The perfect person to answer that question is clearly CEO Jarl Mohn. And he was the keynote interview during the “Jacobs Media Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” opening session at Podcast Movement, Wednesday morning. Jacobs opened up with that very question, and here’s what the NPR CEO had to say…

Mohn said the reason Public Radio and NPR have been so successful at podcasting has to do with history. “We’ve been in the podcasting business now for 13 years. It’s about storytelling. Others have struggled because they do not have that heritage.”

Mohn says there is a lot of interest in long-form journalism and NPR has been on a great run lately and podcasting has been a big part of that — NPR podcasts being in the iTunes top 10. They’ve had so many “hot shows,” and Mohn says that’s good for business, because his priority is always the overall mission of NPR, and if creating new podcasts leads to new revenue, that’s a very good thing.

One example of just how successful NPR has become in the podcast world has to do with the show called “How I Built This.” Host Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies. The show is a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists — and the movements they built. That podcast has morphed into a summit for listeners. Yet another revenue stream for NPR.

Mohn said the revenue from podcasting has become a very important part of NPR’s business. And, he says, it’s a great source of revenue. He said 55% of sponsors cross from one of NPR’s platforms to another. Some come to NPR specifically for the podcasts, and in some cases NPR has them locked in for up to 24 months.

So why are advertisers spending so much money on podcasts, despite the fact that the industry does not have an across-the-board measurement system? Here’s why, according to the NPR CEO: “It’s the power of the spoken word. It has not yet been over-commercialized. It’s a hot category. And, an advertisers message is being heard.” He also says when a legitimate measurement system does come into play, the revenue floodgates will open. In fact, NPR is working on a new measurement technology called RAD. From what we understand that’s still a long way off.

Speaking of measurement, the folks at Nielsen may not want to hear this. Mohn admitted that Voltair “really helped a lot of talk stations perform better.” He said, “all the stations improved overnight.”


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