By Bridgette Webb

Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and Public Radio International (PRI) are joining forces in a bid to capitalize on the booming popularity of podcasts.

The radio producers are two of the four national distributors of programming for public radio stations in the United States, and the first among their peers to merge.

PRX's chief executive, Kerri Hoffman, said there's a real synergy between the two companies.

"Think of PRX and PRI as siblings born a generation apart," Hoffman said Friday in an interview on Cheddar. "There are some things, at our core, at both organizations that we can strengthen. And the things that are differentiators are really where the opportunity is."

The merger may have arrived just in time, with listeners slowly tuning out traditional broadcasts in favor of on-demand and streaming options.

The number of people listening to podcasts has more than doubled over the past five years and is expected to hit roughly 73 million listeners this year, according to Edison Research.

That growth has been buoyed by podcasts' ability to showcase diverse and compelling content ー with voices that were traditionally neglected by mainstream radio.

Hoffman said it's a trend she hopes will continue.

"The barriers to entry is so much lower, but that is just part of they story," she said. "The thing that we learned over many years is that we need a whole suite of services that help people get successful."

According to PRX, the combined organization will reach more than 28.5 million listeners a month through 885 stations’ broadcast signals and websites. The companies are projecting $38 million in revenue in the first year after the merger.

Hoffman sees some roadblocks ahead, specifically, the proposal by Republican lawmakers to reduce funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Still, she thinks public media is here to say ー largely because of listener and viewer support.

" It's always a threat, but we really believe the American public has demonstrated over and over again that there is a strong and important place for non-commercial media in a Democratic society."

For more on this story, click here.