Allan Blackwell:            Welcome to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower. Brought to you by Audible. Get a free audio book download and 30 day free trial at Over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player. Now, here’s your host David Brower.

David Brower:              Thanks Allen, this is David Brower with Your 20 Minute Podcast. Our special guest today is Rob Greenlee and he is a pioneer. One of the very first, if not the first, to do podcasts back in September 15, 2004. He’s chatting with us live from … Or not live as you listen to it … But from Seattle, Washington. Rob, thanks a lot for joining us. Nice to talk to you.

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah, it’s great to be here David. Thanks for the invite and I always love talking about podcasting and the path that I was on in the early days. As well as, I love talking about what’s going on today too.

David Brower:              Absolutely.

Rob Greenlee:              It’s great to be on.

David Brower:              Thank you so much. So, tell me about September 15, 2004. What precipitated the idea of doing a podcast?

Rob Greenlee:              Well, it was something that I was involved in for many years prior to the development of podcasting. I was doing a radio show at the time in a radio station and had brought that home and built my own studio and was making my web talk world radio show available as a download off my website for many years.

David Brower:              Nice.

Rob Greenlee:              Prior to that, and most of my listenership was coming from streaming at the time because, back in those days, back in the early 2000s, bandwidth was not as plentiful as it is today.

David Brower:              True.

Rob Greenlee:              People were still on dial-up connections and so I was streaming my audio program 16k or 32k back in those days.

David Brower:              Oh my gosh.

Rob Greenlee:              I didn’t saturate the connections that a listener would have to the Internet.

David Brower:              Right.

Rob Greenlee:              So it was … Back in those days, it was making my show available as a mp3 download. What was great about that was that people could set that download to just download over a period of time. They weren’t necessarily listening so it was ‘get the audio file and then listen to it later’ was the model.

David Brower:              Okay.

Rob Greenlee:              That was how I got involved in this and was creating longer shows but it was also taking segments out of my radio show and embedding them into written articles too. So I was playing around with the combining of content online in those days cause text was delivered a little quicker.

David Brower:              Sure.

Rob Greenlee:              And if I could just present a link in there to play a short soundbite or something that supported the textual side of it, then that was something that helped me drive people to listen to the radio show that was syndicated across the country.

David Brower:              You had to be one of the first people ever to combine audio with print back in those days, right?

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah, it was not a common practice back then that’s for sure.

David Brower:              Right, right.

Rob Greenlee:              I think some of the online journalists back then with some of the larger newspapers and magazines that were putting content online were starting to get involved in trying to link up some audio. But back in those days, the audio process was very cumbersome. It was complicated. It was very geeky and difficult to understand.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              The tools were not really very clear. It was very rudimentary. I had my own … I was fortunate. I built my own servers and in a cool location facility and I had the ability to have a real server and a Windows Media Streaming server and all that kind of stuff. I was able to tap into that stuff very early in the growth of this medium. So I was able to offer things that weren’t commonly offered by a lot of people back then.

David Brower:              Absolutely.

Rob Greenlee:              That was the heyday of the development of the streaming side.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              Of media delivery.

David Brower:              I was in radio for a very long time and that stuff was … I got out of it in 2001. So, that stuff wasn’t even on my radar. It’s been fascinating for me to watch the growth, which has been like lightening speed I’m sure for you in the last several years. Right?

Rob Greenlee:              Well, it’s been growing. The podcasting business and the podcasting listenership base has been growing at a consistent clip.

David Brower:              Okay.

Rob Greenlee:              It’s not been a rocket ship ride by any stretch of the imagination. If you look at the research that’s being done around media consumption of on-demand podcasting today, it’s growing at between two and four percent a year. That’s been the patterns …

David Brower:              Oh, okay.

Rob Greenlee:              Since about 2004 or 2005, when the Edison Research folks started to do survey studies on the consumption of podcasts. There is a perception that there was a gap in popularity of podcasting in the middle part of the last decade, in the 2008 timeframe or so. 2009, there was a little bit of a dip in press coverage really. It was more around the hype. That was about the time when YouTube and Twitter and Facebook were starting to hit their stride.

David Brower:              Sure, sure.

Rob Greenlee:              So the attention of the media was definitely attracted over to social media in that 2008 to 2010 timeframe. That pulled the attention away from podcasting. Podcasting continued to grow consistently every year and then at some point, we had a spike in the consumption of this medium because of the iPhone. The iPhone really was the trigger …

David Brower:              Here we go. Yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              That actually made this medium consistently grow and build its reputation as a viable medium. That’s really taken us to today with quality content starting to really come into the medium. That’s just propelled it forward as more people have been attracted to listen to on-demand podcasting content because it’s getting better.

David Brower:              Well, I … Yeah, that’s right.  As myself, as a relative novice compared to what you’ve been doing with this, I just start thinking about podcasts maybe two, three years ago. Then, the more I looked into it, the more I thought about getting serious about doing one. My perceptions was ‘holy crap, these things are everywhere.’ You know? Then, I started paying attention to what people were doing and how they were finding their niche or as they say today, niche, and marketing it and doing all those kinds of things. It just became fascinating to me and I’m going, “Well why wouldn’t you do that?” You know? So, I’ve been having a blast doing it.

Rob Greenlee:              Well, it’s still early too. The research is showing as it only about half of the US population has ever listened to an on-demand audio program or a podcast.

David Brower:              I’ll be darned.

Rob Greenlee:              So, we’re still not reaching the majority of the US population. It’s like sitting at 50% right now, have listened to a podcast ever.

David Brower:              Wow.

Rob Greenlee:              So we still have a lot of upside to this and you think about radio. Radio is still a dominant audio delivery platform.

David Brower:              Sure.

Rob Greenlee:              Radio is starting to lose its luster and lose its steam a little bit but they’re still capturing 90% of the US population.

David Brower:              No, that’s right.

Rob Greenlee:              On a regular basis. Radio is here. Radio is under threat but radio is still here.  [crosstalk 00:07:18]

David Brower:              Satellite didn’t, by any means … Satellite radio certainly didn’t hurt traditional radio as much as people might’ve thought.

Rob Greenlee:              Though this past year, podcasting surpassed consumption of satellite radio. So we’re … Podcasting is now beyond the satellite radio consumption, which I guess if you think about it, isn’t really a big surprise.

David Brower:              Right.

Rob Greenlee:              I’m surprised that it probably didn’t happen sooner but satellite radio still has a presence out there. It’s not been …

David Brower:              Yeah, they do.

Rob Greenlee:              Eclipsed by the on-demand piece which … As the younger generation grows up, they’re taking a larger slice of the on-demand piece.

David Brower:              I’ll be darned.

Rob Greenlee:              That’s where I think that the generational shift that is happening is shifting to on-demand. As you think about how those younger people consumed music, it was based on what they wanted to consume, when they wanted to consume it. That’s going to come to on-demand audio too on the talk side. That’s what we’re starting to see happen. Those younger generations move into the prime audio consumption age group, which is in the 30s typically, you’re going to see this shift happen. Though we’re seeing trends that are starting to show themselves that the younger generation … I’m talking about the late teens to mid-20s are starting to really pickup on their consumption of podcasting.

David Brower:              Well, yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              And now more and more Spotify is taking on podcast content.  So we’re starting to see podcast content make it into a music platform that tends to reach those younger listeners. We’re starting to see this evolution happen.

David Brower:              My podcast is on Spotify and iHeart Radio. I bet more downloads from iHeart Radio than I do anywhere.

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah.

David Brower:              Trust me.

Rob Greenlee:              Those are those next generation platforms to some degree that are becoming important to the younger consumption audience.

David Brower:              I’ll be darned. Do you see the growth of podcast continuing to grow in that two to four percent range? Or is that younger demographic going to help increase the speed of that, do you think?

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah, that’s a complicated question as you look into the future because … I’m not seeing anything right today that’s going to tell me that we’re going to grow any faster over the next year or two beyond four percent. I think one of the … They’re some key things that need to be overcome before we’re going to see a five to ten percent growth. One of the key things is Android. It’s one of those untapped areas of podcast consumption that is just sitting there ready to be reached and it’s … Google has been a little slow to adopt podcasting in any kind of a first party solution.

David Brower:              Right.

Rob Greenlee:              I’m hoping that they will. Because if you look at the research numbers that shows what the consumption is of podcasts on ios versus Android, it’s like six to one five to one.

David Brower:              Oh my gosh.

Rob Greenlee:              It’s a huge discrepancy. See you’re only getting about 20% of the consumption of on-demand audio on Android as opposed to the consumption of on-demand audio on ios, which is 80%.

David Brower:              And that’s because ios got a head start. They jumped on it before Android even thought about it.

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah, but there’s more Android devices out there than there is iPhones.

David Brower:              Isn’t that funny?

Rob Greenlee:              That’s the missed opportunity, right?

David Brower:              Yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              It’s the … There’s about 20% of all the phones out there are ios devices, 80% of them are Android.

David Brower:              I’ll be darned.

Rob Greenlee:              You’re looking at a market opportunity that’s just not being reached right now. I’m working with Google and helping them along with their approach to this medium. Hopefully they’ll come up with a much better solution over the next year or two that will open the doors to reaching, hopefully, a larger group of the US population and actually the global population frankly.

David Brower:              Good for you. So does … With Google coming out with their Google phones now, the Pixel … I have the Pixel XL2 and … With them developing and promoting a really good Android phone, is that going to help their mindset move towards podcasts more? Or is that apples and oranges?

Rob Greenlee:              Well it’s really a difference between a first party app that needs to be developed for Android that will really be built into the operating system.

David Brower:              Oh, okay.

Rob Greenlee:              Not unlike what the Apple folks have done with ios. To expose a terrific listening experience on the Android platform that’s first party … People look for that because it’s a Google made product. That’s what will hopefully attract people to give podcasting a try on the Android device. Now, granted there are applications that you can get for your Android device that support podcasting. Spotify is a growing one of them that has a significant present on Android.

David Brower:              Yep.

Rob Greenlee:              So, you can certainly go there and start consuming podcasts on that app. There’s apps like Stitcher and the company that I work for called Spreaker has a listening consumption app on Android that’s terrific. It’s all these third party apps is what’s available on Android today and the problem is that a lot of those apps don’t have very much market share.

David Brower:              Yeah.

Rob Greenlee:              There all just tiny slices of the opportunity on Android. Google really needs to just get behind it. Often times, these big companies … I used to work for Microsoft. I ran the Zune podcasting platform for six years for Microsoft as part of the Xbox team and Windows phone and stuff. I understand the big company approach to this and how they look at podcasting as I ran that platform for a big company for many years. It’s a different approach. They have to think about it differently than maybe a startup company thinks about podcasting. It’s something that you have to talk their language and you have to understand what their needs are and be able to navigate that pathway to …

David Brower:              Oh okay.

Rob Greenlee:              Because often times what happens, and we kind of saw that happen with Google in the past with their Google Play podcasting service that they have today. Google does support podcasting as part of their Google Play product. It’s just that its wasn’t done in the way that would scale or help them in any significant way. There still a lot of podcasts there but it’s not really available easily on mobile. It’s only on the web. It’s those kinds of things, right? Most of the consumption of podcasts is happening on mobile devices now. It’s not happening on the web as much as it used to.

David Brower:              So is Google … Are they interested in more of the monetization of podcasts before their interested in the technology and the exploration of it? What’s their mindset?

Rob Greenlee:              It’s a couple of things that is important to them and they’re sort of … I wouldn’t be disclosing anything too much here because it’s really their core business is that they’re an advertising business. Google makes most of their money off of advertising and that’s obviously always in the back of their minds but they’re also interested in having a terrific discovery and listening experience as well. They do care about the experience.

David Brower:              Exactly.

Rob Greenlee:              But they also want to be cutting edge. They want to look like they’re innovating. And that’s where it gets a little touchy at times because being an innovator tends to cut in two directions on you. You have to be able to support a basic function but not get too ahead of yourself because you get too ahead of yourself, you can hurt yourself. Because people are not expecting that, right? Or they don’t understand it. Where if you come into from the understanding it’s about timing. About the timing of the features and functions of what the audience expects.

David Brower:              Sure.

Rob Greenlee:              And it’s difficult for a big company to do that. To time products that have long development lead times.

David Brower:              I would think so. And the other part of that, I would think, is once they find themselves being very innovative and coming out with the next great whatever, there’s gotta be a balance there. “Okay, if we’re going to be this innovative and we’re going to get from point A to point X, we gotta throw some money behind this to let people know that it’s here.” That’s gotta be a huge investment based on their confidence level.

Rob Greenlee:              Building out a platform for podcasting … It was the question that I got asked every year when I worked at Microsoft.  It’s like, “Well, why are we investing in podcasting when we don’t make any money at it?”

David Brower:              Right, right.

Rob Greenlee:              How do we leverage it to either help some part of our business or to grow or to leverage it to grow advertising revenue or how do we …

David Brower:              Right, right.

Rob Greenlee:              Do we sell more Android devices because we’re offing this? How can we quantify this? And that’s where the rubber hits the road with this stuff. That’s what’s challenging … That’s why … Apple supports podcasting because their core business is selling devices and creating great user experiences that will then cause people to buy more devices. That’s a different model than Google has. Google has a model of selling advertising, which doesn’t always create a terrific user experience.

David Brower:              Right.

Rob Greenlee:              Adding to content doesn’t create a better piece of content. It just creates content with advertising, which can be seen by some as a negative thing. You’ve got this …

David Brower:              Right. No, that’s right.

Rob Greenlee:              Balance that you have to strike between advertising that’s too intrusive or not intrusive enough. Because the advertisers want it to be intrusive because they want their message delivered. It’s really walking a fine line. Advertising and podcasting has been a very sensitive topic. It’s been … People … One of reasons podcasting has been successful is because it has had limited advertising in it. The advertising that was in it was very organic, natural, host endorsed, very much trust based. That’s difficult to replicate at scale. That’s one of the challenges that this medium has to grow in its revenue and investment is that fact that these advertising models are different that what’s built big businesses in the past.

David Brower:              Absolutely. One of the things that is fascinating in the news the last couple of days was the CEO of Apple coming out on MSNBC and being asked about the Facebook issue and he says, “Well, they’re in the business of advertising and making money. We’re in the business of selling phones.”

Rob Greenlee:              Yeah, so it depends on where you’re coming from. When I was working at Microsoft … Microsoft is not strong at advertising models either. They’re into selling software. That’s what’s different that made it a challenge for podcasting too because you typically don’t sell software in support of podcasting. So where’s the model for a company like Microsoft? And that’s one of the reasons why they end up shutting it down I believe. I was there building out this platform on Window phone and Windows phone, as we all know, is kind of disappearing. That’s not a viable platform anywhere for Microsoft these days. That’s why podcasting disappeared. It wasn’t a priority for Xbox and that was understandable too. Cause what are you going to do? Build that into the game console? It’s something that I tried to get them to do but it never really got accepted. It’s understandable when I think back on it.

You have to look at the company and what their DNA is and what they focus on. That will dictate whether or not they do something. I think Google is sitting in a very good place to do something with podcasting. It’s just they need to figure out what the heck that’s going to be.

David Brower:              Thank you Rob. Rob Greenlee and you can catch him at,,, twitter … I mean, you’re everywhere man. Thanks so much for joining us and we’ll catch you down the road fairly soon.

Allan Blackwell:            Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen to any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including iHeart Radio, the Spotify mobile app and at Until next time, thanks for listening.