published September 21, 2018

Addendum to the Panoply’s Megaphone Story

Through this way, an uncertain world lies.

Nothing particularly major here, but I caught up with this article I previously missed about Panoply’s divestment from content by AdExchanger, which is a super tradey publication about online advertising. The piece came out around the time of Panoply’s announcement last week, and it has the distinction of featuring pretty extensive quotes from Panoply CEO Brendan Monaghan which, in my mind, offers some public insight into the company’s thinking.

I’ll hit you with three choice sections:

“We love [the content] business. However, it’s limited in how much it can scale top line revenue,” said Brendan Monaghan, CEO at Panoply Media. “Technology has a real opportunity to scale significantly, both on the content management and ad insertion side, as well as the ad technology side.”

Panoply has laid off its entire editorial staff as part of the shift, but declined to break out an exact number of employees. The company, which has seen revenues double over the past year, will build on its technical staff as it pivots its focus.

“When you hear layoffs, there’s a tendency to think the company may be performing poorly,” Monaghan said. “For us, this was a strategic decision to go where we see opportunity. Unfortunately, that means not being in certain segments.”

Note: that’s doubling revenues, which bucks the some of the gloom-and-doom narratives out there. And then…

Panoply plans to build sales technology that helps publishers “make more money and distribute shows as effectively as possible” as well as enhance and scale MTM to bring more brand advertisers to the medium, Monaghan said.

“Brands are used to buying specific audiences within huge buckets,” Monaghan said. “They don’t want to do 50 IOs for 50 different shows. They want to buy the audiences, shows and scale they’re seeking in a really efficient way.”

By buying through MTM, brands can monetize their back catalogues with more recent ads, rather than being stuck with an ad that was baked into the show when it aired. For publishers, it’s an easy way to monetize inventory they are unable to sell directly.

In other words, it’s a pure ad tech play: Megaphone will now be specifically catering to the needs of the advertising community, perhaps more bluntly so than ever before. One of the arguments I’ve consistently heard about Panoply housing both an hosting/advertising technology company and a content company at the same time is that the former gets to learn from the latter as the latter serves as the testing sample for the former; that Panoply has the capacity to be internally empathetic about its adventures with ad tech, because they would have an in-house content division to viscerally feel pain and ingest potential experience complaints from listeners first-hand. With its divestment from the content business, Panoply has indeed fully transitioned into the relatively unsexy — but incredibly consequential — ad tech side of the podcast business. But they may well also be doubling down on the advertising community’s specific worldview, and if successful, the end result could end up being a truly mixed bag for actual content publishers.

Unsexy or not, whatever’s happening with Megaphone is extremely important to all of our machinations, so let’s all keep an eye on it.

One more chunk:

Today, MTM deals are brokered directly by Panoply staff, but the company hopes to roll out a self-serve UI down the line. It’s hesitant to use the word programmatic, though, as the podcast industry associates the buying mechanism with plummeting CPMs and low-quality ads.

“Programmatic for us is streamlining the way buyers transact on inventory,” Monaghan said. “We’re moving to a world where there’s more automation put into the process. That is something in early 2019 you’re going to start to see a lot more of.”

The association, and concerns, still stand.