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‘A Deep Connection’; Publishers Using Podcasts to Bring in New Vibe, and People

Podcasts are nothing new by now, but media companies are using them in more creative ways. Vox poured resources into “Unexplainable” and will now build around it. Crain’s Detroit Business is giving their Small Business Spotlight podcast good visibility and a lead-in to premium content. And with Access Beauty, Questex has brought in a sponsor and new, diverse voices.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the maiden voyage of the Small Business Spotlight podcast. I’m Jason Davis, small and emerging business reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business. Thank you very much for listening. This podcast will run once a month alongside a feature with the same name.”

That February podcast featured Ja’Nye Hampton (pictured here in a photo by Nic Antaya), who “fashions herself a typical 22-year-old, but her schedule isn’t like most people her age. The owner of Detroit Flower Co. gets up at 5:30 a.m. and works until 8 p.m. at her new shop in northwest Detroit. When she gets home, she catches up on orders, messages and social media.”

This content works in many ways:

monetization – it links to a story on Hampton that’s just for premium members and a free,  sponsored Small Business Workshop series in May;

diversity – it spotlights a younger entrepreneur in an interesting field;

trendiness – it’s in a form that just keeps getting more popular. (Podcasts, did not, as some predicted, lose popularity without our commutes—quite the opposite has been true as we found more time to listen.)

Given that popularity, there’s been a growing trend to start new brands with a podcast and branch out from there. A recent Digiday story by Sara Guaglione highlighted Vox’s newest podcast, Unexplainable—just introduced last month.

“Vox Media’s strategy is to launch a podcast show, make it a hit and translate it into a sustainable revenue stream through brand sponsors and advertising, Liz Nelson, [VP of audio at Vox,] said. The company’s podcast sales pitch spans ads that could run during a podcast episode as well as alongside related articles on its site, such as Vox.com’s science and health vertical for ‘Unexplainable’ advertisers.”

Advertisers for the five episodes of Unexplainable have included Comcast, Lenovo and Facebook. One of the advantages of Unexplainable—and Crain’s Small Business Podcast—is that it is not dependent on the news cycle. Another is that it is in the science realm, “by no means a saturated category in the podcast ecosystem,” said Hilary Ross, VP of podcast media at audio ad agency Veritone One.

Most importantly, both Crain’s Detroit and Vox are creating more good content. Vox came up with an idea, tested it in the fall, received positive feedback and then developed it further. Crain’s Detroit already had the Small Business section but needed more ways to connect. Small Business Spotlight will go “beyond typical profiles to offer insights and tips on issues common to emerging and mid-stage business,” wrote executive editor Kelly Root in a 2021 preview.

“Podcasts are interesting for publishers,” says Nic Newman, senior research associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “Because they are much more likely to attract younger audiences, since they can be accessed conveniently through smartphones and they offer a diversity of perspectives and voices… The deep connection that many podcasts seem to create could be opening up opportunities for paid podcasts, alongside public-service and advertising-driven models.”

Here are two examples of what Newman mentions:

The deep connection” – The Telegraph in London offers podcast listeners subscription deals with trackable links. “We see podcasts as a way to bring journalism to life in new ways, often for a new audience a little younger than our print readers,” says Telegraph Podcast Editor Theodora Louloudis. “And for a growing number of people, our podcasts are their first involvement with the Telegraph brand.”

“A diversity of perspectives and voices”  Questex brand American Salon and Ulta Beauty launched a podcast called Access Beauty! Each episode features Ulta’s creative leaders, and sometimes a special guest, who will discuss all things beauty, from salon life to trends and products to what’s impacting the industry.” Guests are diverse and topics current—The Impact of Social Distancing on Stylists and Inclusive Beauty: A Conversation With David Lopez. This is also a great way to involve a sponsor and keep the content excellent.

Finally, I like NPR’s mantra to podcast advertisers: “Be heard where it matters.” “Media companies are uniquely positioned to capitalize on podcasts as they have everything a successful podcast requires: compelling stories and information, professional storytellers, and an audience at the ready,” said said INMA report author Paula Felps. “Where audiences flock, advertisers will follow.”