One of the things I wanted to dig into when it came to Vox Media’s expansion of its podcast operations was the thought process behind its sports programming — which, as some longtime readers might guess, is a big hobby-horse of mine. As a reminder, in addition to the company launching new and returning shows for its other brands (Recode, Vox, Eater, and so on), Vox Media’s SB Nation, its massive network of sports blogs, will be rolling out a portfolio of 32 NFL podcasts, one for each team. (I guess I’ll be following the Cleveland Browns pod.) Anyway, as I also mentioned, this builds upon the company’s earlier move to build a mini-sports podcast network around the city of Philadelphia.
“We see it as a logical extension of SB Nation’s team brand strategy, which is focused on passionate audience interest in wall-to-wall coverage and discussion of their teams. Podcasting is the perfect medium for the deeply engaged sports fan,” said Nishat Kurwa, Vox Media’s executive producer of audio, when I asked about the sports programming strategy. “Fundamentally, audience engagement on our team sites and appetite for local sports podcasting is driving this decision.”
And here’s what she said when asked about monetization: “The scale of this engaged audience is appealing to national brands as well as local marketers. Our ability to offer this audience nationally and locally is a key aspect of our monetization strategy. Team fandom often extends further than local markets, and reaching a team’s fans wherever they are has always been central to the SB Nation mission.”
I imagine it’s a little bit easier to sell on a system of sports podcasts like this when the portfolio (a) covers a brand as big as the NFL and (b) features a big enough number of podcasts to allow for more comprehensive advertising bundles. The way I see it, I reckon it’s easier to make an NFL podcast network-wide buy compared to a buy across a network that cuts across only the city of Philadelphia; unless, of course, there’s an advertiser that really wants that Philly attention.
Anyway, I continue to be super interested in this specific way that podcasting is truly mimicking blogs: network formations of hyper-specific topic focus that are nonetheless linked. Also, keep an eye on The Athletic: they have the runway to make similar moves over there.
Two more things:
- I asked about talent compensation at Vox Media, just to check. I was told: “All of our podcasters, whether full-time employees or independent contractors, are compensated for their time and their work.”
- Vox Media’s president, Marty Moe, published a Twitter-thread yesterday on his position about podcasting: “There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the future of podcasting. Are we in a bubble? Is it bursting? I don’t think so. It’s never been a better time for podcasts, and I’d like to explain why…” And so on. You can find it here.