Australian ABC Reorganizes Long-form Speech, Launches ABC Audio Studios

6/1/2017 11:39:00 AM

As the lines blur between broadcast radio and on-demand content like podcasting, some broadcasters are reorganizing their teams to better reflect broadcast realities.

In October 2015, New York public radio station WNYC launched a separate division, WNYC Studios, charged with creating and making podcasts and distributing some to other radio networks. Its radio production teams, however, continued unchanged.

In an announcement in May, the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the ABC, has made a more fundamental change: to move radio and podcasting production teams together.

ABC Audio Studios will consolidate the broadcaster’s existing podcast content team with ABC Radio’s long-form Radio Features division, who produce content for the quality speech network Radio National (RN).

Speaking to me by telephone on her way to a launch event, Kellie Riordan, manager of ABC Audio Studios, said that it’s been a “long desire that we have had at the ABC to bring together long-form radio features - our distinctive quality documentary content, for example - with our nimble podcast team.”

Riordan is described as one of the ABC’s most experienced and talented radio makers and managers, and she has overseen many of the ABC’s new podcasts, several of which have been produced in collaboration with independent producers in Australia and overseas.

A release says that ABC Audio Studios and RN will share one commissioning process for new podcasts, and develop content in a flexible and collaborative way, but each will retain their own genre focus. ABC Audio Studios will focus on comedy, families, lifestyle, features and creative audio and development of new podcast formats; ABC RN will focus on science and health, arts and culture, religion and ethics, factual, journalism and topical.

Riordan says that the new unit will have an “on-demand first” mindset when it comes to commissioning new content. “When you make great on-demand,” she told me, “you tend to also make great radio.”

Listeners can expect more focus on-air. “Everyday radio has traditionally been a background experience, but podcasting serves a particular purpose. You really need to go to market with a specific content proposition [for podcasts]”, she told me.

The ABC launched a series of digital-first podcasts called ABC First Run in 2015. Highlights included “Burn Your Passport”, the anti-travel travel podcast presented by comedian Nazeem Hussain, and “Short and Curly” a fast-paced ethics podcast for kids and their

parents: neither of which would necessarily have a home on today’s RN output, but both of which have, Riordan says, been successful in reaching new audiences for the ABC.

The new structure also allows programs to grow. “If they are successful as a podcast, they could go into the [RN] schedule,” she said.

Riordan herself will remain based in Brisbane, halfway up Australia’s east coast, but the ABC Audio Studios team are based across the country - “it’s a national unit,” she said. Being based in Brisbane, and away from ABC management in Sydney and Melbourne, does have its benefits. “I’m a long believer that the best innovation comes from people who can experiment under the radar,” Riordan told me.

ABC Audio Studios will also provide consultancy to existing podcasting projects from ABC Radio, Regional and News.

Australian commercial radio network NOVA Entertainment also recently launched a podcast unit in collaboration with Acast. That unit, too, is based in Brisbane: as is the author of this piece. Perhaps Brisbane’s time in the spotlight, as well as the sun, is coming.

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