Credit: Matthew Septimus, NPR

Hey, brands: Public radio is ready to partner with you. That was a big takeaway from yesterday's "Hearing is Believing" upfront hosted by stations NPR, WBEZ and WNYC.

"My hope is that we can move away from a model of asking listeners for money and join the free market," said WBEZ's "This American Life" host Ira Glass said after speaking on stage with "Serial" senior producer Julie Snyder. "I think we're ready for capitalism which made this country so great. Public radio is ready for capitalism," Mr. Glass said.

Speakers at the event included "Snap Judgment" host and exec producer Glynn Washington; "Radiolab" host Jad Abumrad and "TED Radio Hour" host Guy Raz; Mr. Glass and Ms. Snyder. Announcements included a national radio program and podcast from WNYC and The New Yorker.

What sets podcasts apart from other forms of media, Ms. Snyder said, is the intimacy and active choice involved. A listener has to seek out a podcast to download it, and the experience seems like the host is speaking to the listener directly, adding to the trust between a listener and host.

The majority of listeners trust the makers of podcasts, said Tom Webster, VP-strategy and marketing at Edison Research, who presented at the upfront. Additional research from Edison found that 17% of Americans ages 12 and older have listened to a podcast in the last month, a figure that nearly doubled since 2008.

As an example of successful advertising efforts, Mr. Glass and Ms. Snyder mentioned the MailChimp commercial that ran during "Serial." In the ad, a 14-year-old Norwegian girl waiting in line for an iPhone mispronounces the name of the email marketing service provider. The ad went viral, sparking advertiser interest and even some remixes.

"Serial," with its record-setting downloads, is being held up as evidence that podcasts can be a popular, potent means of reaching an audience. At another upfront this month, iHeartMedia mentioned the podcast's popularity.

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