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F+W Media Reveals Winning Bidders at Bankruptcy Auction
Special interest magazine publisher F+W Media is due back in Delaware bankruptcy court Monday afternoon, where the company is expected to present the winning bidders emerging from an auction of its remaining media assets, the latest step in a process that began when the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in March, citing over $100 million in debt.
Unlike the company's books division—the entirety of which went to Penguin Random House for $5.6 million at a similar auction last week—the magazine side was broken up and auctioned off in pieces, with the largest chunks going to Active Interest Media subsidiary Cruz Bay Publishing and Macanta Investments, the investment vehicle for Terence O'Toole, who is co-managing partner of Tinicum Inc., the private investment firm that acquired a majority stake in F+W in 2014.
The total take for F+W, should all of the bids go through, will be $7.75 million.
Putting up a total of $3,525,000, Macanta secured successful bids for F+W's crafts group (its largest division, which includes the Interweave network of of 10 knitting, sewing and related needlework magazines, as well as nine quilting-related magazines), plus the artists network (Artists Magazine, Southwest Art, Watercolor Artist and Pastel Journal), beating out Cruz Bay Publishing for the latter group with a winning bid of $675,000.
Not to walk away empty-handed, Cruz Bay Publishing secured successful bids for the 7x frequency Popular Woodworking (beating out Meredith Corp. with a $1 million offer), 8x frequency Writer's Digest for $200,000 (beating out enthusiast publisher Madavor Media), 7x frequency Family Tree for $100,000, 8x frequency Horticulture Magazine for $75,000 and F+W's collectibles group, which comprises six additional print magazines, for $350,000.
At $1,225,000, the winning bid for the 78-year-old monthly Sky & Telescope magazine came from the American Astronomical Society, which produces the peer-reviewed Astronomical Journal and Astrophysical Journal, among other publications.
Three remaining properties were successfully bid for by current F+W staffers. The winning bidder for Deer & Deer Hunting and its trio of sister titles, which together make up F+W's outdoor group, went to longtime D&DH publisher Brad Rucks, who put up $575,000. Meanwhile, Gary Reichert, an associate publisher within F+W's construction group, outbid Cruz Bay for those titles, which include Rural Builder and Metal Roofing magazines, among others. A pair of scrapbooking conventions, separated from the other crafts properties bid for by Macanta, were successfully bid for by organizer Todd Friedli for $300,000.
View the full list of successful bids below, per Thursday's filing:
Sky & Telescope Community
Successful Bidder: The American Astronomical Society
Bid Amount: $1,225,000
Backup Bidder: None
Successful Bidder: Rucks Media LLC
Bid Amount: $575,000
Backup Bidder: None
Successful Bidder: Shield Wall Media LLC/Gary Reichert
Bid Amount: $400,000
Backup Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Family Tree Community
Successful Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Bid Amount: $100,000
Backup Bidder: International Gem Society, LLC
Successful Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Bid Amount: $200,000
Backup Bidder: Madavor Media, LLC
Successful Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Bid Amount: $1,000,000
Backup Bidder: Meredith Corp.
Successful Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Bid Amount: $75,000
Backup Bidder: Missouri Star Quilt Co., LLC
Successful Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
Bid Amount: $350,000
Backup Bidder: International Gem Society, LLC
Successful Bidder: Macanta Investments, LLC
Bid Amount: $2,850,000
Backup Bidder: Missouri Star Quilt Co., LLC/Long Thread Media, LLC
Successful Bidder (Scrapbooking): CK Scrapbooking Events, LLC/Todd Friedli
Bid Amount: $300,000
Backup Bidder: None
Artist's Network Community
Successful Bidder: Macanta Investments, LLC
Bid Amount: $675,000
Backup Bidder: Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
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17 Jun 2019 | 12:16 pm EDT
How Mass-Consumer Publishers Are Seeking B2B Opportunities
But some publishers are now seeing the value in stripping back content to reach a new audience of trade professionals who trust the brand equity of a legacy magazine, but are looking to learn how to better their businesses and deal with obstacles in their perspective fields.
Earlier this year, Condé Nast launched a free, standalone brand called Vogue Business, operated out of London by Condé Nast International as a separate entity from the fashion magazine, with its own newsletter, job board, website and content aimed at fashion industry professionals. And This Old House created its Pro2Pro vertical within its site that features a mix of written and video content aimed at readers who work in the skilled trades.
For Architectural Digest and Food & Wine however, their approaches to creating B2B brand extensions derived from the close relationships with the industry professionals they've worked with for decades editorially and through events, and seeing that these demographics had an unsatisfied need for service content that could help them better their own businesses and careers.
White Space in the Design Space
AD Pro, which launched as a membership-only digital extension of Architectural Digest in April, is aimed at the professionals within the interior design and architecture space—a demographic that executive digital director Keith Pollock says was always a big portion of the magazine’s digital audience, “we just needed to more successfully serve them, which is why we created Pro.”
He says that the idea for the professionally oriented vertical originally came when editor-in-chief Amy Astley joined Architectural Digest in 2016, and her goal for the digital side was to make it “dominant in the design category.” From there, two new verticals, the DIY/millennial-oriented vertical Clever and the B2B brand extension AD Pro, were created and launched two years ago in order to broadly cover the entire spectrum of the interior design space.
AD Pro initially operated as a soft launch, acting more as an experimental offshoot aimed at covering industry news, which Pollock says got a lot of traction through search and pulled significantly higher time on page rates versus the other content on the site.
“Many of our interior design and architecture news stories rank incredibly high in search, which signals that this wasn’t a really crowded space,” says Pollock. “We were aware that there was a white space here and an opportunity for us to better serve this community in full.”
Another goal of the soft launch, according to Pollock, was to see if there was even an appetite for this type of content, because while the digital space typically focuses on scale, this brand extension was not a scale play, but more about engagement for a very targeted audience made up of those designers and architects.
Taking this data, Pollock and his team, which has since grown by 10 editors and writers, then spent the next two years doing research and collecting information from their targeted national markets about what professionals in the design and architecture industry would want to see from the B2B brand.
The team used reader surveys and created an advisory board to help guide the editorial strategy, and learned that in addition to breaking news, long-form features and interviews with leaders in the space, as well as tactical knowledge for how to deal with obstacles in the industry ranked high for what this audience wanted.
And now, just over two months after going under the paywall and relaunching as the new AD Pro, Pollock says the response from their professional audience has been great and that the engagement benchmarks the team has set for themselves have so far all been met.
As for standing out among a set of B2B publishers against which Pollock and his team had never competed before, he says that “our biggest point of differentiation is access—certainly Architectural Digest opens a lot of doors.” He continues that as part of the site launch, several of the bigger designers in the space signed on as founding members, including Bunny Williams and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who have contributed editorially in different ways.
One of which is in a new video series called “Behind the Scenes” that takes members into the studios and homes of top designers—a project that he says the brand “heavily invested in” and produced with creative consultancy Noë & Associates because the research indicated that a video platform was important to the audience.
The vertical’s revenue comes from both consumers and partnerships, which Pollock says currently is growing online in a way that AD typically doesn’t experience with digital. He continues that the founding partner, Dacor, proved his team’s theory of how a B2B brand extension can provide an opportunity for AD’s print-centric endemic advertisers to cross into the digital space.
“Digital really reaches a mass audience so it has traditionally been less attractive to a premium endemic advertisers that really just wants to speak to a select few that can afford their products,” he says. “Here we’ve created a targeted site for interior designers, so the environment is very appealing to them.”
He says that more partnership opportunities are also in the pipeline for the upcoming hands-on education series that the brand is taking on a roadshow in major markets across the country. These editorially driven masterclasses, which are invitation-only events for members, are aimed at improving the interior designers’ businesses by covering everything from social media strategy to creating client presentations.
And of course, AD Pro gets a sizable portion of its revenue from its membership model, which is priced at $240 annually or $25 monthly. Included in that, subscribers get six trend reports per year, invitations to hands-on workshop events and access to the magazine’s archives, features, job board, global events calendar, video series and private Facebook group.
Going on Gut Instinct
Unlike AD Pro, Lewis says that F&W Pro, an offshoot of Meredith's Food & Wine magazine, was not at all aimed at its traditional reader of the sophisticated home cook, but instead was aimed at its network of professionals who interact with the brand on a more intimate level. That’s why when the brand was launched, editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis says that the feedback that he and his team normally receive from their audience wasn’t a deciding factor in this case.
“It was really building Pro on a big gut instinct,” says Lewis. “The way I thought of Pro was we needed to build it to show the sales and marketing team what it could be, to show the Pro audience what it could be and then long term, to show advertisers new business ideas of where we could go.”
He says that in the past, the idea to expand into a professional platform like this might have had the push for a launch sponsor, similarly to AD Pro, but the brand’s publisher Tom Bair was on board to get it into the ecosystem and collect the audience’s reaction right away.
F&W Pro is very much a passion project for Lewis, as his experience working in the restaurant industry played a major role in his personal education and now he wants to share that education with his former colleagues. When he joined Food & Wine in 2017, he says that the industry was going through a tumultuous time and issues revolving around high rent and high wages, as well as the growing Me Too movement were “splitting the industry open,” he felt that “there was a piece of F&W that we could steer towards helping to solve some of these problems and helping to translate some of the solutions.”
The first step taken towards addressing some of the problems facing the restaurant and wine industries was through a series of first-person essays by chefs for other chefs called “Communal Table,” which now exists also as a podcast within the F&W Pro vertical.
Lewis also says that this brand extension made sense for F&W, potentially even more so than for the other epicurean and culinary brands at Meredith, because of the deep relationships that the brand has been able to cultivate with chefs, restaurateurs, winemakers and other industry professionals over the years at their events, including the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
While planning the platform, he says he was inspired by “Fortune’s model and the way that Fortune speaks directly to business leaders and tastemakers. That audience is different from F&W’s audience, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the business of food and wine.”
Since its launch in March, F&W Pro, while still digital-first and living as a tab on the main brand website, has expanded into a weekly newsletter from Lewis himself, a podcast and activations within industry events and F&W brand events. It is also debuting in print as a two-page, front-of-the-book spread called the "19 Great Restaurants to Work For," in the July issue, which Lewis says will continue in later issues as at least one page.
As an event activation, he continues that F&W Pro has been able to provide industry professionals with some of the most tactical business-building experience so far. At the magazine’s 2019 Best New Chefs celebration, a three-hour working lunch was hosted by former Best New Chefs who spoke to the new class about everything from work-life balance to how to sign a business partner, under the heading of F&W Pro.
“These are the kinds of things that in the past, and in the restaurant business specifically, was the school of hard knocks that you learn on the fly and you make your mistakes and you crash and burn,” Lewis explains. “Now more than ever, we’re investing in this next generation and linking them up with some of the old guard.”
F&W Pro was also a media partner at the Welcome Conference earlier this month, which is a hospitality conference in New York, and there they hosted several activations aimed at boosting engagement for their brand.
And though the B2B vertical is not monetized through a membership-model—which Lewis says is not a priority for Meredith as a whole at this time—he says that his team’s mission right now is “about building the audience and growing awareness around Pro over the next year and as we do that, we’ll think about down the road how the model will evolve.”
For now, revenue is coming from advertisers, which Lewis plans on diversifying down the road, and not just for Pro, but for Food & Wine as a whole.
“I think in this day and age you have to be thinking about things like Pro and things like TV opportunities and things like events in order to diversify the pie. Like any other brand, we can’t just rely on a traditional advertiser model,” he tells Folio:. “As we all evolve, if you look at the budgets for marketers right now, experiential is becoming a bigger part of their budgets so certainly experiential will be a big part of what we look at as well.”
On the advertising side, however, he says that there has been strong interest so far, with Sterling Silver Meats coming on as the brand’s first sponsor, and Treasury and Gallo partnering with Pro in various activations this summer.
“Think what you will about this current climate of 'influencers,' but the way that we look at it is the chef and restaurant community are the ultimate influencers. So the savvy advertisers know that if they can market a product to people in the trade and when the trade picks that product up and they evangelize it, then they have something that’s going to carry through to a broader audience down the road,” he explains. “And that’s part of the magic from Pro as well from a revenue-side, is that it’s an influencer platform in a way that feels very natural and not defined by how we see influencers nowadays.”
And while everyone on the F&W team has been involved in one way or another, Lewis points out that this project has been spearheaded mainly by senior editor Kat Kinsman, who has been instrumental in creating the “Chefs With Issues” series, which highlights mental health in the industry.
“This is a solution for people in the trade and is a new way forward,” says Lewis. “It’s not a catch-all for everything we do. We are still a brand that’s focused on surprising and delighting a very broad audience at scale, and Pro is more about influence than it is about scale.”
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13 Jun 2019 | 4:21 pm EDT
Jon Werther Is Out at Meredith After 3 Years as President | People on the Move
National Media Group president Jon Werther is out at Meredith Corp. after seven years with the company, effective immediately. In a statement from president and CEO Tom Harty, he said that there aren’t any immediate plans to fill the vacancy, and that the senior leadership team will now report directly to him.
Werther joined Meredith in 2012 as chief strategy officer and later took on the role of president for Meredith Digital in 2013, before landing in his final position with the company in 2016. Prior to Meredith, he served as president of marketing and advertising company Simulmedia, and also held several executive-level roles at AOL and Time Warner, Inc.
Though a direct explanation about why Werther was leaving the company wasn’t shared, Harty said in the statement, "As we close our fiscal 2019 and enter fiscal 2020 next month, I think this is a good time to pivot and assess where we are and what steps need to be taken to build upon our momentum, including the optimum leadership structure to drive organic revenue growth.”
Here are the rest of this week's people on the move...
Hearst Magazines is growing its editorial video unit, Hearst Originals, with the hires of Zuri Rice and Todd Joyce to the roles of SVP, head of video development and content strategy and VP of video sales, respectively.
Rice joins Hearst from Viacom, where she spent the past 14 years. In her new role, she will be responsible for developing the division’s video strategy as well as overseeing the creative direction of scripted and unscripted editorial series across all platforms. Rice most recently served as the SVP of short form video for Viacom Digital Studios, where she led the production and development of video content for Nickelodeon’s YouTube and social media channels.
Coming from DEFY Media, Joyce has nearly 16 years of sales experience and most recently was the SVP of East Coast sales for the company. In his new position, he will be responsible for pre-roll and sponsorship sales for editorially produced video across the company’s portfolio. Prior to DEFY Media, Joyce spent over six years at Break Media, where he held multiple senior-level sales positions.
Elsewhere at Hearst Magazines, Esquire named Michael Sebastian its new editor-in-chief, following the departure of Jay Fielden last month. Sebastian previously served as the magazine’s digital director since 2017, working to expand the online platform’s content to include a new fashion vertical and spearheaded the launch of the launch of the "Politics With Charles P. Pierce" membership program. He joined Hearst Magazines in 2015 as a senior news editor tasked with running all of the brands’ digital newsrooms, and before that, he was a media reporter for Ad Age.
“Over the past two years, Michael and his impressive team have tripled Esquire’s site traffic and significantly expanded the brand’s digital footprint,” said Hearst Magazines president Troy Young in a statement.
Meanwhile, Nick Sullivan was named the creative director of Esquire, a new position. He previously served as the magazine’s fashion director for the past 15 years and before that, he was the fashion director of Esquire UK and associate fashion director of British GQ.
Popular Science's Corinne Iozzio was promoted to executive editor from her role as deputy editor this week. Iozzio rejoined the magazine in 2017 as its managing editor before being promoted in January 2018 to her most recent title. She originally started at Bonnier Corp. in 2009 as an associate editor of PopSci before leaving the company to freelance in 2014. She has also written for FastCompany, Fortune, Mental Floss and Scientific American.
Vice Media tapped Jesse Angelo as its new president of global news and entertainment, tasked with overseeing the company’s news, digital and TV operations, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter. Angelo formerly spent a total of two decades with News Corp and departed the company earlier this year in January from the position as the publisher, CEO and chief of digital advertising solutions of the New York Post. Based in the company’s Brooklyn headquarters, Angelo starts his new role on June 24.
Jane Rozelle Humphrey and Sarah Bray were tapped as new editors-in-chief at Modern Luxury this week. Rozelle Humphrey is taking on the role of EIC for both Modern Luxury Dallas and Modern Luxury Weddings Dallas, and Bray is now EIC of Modern Luxury Interiors Texas.
Most recently a public relations director for Plug Public Relations, Rozelle Humphrey previously served as the social editor for PaperCity magazine, while concurrently writing for Girl Around Town. Before that, she was also a contributor to fashion and lifestyle blog PinkMemo. She is succeeding Kristie Ramirez, who is stepping down from her role as EIC of Modern Luxury Dallas.
Bray initially joined Modern Luxury in February 2018 as the national interiors editor and editor-in-chief of Gotham and Beach magazines. Prior to that, she was the style editor for Town & Country and she started out at Hearst as an editor across the company's shelter publications, which includes House Beautiful, ELLE Decor and Veranda. A native of Texas, Bray also previously wrote for PaperCity.
Kamilah A’Vant was named the director of diversity programs for regional business and legal journal publisher BridgeTower Media this week. Based in Boston, A’Vant brings her experience in senior roles at broadcast television companies Media General and LIN Media to this position, where she will be responsible for leading the company in expanding its diversity and inclusion events, content and strategy, as well as further developing its Color Magazine brand. She also currently serves as the president of the New England chapter of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications.
Barron’s reporter Crystal Kim is joining Bloomberg News as an equity capital markets reporter, effective June 17. Kim had been with Barron’s since 2010 and most recently was a funds columnist and host of the “Numbers By Barron’s” podcast.
Forbes tapped Kelly Anne Smith as its new reporter, according to Talking Biz News. Smith formerly was a personal finance reporter for Bankrate where she covered retirement, millennials and money management.
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12 Jun 2019 | 4:33 pm EDT
Bauer Media to Pursue Alternatives to Traditional Newsstand Supply Chain
The publisher of the two top-selling magazines on American newsstands has initiated a process aimed at exploring alternatives outside of the traditional magazine-retail supply chain, which has become dominated by two major wholesalers following years of decline and consolidation.
Bauer Media USA, publisher of newsstand and supermarket checkout mainstays Woman's World and First for Women—the number-one and number-two best-selling magazines, respectively, at retail in the U.S.—has retained advisory firm FTI Consulting to lead a formal RFP process, soliciting bids from wholesalers who distribute other products, like consumer packaged goods, to supermarkets and retail outlets, but not periodicals.
Driven by steep declines in single-copy sales, two decades of collapses and mergers among magazine wholesalers—the companies that purchase physical copies of magazines from publishers and national distributors and then sell them to retail outlets like bookstores and supermarkets—has left around 90% of the market in the hands of two players: the Smyrna, Ga.-based American News Company (formerly known as The News Group), and Parsippany, N.J.-based Hudson News Distributors, according to estimates from multiple sources familiar with the magazine retail supply chain.
"The distributors responsible for supplying magazines and periodicals to virtually all of our concessions are The News Group and Hudson News Distributors," wrote the publicly traded parent company of the Hudson News retail chain (which operates under separate ownership from the wholesaler Hudson News Distributors), in the "risk factors" section of its 2018 annual report. "Future amalgamation may reduce the number of distributors even further. As a result, these distributors may have increased bargaining power and we may be required to accept less favorable purchasing terms."
Bauer Media was unwilling to elaborate on the announcement, but such consolidation—in contrast to the mid-'90s, when few if any individual wholesalers controlled more than 10% of the market—would likely have an acute impact on the company, which, unlike most mass-market magazine publishers today, relies on retail sales as its primary distribution channel, as opposed to mailing issues directly to subscribers.
The larger of the two wholesalers, with 70–75% of total market share, according to most estimates, The News Group first began charging publishers fees of up to 8 cents-per-copy distributed to retailers in 2014 (when it controlled around 50% of the market), echoing an earlier 2009 attempt by wholesaler Anderson News, which was rebuffed by publishers, effectively forcing Anderson out of business. The subsequent collapse of Source Interlink Distribution, in 2014, left TNG and Hudson as the only major wholesalers still serving a critical element of the supply chain.
Emerging victorious from the "brutal wholesaling war of attrition," as newsstand expert Baird Davis described it, TNG upped its standard discount to as much as 60% off the cover price for new clients and again raised per-copy surcharges on some publishers, according to multiple industry sources, arguing that it required a cash infusion to remain viable amid plummeting newsstand sales and that publishers needed to reinvest in retail as a distribution channel. Those developments preceded TNG's sale, last November, to American Media Inc. backer Chatham Asset Management, after which TNG was rebranded as the American News Company.
“This transaction allows the publishing community to have a more significant voice in the continued development of its supply chain and efforts to secure more efficient and thereby profitable newsstand results,” said Glen Clark, president of former TNG owner Jim Pattison Group at the time of the sale. “The stakeholders most impacted by this business, now have an extraordinary opportunity to be directly involved in a critical aspect of their business and will be well positioned to ensure its consistency, efficiency and sustainability.”
Neither the American News Company nor Hudson News Distributors have responded to requests for comment.
The post Bauer Media to Pursue Alternatives to Traditional Newsstand Supply Chain appeared first on Folio:.read more
11 Jun 2019 | 4:01 pm EDT
Publishers Finally Find Their Voice in Podcasting
Given the IAB and PwC’s projection that ad revenue in podcasting will at last pass $1 billion in 2021 (up from $479 million in 2018), one would think this medium’s decade-long slow (really slow) march towards some sort of “critical mass” has finally hit its stride. Let the gold rush begin, no?
In reality, any publishing brand looking to enter the podcasting fray will find a host of challenges—from a glut of sameness to notoriously weak discovery and distribution mechanisms. Then there are the woefully imperfect metrics, and the ad models that can be hard to scale.
The path to podcast success is far from clear. Of course, some marquee brands like the New York Times, HowStuffWorks, Slate and NPR represent high-profile successes, each with fleets of content in the space. But we find most magazine brands are taking a more modest and individualized approach to audio.
For instance, Penske’s Hollywood Life, Kalmbach's Trains Magazine, Bonnier’s Popular Science and Outside Media are all choosing to focus on one (at most two) audio shows for their brand. But in each case, the publisher is coming at it with its own set of goals, content and investment strategies. And they are all trying to find editorial solutions to the clutter of podcast content, much of which is starting to sound the same.
Hollywood Life Takes the Pod Out of Its Box
Several years ago, it was commonplace for publishers to chase podcasting scale by launching multiple shows and hoping to cross-promote discovery among them. But a number of publishers we spoke to are retreating from that plan in a market where discovery is hard enough without fragmenting the audience you have.
“We stopped doing celebrity news because we wanted to hone-in on the celebrity interview and hone-in on one specific channel—go for that niche,” says Ali Stagnitta, Hollywood Life on-air reporter and podcast co-host with editor-in-chief Bonnie Fuller.
There is an abundance of competition in celebrity news, so HL places its bets on a core strength—longer-form interviews that can take advantage of its larger multimedia reach. The podcast is just the centerpiece for a full editorial push that involves a celebrity photo shoot for the site, multiple stories and filmed clips on YouTube. “We have found major success there in the last two or three months,” says Stagnitta.
HL has over 2.7 million subscribers to its YouTube channel, which skews to a younger demo that may not have heard of the media brand but are devoted to the podcast format. “We are being introduced to an entirely new audience, and that has helped us brainstorm where we can contribute to the podcast platform,” she says.
This multi-faceted approach to podcasting pays off in a number of ways. The photoshoots are also “a great way to create relationships with the talent,” she adds, explaining that it gives celebrities more reason to sit down for an interview and it leaves those subjects with large social followings of their own new assets to use, which then allows for cross-promotion with Hollywood Life. For HL it gives them troves of exclusive celebrity content as well.
Stagnitta admits that “growing an audience is something we still struggle with,” and the search for sponsorship continues. But the cross-platform, multimedia approach has given the brand the podcast bug. “We are looking to develop a second or third one using our staff knowledge about pop culture,” she says, such as a Hollywood-themed foray into the true crime genre.
Kalmbach’s Art of Conversation
Enthusiast and hobbyist publisher Kalmbach Media seems to have tripped into an audio strategy after getting traction for its weekly “Trains News Wire” roundup on YouTube, produced by Trains Magazine.
“One of our executives said, 'Hey, these would make great podcasts,' so we ripped the audio,” says Steve Sweeney, digital editor. Then, Trains followed it up with a secondary podcast featuring columnist Brian Solomon, appropriately titled "Conversations with Brian Solomon."
In both cases, Kalmbach eschews the tendency for current podcasts to run on seemingly without end. "Trains News Wire" is, on average, six minutes long and Solomon’s conversations with editors and other professionals in the field typically stay under the 20-minute mark.
“We want to respect people’s time,” says Sweeney, as well as the expertise of the enthusiast audience. Having just one editor deliver the news briefs felt too hurried, so they have two editors interacting. “It's the kind of conversation we would have with any of our audience if they dropped by our office.”
The audio program is only a couple of years old, and Kalmbach is not monetizing it yet. Investment is modest—an audio booth in the office and the print editor setting sound levels. “We need some more work with that,” Sweeney admits.
But the payoff in having Trains Magazine personalities present in audio, on Facebook Live and on YouTube is paying off nonetheless. “We are doubling down in engagement,” Sweeney says. “[Readers] understand we are ready to be wherever they are.”
And sometimes it results in surprising moments of celebrity. Sweeney’s FB Live appearances have made him recognizable enough to readers that he has been asked to take a selfie at industry events. “That is unreal,” he says. “I never imagined I would be asked to do that.”
PopSci Invests In Friendly Competition
As the medium evolves, one thing that is becoming clear to many publishers is that a podcast is not a magazine or a website.
Like HollywoodLife, Bonnier’s Popular Science brand had a straightforward news podcast that it decided to scrap in favor of new formats that were inspired by its current success, “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week.” With an average about 37,000 downloads per episode, and in its second season, "Weirdest Thing" follows several PopSci staff down wild science wormholes that they fell into during their research.
“We found that friendly competition was engaging,” says executive editor Corinne Iozzio. “And because each person was bringing their own knowledge, it allowed the listener to share in their journey.”
And so the recently launched “Techathlon" reformatted the old news podcast into a series of news-related quizzes and games for several staffers. “We refer to it as ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ but about tech,” she says. In just three months, its audience is already surpassing the old news show.
By staying focused on innovating editorially within its niche, PopSci is able to market these shows successfully to its digital readers. "Weirdest Thing" is on its third live, paid event, which has sold out. Currently, the podcast episodes are monetized through direct relationships with sponsors, as well as through dynamically inserted podcast ads on Spotify’s Anchor platform, which Iozzio says matches spots to content well. “They have a good CPM, and we’re happy with the partnership.”
In a cluttered, discovery-challenged podcast ecosystem, PopSci finds most of its success “engaging with digital readers where we have them. The more we promote on our own channels, the better we do.”
But while the audience may be the same, she feels the key to the podcasts’ popularity is not simply projecting the same content into a new medium, but to understand the channel’s native strengths. “The right content on the right platform," she says. “We don’t try to turn every story into an Instagram post or try to turn magazine content into a podcast.”
Outside Media: It Takes a Storytelling Village
“Growing audience is very difficult,” he admits, and it takes a long runway because all of the usual audience development tools for print or social media just don’t work here. “You have to reach an audience who is already listening to podcasts, and this can be a slow process. They still grow by word of mouth.”
Without a fleet of its own shows through which to cross-promote, Outside finds that content swaps with other podcasts are critical. That's where the listeners already live and crave the format. Its distribution partner PRX has been especially helpful in cultivating those relationships with other podcasts.
Not fragmenting an already slow-growing audience is also critical. Outside’s approach still starts with storytelling quality and flexibility. They focus on a single podcast, but it's highly produced and contains a range of different story types like interviews, news items and ongoing series like “Science of Survival."
“We see there is an appetite for all sorts of long form and service content,” Roberts says. They rejected the temptation for spinning off into podcasts dedicated to different genres. “We wanted to have one space for our audience to come to for audio, and this for now is working for us."
Outside’s devotion to high production values and storytelling even shapes its successful in-stream ad spots, which are custom-made. A current “pre-roll” spot for Adidas sounds more like a reported story, complete with an interview with the advertised shoe’s designer.
“That has differentiated us in the market,” says Roberts. And, he claims “we are absolutely, and healthily profitable.”
Brand advertisers like Adidas and Bob’s Red Mill foods are edging into a space that traditionally attracts direct marketers. Podcast spots are part of a multi-platform ad buy and “now conversations are often starting with podcasts.” This has moved Outside to accelerate its usual biweekly schedule to weekly at certain times in the year to satisfy demand from advertisers.
Roberts admits that the kind of well-produced storytelling that has been a hit with listeners and advertisers is neither cheap nor easily scaled. Even on a weekly schedule, there is only so much inventory, so for Outside, the path of growth is probably via branded podcasts for clients or shorter one-off series.
While challenging to scale and distribute for now at least, Roberts recommends all publishers listen to podcasts, in part because the medium reconnects us to the basics of media. “This is going to improve our storytelling at Outside,” he argues. “This is how human storytelling started–oral tradition.”
To learn more about creating new revenue streams through audio platforms, be sure to attend the "How to Extend Your Brand and Make Money With Podcasting" session at the Folio: Show this October at the Hilton Midtown, NYC.read more
11 Jun 2019 | 1:38 pm EDT