I spoke this week with Jacob Weisberg, who runs Slate for Graham Holdings. He had sent me an article from Mashable about Slate’s new Panoply platform for podcasts, with partners such as The New York Times Magazine, The Huffington Post, Popular Scienceand New York Magazine.
Weisberg believes that time shifting is coming inexorably to radio, as it has already to television. “We already see in high-end cars from Europe the capacity to do voice activated or touch screen dashboards that enable audio on demand. I predict these interfaces will be in many 2017 domestic models.”
It is noteworthy that two-thirds of podcasts are heard on mobile devices. I imagine downloading a podcast or three for my five mile hikes from my apartment to the office.
He is impressed by the audience engagement with podcasts. “Our hosts read the ads at the beginning, middle and end of the program. They can endorse the product, in a way that is integrated with the editorial content. In fact, our listeners expect and value the ads. We have a decade of experience with podcasts. We have mostly direct response advertisers so far, but we have sold a $1 million deal to Acura, plus smaller ones with GE and Prudential.” The medium has gained significant momentum with the massive success of Serial, which has been downloaded over 40 million times as of the end of December and became the fastest podcast to five million downloads in iTunes history.
At the moment, Slate has a dozen of its own podcasts. In addition, The New York Times Magazine is doing a show called the Ethicists, while author Gretchen Rubin will do one on happiness. At the top end of success, Slate is now seeing six to seven million downloads a month for all of its podcasts combined. Advertisers pay a premium for this upscale audience, around $50-80 per thousand.
So I asked Weisberg the key question for the PR industry: Are you willing to entertain new ideas for shows that have a commercial sponsor but are story-telling at the core? His answer was a resounding YES. So my mind immediately went to a number of clients who could do a podcast series on the campaigns they are running or the significant issues facing their industries.
This is part of the dispersion of the media universe. We have to go where the viewer or listener wants to be. Slate and its Panoply platform are worth an experiment or two.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.