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Ben Richardson,

Ben Richardson,

· Time to read: ~9 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Ben Richardson is co-founder of — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

BR: I’m one of the co-founders of in conjunction with Alberto Batella, who’s my business partner and co-founder, and also co-managing director of the company. We handle various roles, some that overlap between the two of us, and some that are strictly within our own expertise and purview.

At RSS, I handle the marketing and legal and the financial aspects of the company, and then overlap on strategy and product development to some degree. And Alberto handles the rest, which I would say is the more important part of the company!

JC: How do you describe - a podcast hosting company?

BR: We’re definitely a podcast hosting company, but more than that: we’re a technology company, which is where our strengths really lie. Alberto’s experience in artificial intelligence and in product development in major companies in Europe has helped us create a vision for the company that’s more than hosting and distribution. That’s why we’re involved in content production and licensing in Mexico, for instance, and the reason for some of the technologies that we’ve adopted, or are in the process of adopting, for our podcasters.

So yes, we definitely are a hosting company: but we’re also more than that.

JC: You launched transcripts a couple of months ago and unlike other people, you’re not linking off to Otter or other transcript providers, but you’re doing all of that work internally. Is there a strategy behind that?

BR: Yes, there’s a strategy - and there’s our philosophy: and the philosophy led the strategy. The philosophy is that we want to deliver the most features we can, at the highest quality and the lowest cost for our customers. We were investigating transcripts for a very long time, seeing the need for it to exist from an accessibility standpoint as well as as a discoverability perspective. But we were never comfortable with the pricing and the arrangements that we were getting from third party providers. Alberto’s experience in artificial intelligence, and some of my other experiences with companies that did transcription, led us to believe that the technology was advancing fast enough that we would eventually find a way to deliver it to our customers for free. Once the Whisper model was delivered, we we grabbed on to that: we’d already built the infrastructure in preparation, and we saw that it was cost effective to do it for all of our customers, which was the goal. And so we released that as quickly as we could.

I think we were the first to do that - where transcription is simply just a function of our product and not a paid add-on. It’s been well-received by our customers, and the technology itself is quite fantastic. It’s highly accurate, and works in multiple languages - I think we we have twelve currently that we’re servicing. It’s been really exciting to be part of that.

JC: You mentioned Mexico earlier - what are you doing in Mexico? More than podcast hosting?

BR: I grew up very near Mexico and spent a lot of time in Mexico - my father was a consultant down there and a professor at a university there, so I had a personal reason to want to operate in Mexico. But, we didn’t really see an opportunity for us to operate in Mexico as just a hosting company - the model we had set up in the United States was not going to work for us in Mexico.

In dealing with our podcasters down there, some of whom had become quite popular, we explored ways to work together and to help cultivate their growth as they continued to expand. And so what we found was their need to monetize their content and what was available to them in Mexico at that time really demanded that we get involved, in a way that we weren’t doing in the United States.

We built some really good alliances and relationships in Mexico that focused on helping those partners create avenues for monetization and success - and finding others who might be caught in a no man’s land of popularity but no real monetization path. So, we’ve been licensing content on our own - the commercialization aspects - and we’ve been supporting podcasters in their developmental process, so giving them access to experts, no charge for services and other things, so that we can help them find a path that was not our path here in the United States.

So, together we’ve we built these relationships towards something that’s better for them and for us. And we anticipate the same thing will happen as we follow further down into Latin America.

Mexico has been great and exciting, both from a personal perspective and a professional one.

JC: Are you working with an advertising sales company or are you selling the advertising yourselves?

BR: We’re doing both. We have partnerships with with companies that are building their own advertising arms, who have dealt in audio in the past. A radio group in particular has been really great partners with us as we both pursue podcasting in its expansion and expansion phase in Mexico, as well as having content rights of our own.

In Mexico, we have our own salesperson who has a strong track record, and is getting a lot of traction with these partners. I call them partners, not properties, because we do view them as partners in this process: that’s how we have approached the relationship from the very beginning.

Mexico is an interesting landscape, in that they have a different legal framework and legal structure and the cultural aspects of working in Mexico are a bit different than maybe some American companies or European companies. But having grown up so close to that region and being a lot more familiar than most people would be in that culture, it’s felt very comfortable for me and the relationships we formed there have been very instrumental.

Some of the weird things that have happened while we’ve been doing this is - there was a new law about transparency. I butcher the translation, but basically the Mexican legislature passed a law about transparency in advertising which affected podcasters and other content creators. And so we’ve been navigating that approach and it’s quite exciting, professionally, to to do that sort of thing.

JC: So what’s the big difference between the Mexican podcast industry and the US?

BR: I think the expectations are a bit different. The financial resources always need to be there, but how to get those, and how those are built over time, is very different. It’s a very personal relationship. Dealing with business associates in the United States is fairly cut and dry - the expectations are known, and they’re met or not met and the relationship forms that way. But in Mexico, there’s a lot more of a personal touch and relationships take a little bit longer to build - but once they’re built, they’re really strong and they can weather disagreements or misunderstandings or all the things that often show up in business.

There’s a lot higher resiliency, I would say, to relationships that are built in Mexico, and the length that someone will go to maintain that relationship.

JC: Is podcasting listened-to in much the same numbers in Mexico, or is it still a growing market?

BR: It’s definitely still a growing market. It’s become dominated by some companies: Mexico and the Mexican market have stronger affinity to brands than what we have here in the United States. So, as brands come in and they look for market share, first mover advantage is a real thing - so there are podcast ecosystems in Mexico that are starting to dominate the cultural lexicon of of podcasting.

We came into Mexico specifically with a purpose of letting both podcasters and podcast consumers know that podcasting is more than a brand - it’s a whole medium. We’ve put some advertising efforts behind that, too.

So, I would say that Mexico has maybe three years in its development behind maybe some other parts of the world - a snap of the fingers in many respects, but it is growing fast.

You know, I was recently in Sydney in Australia, and as I walked around, I saw how many people are commuting on their feet instead of in their car. They all have earphones in, and they’re all listening - I assume - to podcasts. It’s a beautiful thing, and I think Mexico is getting there, but there’s different cultural dynamics and way of life dynamics that will inform that adoption. For instance, radio is still very much a dominant player in Mexico, so that’s why our partnerships are centered around radio groups and those relationships that they have that are still quite strong with advertisers and listeners. That has been working very well for us.

JC: Do you think there is more opportunity in the rest of the rest of South America and Central and South America?

BR: Oh yeah. We see that just by way of demand: there is a lot of opportunity that is pent up in Latin America. We really want to nail Mexico, and we understand that culture, and we understand the opportunity we’ve been given because of the relationships that we have. But, once that that model is built, it won’t be extremely difficult to push on down the line.

The only challenge that I anticipate that we would have, as we moved into Latin America, is that I don’t speak Portuguese, and no one in our team does yet.

Each country has its cultural nuances and the relationships and the economic frameworks that exist in each country are a bit different just because of the legal frameworks and the brands already there. But, podcasting is new and it breaks down barriers and it opens up new avenues and opportunities that I think we’re seeing in Mexico. New entrants to the market, old players either regenerating themselves into new companies or or acquiring some of those.

I think the same will happen in the rest of Latin America. I don’t want to say that there’s a podcast desert: we know Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, they’re all very active podcast ecosystems. There’s still a lot of room for growth: and we we plan to participate in that.

JC: How would how are people get in touch if they wanted to find out more, particularly around what you’re doing in Mexico.

BR: They can write us - - and we’d be happy to speak with them in any language they choose.

JC: Apart from Portuguese?

BR: Apart from Portuguese. But we’ll manage!

As listed in his editorial disclosures, our Editor James Cridland is an advisor for

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