With 3 million downloads, Joe Media expands podcast slate to cover business

Joe Media, which initially grew a following through its coverage of football and other sports, is using podcasts to break into business and entrepreneurship coverage for younger people.

The publisher launched its first podcast in October, an hourlong weekly interview format, “Unfiltered with James O’Brien.” The podcast has had 3 million downloads since launch and an average listen length of 82 percent, roughly 50 minutes, according to the publisher.

According to Joe Media, it plans to launch a business-focused podcast in July as a one-to-one interview format. Each episode aims to get inside the minds of Britain’s entrepreneurs from different sectors, telling their stories of how they found success.

“We think there’s a huge gap in the podcast market for a show like this that appeals to a younger, switched-on, success-hungry but socially, economically and environmentally conscious demographic,” said Rebecca Fennelly, head of brand at Joe Media. “There’s a way to talk about entrepreneurship that’s not a hoity-toity business show.”

Joe Media has invested £1 million ($1.3 million) in audio across equipment, its team and building its third studio in London. Its other two studios are in Manchester and Dublin. The podcast team is led by former deputy editor of BBC 5 Live Sport, Simon Clancy, who joined Joe Media as head of audio in May this year. The team has grown from two to eight people since October, and the company plans to hire more.

Last week, Joe Media released its second podcast, “Boys Don’t Cry,” a 40-minute show hosted by comedian Russell Kane, that discusses topics that largely remain taboo with three guests each week. Fennelly said “Boys Don’t Cry” appeared on the iTunes top 10 podcast chart before the release of the first episode, which launched June 28. A football podcast is also planned for August.

“Humor is at the center of what we do,” said Fennelly. “Podcasts are genuinely immersive storytelling experiences. We’re telling stories that everyone wants to hear — like [food writer] Jack Monroe on poverty and class [on ‘Unfiltered with James O’Brien’] — but we don’t want to go the obvious route. We have to go beyond that.”

Other guests on “Unfiltered with James O’Brien” include Parliament member David Lammy talking about Brexit, social activist Nimco Ali on female genital mutilation and former footballer Gary Lineker on the refugee crisis.

Success with previous podcasts featuring key talent is one thing. Translating that to areas that already have a lot of podcasts will take more work in carving out a distinctive editorial tone, said Steve Ackerman, managing director of media production company Somethin’ Else.

“There are very many successful football podcasts, like ‘Totally Football’ and ‘Guardian Football [Weekly],’” he said. “While ‘Unfiltered’ is a success, it’s a brand-building exercise for Joe and does a job for raising James O Brien’s profile.”

Off the back of “Unfiltered,” brands have been approaching Joe Media to discuss partnerships, said Fennelly, although the publisher is discerning about how it integrates with brands.

“Podcasts are a cool place for brands, but we have to be careful and picky about who we work with,” she said. “We want to find the right partner. If have to wait, we’ll wait. We’ll build the momentum rather than wait to have commercial backing.”

Ackerman said it’s possible for publishers to make six figures and upward sums for successful shows. “[Podcast advertising] is no longer just the preserve of mattresses, razors and website companies,” said Joe Copeman, U.K. country manager at podcast platform Acast. “As more and more diverse podcast content is being produced, we’re seeing a wealth of advertisers — from food to auto brands, banks to tourism bodies, arts organizations to record labels — enter the fray.” The number of brands that Acast works with has grown by 77 percent year over year, he said.

Joe Media said “Unfiltered” has also aided the growth of new, older audiences, typically female and over 35. This has occurred partly through distributing video and audio clips that are usually under two minutes on Facebook and Twitter to drive downloads, like this clip of Rugby World Cup referee Nigel Owens on accepting being gay and this one of Gary Lineker discussing why footballers shouldn’t be abused for their high wages.


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