Does “Long Tail Media” Pencil Out?

There’a a provocative post by Chris Anderson on the Long Tail Blog about public radio. Mr. Anderson is a fan of a number of public radio shows, but doesn’t much like his local station. And he hates Pledge Week. So…

I’m listening to more and more of my favorite NPR shows (This American Life, Terry Gross’s Fresh Air, Science Friday, etc) as podcasts, something that finally suits me thanks to having a phone that automatically loads the latest shows. I don’t have to avoid the NPR pledge drive anymore…

Now that I get my radio via podcast, I don’t have to take the bad shows with the good. I’ve got an a la carte menu, and I assemble my own schedule with what I want and when I want it.

Anderson believes that radio is going to get “microchunked” so that people can listen to just the shows they want without ever tuning into the station that originated it. He talks about avoiding Pledge Week — I suppose the equivalent is avoiding the ads on commercial radio. 

This is especially interesting to someone like me — my day job is selling advertising on a group of commercial stations. I’m somewhat skeptical (and yes, it’s in my self-interest if the old model holds together long enough for me to get to retirement age). But I wonder:

 Who’s going to pay for all this? Right now, someone can hire me to design a campaign that will deliver their sales message to hundreds of thousands of people. They pay significant dollars for the access to this large audience, which allows my company to pay for the equipment, announcers, engineers, license fees, traffic reporters, and other expenses involved in putting on a broadcast. And there’s enough money left over to compensate me for designing the campaign.

What happens in this magical future when media’s microchunked, and the campaign reaches a few hundred people instead of a few hundred thousand? Does everyone’s paycheck get microchunked, too? And if that happens, how many of these shows actually get produced?

 Just asking.


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One thought on “Does “Long Tail Media” Pencil Out?

  1. I would think podcasting would be great for both advertisers and media producers. Inserting ads into downloaded media would have better metrics to judge a campaign than broadcast media.

    There are several companies trying to breaking into the market of inserting ads into podcasts. I imagine it will be something like the contextual ads delivered now. I’m planning on starting to offer podcasting on my site soon. I’m not planning on inserting ads into the podcasts, but I did look up some rates and a publisher could make up to $250 in effective cpm but it seems that it is much lower than that normally ($6 cpm). I imagine these are for sites that have a huge, broad demographics much like radio stations.

    What is interesting though, is the value of the 100 listeners in a narrow but prized demographic. Would a company pay the same advertising dollars to a independent podcaster that it would to a radio station to reach the same target audience? The only difference would that an extra 500K would hear the message and not care if the ad was on the radio. Human nature being what it is, the radio station would be able to charge more than the podcaster to reach the same 100 people.