Back in January, I interviewed Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer from the Forever35 podcast all about their first year as an independent business. At the time, they had clocked 4 million downloads off slightly over ninety episodes in 2018, and basically handled the entire sponsorship pipeline by themselves. In July, Shafrir and Spencer released a meta-episode that laid out some changes behind-the-scenes: they had opted to sign a deal with Acast, and in doing so traded total independence for access to more resources.
Intrigued, I reached out over email to learn more about the thinking behind their decision to switch things up. Here’s that exchange:
Hot Pod: What was the motivation behind partnering with a network, after what seemed like a successful start as an independent operation?
Shafrir and Spencer: We had a lot of success as an independent — we were completely sold out of ad inventory in the last three quarters, and we’ve grown the podcast organically to 125,000 downloads per week on our own. But we felt like we had taken the pod as far as we could without help. We wanted to partner with a network who could access advertising opportunities that weren’t available to us. Also, selling ads was turning into a huge time and resources suck for us — energy that we felt would be better spent on the podcast itself. And we’re hopeful that Acast can help us grow, particularly internationally.
HP: What were you looking for in a network?
Shafrir and Spencer: We wanted to partner with a network that we felt aligned with content- and strategy-wise. We were already fans of some of Acast’s shows, and their signing of the Earios network was also a big plus for us. And we wanted a network that had a clear vision about how we could grow.
HP: How did the shopping process go? Did you feel like there were lots of possible homes for your show?
Shafrir and Spencer: Our agent, Oren Rosenbaum at UTA, set up a bunch of meetings for us. (Side note: Oren is the best.) We talked to several different networks, all of which had their strengths. It was really interesting to hear how each network would approach growing our show and why they wanted to work with us in the first place. It was really flattering to have options!
HP: You ultimately decided to work with Acast — what was the deciding factor?
Shafrir and Spencer: We loved that there are lots of women in senior, decision-making positions at Acast — all of whom had been fans of the show even before we started talking to them. This really made a difference to us, and not just because of optics. It says a lot about a company to have multiple women in powerful roles, and as a women-run podcast, this was important to us. We felt that going into it, they understood how to work with our show, had great ideas, and really wanted to see us succeed. And so far, they’ve been great!
HP: If you could advise other independent podcasters also looking for a bigger home in the industry, what would you suggest?
Shafrir and Spencer: Don’t rush into anything. We started getting approached by networks within a few months of launching, and we’re so glad we waited for the right partner for us. Make sure that you’re really clear on why you’re looking for a network partner, and find out if they will truly be able to help you get there.
Talk to other podcasters on the networks you’re interested in — are they happy, did the network grow their podcast, etc. Also, don’t think that you need to launch with a network — if your show takes off, you’ll be in a stronger negotiating position down the road when you do start talking to networks. Don’t sign away your IP.
Also: GET A LAWYER WHO WORKS WITH PODCASTS. Even if you have a lawyer, a regular entertainment or contract lawyer who has never done a podcast contract might not know what to look for and ask for. We anecdotally know of multiple podcasts who signed very restrictive contracts with networks that they now regret. Needless to say, we have a great lawyer.
You can learn more about the Forever35 podcast on their website.