Issue 178,  published September 25, 2018

Vox Media Expands Podcast Operations

Vox Media announced this morning that it is expanding its audio efforts, effectively doubling its podcast portfolio. You can find the full details of Vox Media’s new programming slate in this announcement post, but it includes new podcasts from Recode (Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway), Eater (Start to Sale), SB Nation (It Seemed Smart), and the broader Vox Media brand (Function with Anil Dash). Vox will also be launching a new podcast project that will accompany a new section of coverage.

There will also be show expansions: The Verge’s flagship Vergecast podcast and Vox’s flagship The Ezra Klein Show will now publish twice a week starting next week, and Vox’s The Weeds will publish special episodes every Wednesday, starting the first week of October, to cover the upcoming midterm elections.

Also, sports: SB Nation will roll out a new portfolio of 32 NFL podcasts, one for each team. This builds upon the media brand’s earlier move to build a mini-sports podcast network around the city of Philadelphia.

“Podcasting is a growth business for Vox Media,” wrote Nishat Kurwa, the company’s executive producer of audio. She noted that podcasting started out as “more of a hobby” at the organization but has since shifted into a strategic division for Vox Media. I’m told that downloads across the Vox Media Podcast Network have grown significantly year-over-year, and that the network is profitable. “Obviously, super-engaged audiences are compelling to advertisers,” said Kurwa. “We’ve notably diversified our mix of advertisers this year and see this demand growing over time.”

I asked Kurwa what she thought about recent industry shake-ups, which seemed to have sparked a wave of discussion around whether on-demand audio can actually provide value to media companies. “Growing a successful podcasting business can’t be a side job,” she said. “It takes serious dedication, support from the entire company, and building capabilities that require investment: development, production, marketing, and sales. And we know it’s going to take continued commitment and focus to stay competitive.”

She counted out Vox Media’s efforts on this front: how some of the organization’s top editors have put in work behind the mic for years, how the company formalized its audio division last year, and how they’ve been aggressively hiring to support the division’s programming and sales efforts.

“Even as some digital media players drop out of the podcast game, interesting new players will jump in as they see potential in this business,” Kurwa added.