Hivio, Day 2: Podcast Loyalty, Creativity, Effectiveness
Panoply Announces New Malcolm Gladwell Podcast At Conference
June 3, 2016 at 12:08 PM (PT)
Day two of HIVIO, the "future of audio" conference, is taking place FRIDAY morning in WEST HOLLYWOOD.
How Panoply Grew
PANOPLY co-founder/Chief Content Officer ANDY BOWERS discussed the development of the network at SLATE and how it went from producing podcasts to a "one-stop shop" offering for other producers. He called podcasts "intimate" as opposed to video (which, he noted, SLATE also produces), engendering listener loyalty (offering as an example that STEPHEN COLBERT once called to complain when an episode of "POLITICAL GABFEST" was late in posting). "People get very connected to these in a way I don't think they do with video," BOWERS said. He added that while some predict a collapse in podcast advertising business, he does not see that happening, crediting a "smallish but incredibly loyal" audience and effective advertising.
Asked by HIVIO co-founder MARK RAMSEY what is holding podcasting back from growing brand advertising, BOWERS noted that his network is actually getting more brand advertising, using advertising, live events, and custom podcasts (including the eight-part science fiction series "THE MESSAGE" for GENERAL ELECTRIC and new work for PURINA), the latter being produced by a separate unit to maintain SLATE's editorial firewall between pure editorial and sponsored content. He also addressed podcasting's measurement situation, noting that the metrics available are not what other media can offer but asserting that download figures "are not nothing." And he assigned the slow adoption of podcasting by the mainstream to technological considerations, saying that the technology to download shows "has not improved quickly enough." He predicted that in the near future, "most people will listen to spoken-word (content) on demand," and advised broadcasters to make all of their content available on demand but to recognize that the podcasting medium requires different kinds of programming.
BOWERS also announced the addition of a new 10-part podcast, "REVISIONIST HISTORY," hosted by author MALCOLM GLADWELL and reexamining events of recent history; the show will debut JUNE 16th.
Prognostications And Stories From A Talent Manager
Talent manager and producer HOWARD LAPIDES asked the HIVIO audience, "What the f-ck happened to radio?," and answering that question by blaming consolidation for the industry's woes but adding that good content will continue on different platforms like podcasting. LAPIDES told stories that illustrated that point. "What I do is develop people," LAPIDES said, and asked by RAMSEY how he does that, he said that he had "really good people" teach him how to listen to the radio, illustrating that point by telling how he first heard his client DR. DREW PINSKY on the radio and decided, "I have to talk to this guy." He likened developing talent to training a fighter, adding that "you can't make (talent) into something they're not, not right away" and just finding their strength ("the guy has a great left hook") and letting them use it "until they can't do it anymore." LAPIDES concluded that talent should not stop creating regardless of what happens to traditional networks and media, with new platforms emerging to take their place.
Dollars Slow To Move To Digital
RAMSEY asked RECODE Senior Editor and podcast host PETER KAFKA what surprised him about MARY MEEKER's annual report on media at the CODE CONFERENCE just concluded nearby in RANCHO PALOS VERDES, and KAFKA noted that the slowness of the move of ad dollars to digital, including podcasting, is always noticeable and frustrating; he predicted that the numbers will never even out but that the growth of digital dollars and a reduction in the gap between digital and traditional media will eventually occur. Asked what will change the situation, KAFKA said "I don't know. If I did know, I probably wouldn't be sitting here." When RAMSEY asked if "we've reached peak media," KAFKA pointed to the "depressing" situation of many people making content that nobody sees, as in blogging in the past and podcasting today. KAFKA speculated that VERIZON will keep trying to move into content by buying YAHOO! and combining it with AOL, but expects that the project will ultimately fail ("nobody has taken a declining consumer-facing Internet brand... and gotten people to re-engage with it"). He told RAMSEY that his biggest surprise in his years of covering media is the rise and dominance of Facebook; he admitted to not fully getting how Snapchat will grow sufficiently to build its business, and added that Twitter is "stuck" and will have to accept the fact that it is a smaller company, but a successful one.
KAFKA also credited his listening to ADAM CAROLLA and BILL SIMMONS podcasts for his own launching of RECODE's show. He echoed BOWERS' citing of audio's "intimacy" as a primary benefit of the medium. KAFKA said that it is not too late to get people to pay for podcasts, and that it might be "too early," with opportunity for podcasts to monetize through subscriptions. And on the VIACOM soap opera, he said that the real story is not what happens to SUMNER REDSTONE's interests but that the company "hasn't moved for years," continuing to do business as usual while the media landscape has been disrupted.
Bunch O' Millennials Sitting Around Talking About Media
In a segment facilitated by a schedule change, four Millennials were assembled for a panel on which RAMSEY interviewed them about media usage, including each panelist describing their usual audio and media usage, from radio (one panelist uses it in the car, purely out of convenience and a desire not to "work" with playlists while driving) to TWITCH, audiobooks, SPOTIFY, and podcasts (panelists said they discover new shows from word-of-mouth from friends; one found more in a BUZZFEED article, and another through listings in TUNEIN). One panelist said that among his limited radio listening during the week is talk radio on AM or Classical or Alternative on FM; another listens to mostly Top 40, devoting about 20-25% of her music listening to radio and the rest to SPOTIFY. Some of the panelists noted that their listening to traditional radio relates to their early years listening to their parents' radio choices in the car. The panelists don't own radios outside of the car, preferring to listen on other devices ("it's all about convenience," one panelist said, adding that radios are "excess baggage. Nobody wants baggage"). And the panelists professed to hate and avoid audio advertising, but one panelist said that PANDORA's LEXUS free pop-up concert promotion got her to listen to ads more and to click through to get free tickets.
ESPN's Ascent In Audio
ESPN SVP, Production, Business Divisions TRAUG KELLER, who oversees ESPN AUDIO, offered optimism about the audio business, describing how the network decided to be where the audience is, on any device, and how the plan has led to substantial growth ("we've seen our audience do nothing but grow"). He said that the simulcasting of ESPN RADIO shows has not cannibalized the radio audience but has helped the shows add audience instead, likening the situation to STEVE JOBS adding the iPad to the APPLE lineup and not taking share from the company's other offerings. KELLER touted an ESPN record 41.5 million downloads in MAY for the company's podcasts, with DAN LE BATARD doing 6 million and MIKE AND MIKE doing 5 million, the remainder split among the other shows on offer. Creativity, he said, will be a key piece of monetizing podcasts; he used ESPN's recent "DUNKUMENTARY" series as an example of how the network was able to create a podcast that attracted ad dollars from SEATGEEK. He said that ESPN is "taking a lead role" in developing measurement for podcasting, although he declined to name the research partners with which the network is working and also did not disclose revenue numbers. And on the mobile front, ESPN's separate audio app is being sunsetted and all audio is being put in a tab in the main ESPN app ("we might as well be in a place where the entire ESPN audience is gathered").
Podcasting 101, From A Veteran Of The Medium
A presentation by ACAST Chief Commercial Officer and former NEW YORK PUBLIC RADIO/WNYC VP of Sponsorship SARAH VAN MOSEL looked at the present and future of podcasting, with VAN MOSEL asserting that with 57 million monthly and 35 million weekly podcast listeners, "podcast listening is mainstream in the U.S." After running through the several segments of the podcasting ecosystem and noting that the entry of larger players in both distribution and content indicates that the medium is drawing "heat," VAN MOSEL noted podcasting's increasing diversity in programming and audiences. She explained the medium's advertising ecosystem, from "baked in" native advertising to pre-produced ads (including GIMLET's pre-recorded ads that are similar in style to the program content), custom content for sponsors, and trackable ad insertion (which, she said with apologies to radio people in the audience, some associate with "dirty radio ads"). VAN MOSEL also noted the existence of additional revenue streams like paywalls and donations, both of which could affect ad inventory.
VAM MOSEL called "BS" on estimates that podcasts are drawing about $35 million in revenue, saying that the yearly number based on her experience is closer to $85-100 million and the numbers are "about to explode." The dollars, she said, are shifting from traditional radio as well as from digital budgets, but that the buckets from which the dollars are coming are varied, with some coming from "experimental" budgets designed to try out new media; the best buyer, she added, are those who are avid listeners of the shows and know instinctively that the format and content will work for their brands, and she noted the arrival of several blue-chip advertisers to podcasts.
Also included in VAN MOSEL's presentation was an overview of issues with podcast metrics, and ACAST's plans for its own business for the future of the medium, including "breaking free" of the app using embeddable players to be "where people are," allowing podcasters to do business directly with listeners by selling content through the ACAST+ system, coupling podcasts with 360-degree video, and improvements in audio creative for podcasts (which she said was her "crusade this year").
RAMSEY interviewed "TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE" horror podcast co-creator GLENN MCQUAID, who explained how he and co-creator LARRY FESSENDEN went from visual media (MCQUAID in film working in visual effects, FESSENDEN as a director and actor) to the audio medium, the liberating aspects of being able to distribute content directly to audiences, and the positive response from audiences to experimentation. Asked how he gauges the show's success, MCQUAID said that the show is selling content through AUDIBLE and even on vinyl, seeing a rise in business as it reaches what he says is "phase I" of the show's development.
Watch the live stream for free here.