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David Locke

David Locke

· Time to read: ~8 min

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

David Locke is the founder of the Locked On Podcast Network — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

The Locked On Podcast Network has more than 207 unique sports podcasts. Owner TEGNA recently reported: Locked On Podcast Network delivered 300 million audio downloads and video views to avid sports fans in 2023, a 37% increase over the previous year. In October, the daily local sports podcast network crossed over 30 million listens and views per month for the first time, breaking a record of 27 million set the previous month. Expansion into video continues to be a significant growth engine for Locked On. The network’s video views increased by 95% year-over-year delivered on YouTube and across multiple OTT platforms. In addition to reaching 300 million listens and views in 2023, the network published 53,314 podcast episodes while its audience consumed 1,622,626,772 minutes of video sports coverage.

Speaking to David before the financial results were made public, our Editor, James Cridland, wondered how his revenue was going.

DL: We’re doing great! I think we have a unique product. We’re able to sell to a client local passion on a national scale. There’s really nothing like sport - whether it’s a cricket match in Australia or whether it’s a Super Bowl Sunday, the whole world stops. You just don’t get that anywhere, that passion, that connection.

So for us, when we take the combination of the local host, who’s your local expert, who’s connecting every day, we do it Monday through Friday, so we, our listeners, or we call them every dayers, they’re with us every day. That’s a pretty amazing connection for an advertiser to be able to tap into that relationship between the fan of their favorite team, where they wear the jersey and the sweatshirt, to the host that brings them that content, and we’re able to do that across an entire network.

It’s about a million listens a day with that type of connection. We’re doing beautifully with ad revenue right now, but we have a unique product because of that connection and the format that’s different than what everybody else is doing.

JC: It’s the community of common interest. It’s why radio is so large, and I guess why your network is as large as well?

DL: I was a long time talk show host. When I was starting, someone would walk up to me and talk to me, and I was very uncomfortable: I didn’t know what to do about it. Then it dawned on me - wait a second, this person’s driving home with me every day in their 35 minute commute, and listening to the show - so they spend two and a half hours with me a week! I don’t talk to many people two and a half hours a week! Our shows are supposed to be about 30 minutes a day, so if you’re listening to four of them, four of the five, you’re spending two hours with me. It’s a really intimate connection that we have with our listeners and I do think that’s why when I’m talking about one of our sponsors, it’s a connection. It’s also where I think that connection can come out in many other aspects for us.

JC: What impact have you seen from the changes in Apple Podcasts recently? The most recent iOS update.

DL: Having a source of your level here in this conversation, there was zero chance that I wasn’t asking you that question before I left today! What do you think the industry standard is at this point? I’m super curious on that. I know what our number is - I ran them last hour before you called. I think we’re losing about half the audience that the industry is, which is really interesting to me because I would have thought differently, quite honestly. We’re putting out 250 episodes a year. Our hosts have been here with us for six or seven years, some are getting close to their 2,000th episode with us. We’re not seeing the 20, 25% drop that everybody else is. Are you seeing those?

JC: I’ve seen some numbers from some people where they’ve literally halved the total amount of downloads that they’ve been getting. But quite a lot of the numbers that I’m seeing are around 10% down total. It really depends on the type of show. I would be surprised that you weren’t more impacted, I’ll be honest, given that you are doing an awful lot of daily shows, those are the shows which seem to have been affected the most.

DL: We haven’t had that crater, which is fortunate. When you add the video views, we’re having really tremendous growth. Our overall numbers are still trending really nicely.

JC: Now, talking about the ad revenue, the removal of third-party cookies shouldn’t be having an effect, because podcasting doesn’t use cookies, but I guess attribution services do, right? Are you concerned about the whole Cookie Armageddon that is plans to happen any moment now?

DL: We’ve had such a good renewal rate on our clients recently. Any change is unnerving, because our renewal rate is so consistent with our clients. For my show, my clients have been with me for eight years. I’m assuming that nothing changes the loyalty after seven or eight years. I think our five biggest clients all just renewed for a second if not third year. Attribution is good because it makes our clients feel comfortable about what they’re receiving. We’re delivering a unique product in that connection between the fan and their host at the most passionate moments. That is maybe different than a national show that’s just talking about the Chiefs or the Niners or the Bucks or the Celtics on a given night, and so I would assume that we’ll still have the same success rate for our clients.

JC: So what else are you doing to earn revenue?

DL: I’m a big proponent, for multitude of reasons, of texting - the direct one-on-one connection. Already from what I’ve said to you today, James, it intuitively matches. We’re talking about fans walking into a stadium: if I have an injury update 35 minutes before the game, and I can hit you on a text message - that’s of great value to you. You really care if I write up an extended text about the game and the three points I thought were most important after that game for you as you come home.

In this day and age, the idea that you’re supposed to search through X to go find the news about the game you just experienced, that’s an antiquated idea. So let’s hit you directly. It can also be as simple as “shows posted today”, “here’s the four things we discuss”. Well, now you’re driving listens also. Our whole model is based on this connectivity that I keep coming back to. I don’t mean to be a broken record about it, but it’s truly what we’re talking about. So if I can hit you with a text message, that’s increasing our relationship. We’re doing it through a company called Subtext. You text back, and now you have a one on one interchange.

James, you happen to be a Utah Jazz fan now. You are watching them play at two o’clock in the morning on some grainy feed, and now all of a sudden I’m connecting with you on a one on one text message. Maybe I send you a note about - hey, Joe Ingles, over the last 10 games, is shooting 42% from three. And then you send back to me: “Hey, I noticed Joe was doing this with his shoes. Do you know what shoes he’s wearing?” And I go check with Joe, and find out, and tell you. And now I’ve connected with you. You’re listening to my show more. You’re not just pleased with the text message, but you’re now more connected to the team and me. So if you were listening to my show three times a week, you’re now going to listen a fourth time. Well, that’s a 33% increase in my audience right there on that one listener. I really believe that the Subtext format is building that connectivity and I believe that we’re providing a great service for a fan. We’re increasing connection.

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. X is a disaster. I can post something on X and all I got is five porn stars coming back to me telling me about how great my post was and whether I wanted to go check out their OnlyFans website or whatever. I used to post something on X - and I have 50,000 followers - but if I posted something about the Jazz on X, I’d have 50 people respond to me in some capacity. I now have three humans and 17 bots. X is a disaster. Instead, I tell my hosts to send your content to fans who’ve signed up for something connected to you, and get some value back from that. We’re obsessed with the dopamine rush of a fake number on the bottom of a post that tells us that somebody actually viewed it, but nobody did!

JC: I hear many people agreeing with you. David, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

DL: My pleasure and thank you for your work. I’m a reader every week. You’ve done fabulous work for us in the industry, for those of us who are making a living out of it. I really can’t thank you enough. It’s a fabulous resource. I hope you have great dividends from it.

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