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The radio station making money from podcasts

June 21, 2019 · By James Cridland · 1.4 minutes to read

Radio TOK FM is one of the most listened-to radio stations in Warsaw, Poland, owned by Agora Radio Group. A news and talk station with over 40 journalists, the station is doing something unusual: charging for podcasts.

Jarosław Śliżewski, the company’s Chief Digital Officer, says that six years ago, a decision was made to focus on on-demand content. Now, listeners pay a monthly fee to gain access to over 65,000 pieces of on-demand audio from the station, including catch-up shows and exclusive digital-only content.

Pricing is set at US$3.90 a month for access via the web, though over half of their subscribers pay US$5.20 which gives access on mobile apps, too. (That’s the same as Spotify charges in Poland, incidentally).

The company already has more than 17,000 paying subscribers - a figure that has grown 60% year-on-year.

“Every day, we produce about nineteen hours of new content for radio broadcast,” Jarosław tells me. “Additionally, about two hours a day is produced exclusively for online use, like bespoke podcasts or extended versions of live programmes”. Some of the original podcasts are broadcast on the radio, too.

They work hard on the service’s metadata, with all content described and tagged, and about 40% of the content is automatically transcribed (thanks to a Google DNI grant). The app contains personalisation, as well as playlists; you can “follow” specific topics, presenters and programmes.

While the station is present on Apple Podcasts and other similar platforms, they use these as marketing material, containing clips of the full content that is only available through the paid-for service.

Podcasting, and on-demand content, is clearly growing; and the growth in Radio TOK FM’s paying users since 2013 has been steady. “Digital income is becoming a more significant component of TOK FM’s profits,” Jarosław adds.

Radio’s future certainly looks like a mix of live and on-demand content; and perhaps Radio TOK FM is leading the way.

—James is the Editor of Podnews, and was first involved in podcasting in January 2005.

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