How Stuff Works’ Jason Hoch: There is no podcasting bubble
Podcasting is having a moment.
After years of operating on the periphery, the medium has become a newfound area of focus, not just for longtime podcast publishers but for A-list newcomers like Time Inc. and The New York Times, which are using their content distribution muscles to quickly scale themselves up. It’s also become more interesting to advertisers, who are coming around to the idea of connecting to a highly desirable audience on demand.
In this week’s episode of the Digiday Podcast, we sat down with Jason Hoch, the chief content officer of How Stuff Works, the fourth-largest podcast publisher in America, and the largest one not connected to a public media organization like NPR. Its shows, which include “Stuff You Should Know” and “Stuff Mom Never Told You,” have attracted large, loyal listener bases by relying on the expertise and passion of its hosts, and trusting in the long tail: Half of HSW’s monthly downloads come from episodes in its sizable back catalog.
Below are a few highlights from the conversation, edited here for brevity.
A boom, not a bubble
In the past two years, podcasting has gone from a curiosity to an area of investment for publishers both new and old. “The quality is way up from where it was a couple years ago,” Hoch said, who added that he barely has enough time to listen to all the shows his own company makes.
Yet despite the fact that, by Hoch’s count, there are as many as 150 high-quality shows out there from top-tier publishers, he thinks that there’s no bubble — and that things can only improve. “There’s not too much content,” he said. “I continue to think the best days are ahead.”
Ads should be read
Dynamic ad insertion, audience targeting and data all used to be the stuff of fantasy in podcasting. Starting in 2017, they are poised to enter the mainstream, an opportunity that Hoch says comes with a major responsibility. “Our job as an industry is to push back and say, we’re not the same as terrestrial radio,” Hoch said, explaining that while these new tools make it easier than ever for a brand to port its radio advertisements onto podcasts, dynamic insertion serves everybody best if publishers resist that temptation.
“When we work with a big brand and advertiser, we’re going to have a conversation about what podcast content is,” he explained. “But we’re also going to have a conversation that says, ‘Make sure we’re working on the creative too, [to involve] that personal experience with the host. Because you’re going to win that way.”
Podcasts are no longer confined to the space between a listener’s ears. Publishers ranging from This American Life to ESPN have begun experimenting with making podcasts part of a larger storytelling tapestry, where sometimes the podcast is the axis around which other digital elements turn; in other cases, all the elements stand together on their own.
While these larger endeavors often require substantial help from advertising partners, Hoch says he sees more of them on the horizon. “From a consumer standpoint, there’s nothing better.”
‘This is a relationship business’: The in-person client meeting is beginning to make a comeback among publishers
After months of social distancing, agency and brand exes are starting to ask for in-person meetings. Many are jumping at the chance.
Member ExclusiveDigiday Research: What return to the physical office looks like for media workers — fewer meetings, less snacks
A new Digiday survey found that for 42% of media industry workers, the company hasn’t said anything concrete about when they’re expected to return back to the office.
What comes next: Looking to the other side of the coronavirus fallout, recession and social unrest
Over the next two weeks, Digiday, Glossy and Modern Retail writers and editors will explore what comes next, beyond the short-term effects of the new normal.
SponsoredWhy data clean rooms are a start, but not enough
Clean rooms are intended to be a “safe space” for brands to collaborate with walled gardens, but the greater opportunity for all brands is bringing together all of their data to create a single source of truth that they own and can continually enrich.
The great reset: How sales relationships and structure will change on the other side of coronavirus
After speaking with eight publisher revenue officers about the future of ad sales, forming new relationships rings out as a common concern.
‘It’s an undervalued growth channel’: Publishers, eager for subs, increasingly see high value in newsletter referral programs
Referral programs are a more deliberate and proactive method for getting existing subscribers to recommend a newsletter.