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Matthew Sherry

Matthew Sherry

· Time to read: ~6 min

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

Matthew is CEO and co-founder of Platform Media — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Matthew was speaking to Sam Sethi in the Podnews Weekly Review. You can hear the interview in full here.

Matthew Sherry: Platform Media is a a business that does production, distribution, monetization all under one roof.

Sam Sethi: How do you choose which shows will make your slate?

MS: We see ourselves as a commercially driven business. So the commercial team, in unison with the editorial team, will dictate that. We turn down some amazing opportunities editorially if we don’t think that they can work commercially: that’s just the nature of who we are as a business. And it’s frustrating at times. Politics, as an example, is not something we particularly focus on because we don’t think the commercial landscape is there. But for us, it has to be a perfect marriage between commercial and editorial ultimately.

SS: When you look at Goalhanger’s Jack Davenport and The Rest is Politics and The Rest is History and The Rest is Entertainment and so on … they have created a synergistic slate. Do you think yours is also a synergistic slate? Or is everything in your slate just individual editorial that you’ve just commercialized?

MS: Every individual show is its own business. We’ve tried to emulate Goalhanger at certain times with some of the content that we make - we’re all a little bit copycat in this - but we think our strength is building full brands around headline talent and shows, and that’s what we’re going to try and do more.

SS: Let’s get on to the meat of this story, PodX. We know (CEO) Staffan Rosell really well. Who approached who? I assume they approached you, right? So how did it come about?

MS: Yeah, they did approach us. It was a year ago.

We met them in our studio for the first time on the week of The Podcast Show - they flew in early. So at that point we had started to field interest from broadcasters and those types of companies; but PodX got in touch. We presented to them and then it went quiet for a while.

Last year was such a whirlwind on this stuff, and the thing I’d say is that it’s quite a distracting process. People need to be wary. It went really quiet; but then we met them again last summer, and at that point we had moved down the line with a couple of other opportunities, and then we went to Stockholm just after Halloween last year and that’s when the momentum really picked up. They were just right for us.

We are a very entrepreneurial business. We have pivoted so many times in the last 3 to 4 years and we will continue to do so - if we see opportunities, we go after them, and we’ll be quite happy to move in different directions.

For me, this deal isn’t an exit. This is a strategic partner on the next phase of our journey to help us achieve our next set of ambitions. There are other deals that we looked at that would have been more of an exit, where you get folded into a bigger company: but that’s not really our mission. Our mission is to build the company that we’ve built. So that was the big part for me.

If I’m honest, the first time we met them, I didn’t think it would be the right fit because they were built very much at the outset, from what I could tell, around the idea of acquiring production businesses, long term IP and all those kinds of things. And the first time we met them, particularly in Sweden, we explained how different a business we are to that. But I think that difference of our business is what makes this such a good partnership, because ultimately, we expect to play a huge part in their other businesses and help create ways for them to monetize content.

I think the modern podcast group needs to think beyond production, and I think they realize that as well. It gives us the ability to get into a larger group, to set an agenda within that group, and to have a broader support system to build what we’ve already built at a much bigger scale, whilst being given the freedom and flexibility to be entrepreneurial. That’s something that will be really good for all of our staff as well.

I mean, you said it yourself, they are wonderful people and that went a long way for us. The team there, particularly Patrick (Svensk), who I’m sure you’ve met, they’re very entrepreneurial.

Patrick’s background in TV and his relationships in the US when we start crafting the US strategy now is going to be invaluable to us. And Staffan’s obviously got an amazing track record, got a really senior position in power, understands the audio industry, really well. So having people who understand the industry that you’re in, and the experience, is hugely important. But for us, I’m not going to lie when I say a big part of it is access to capital for the next phase of our growth as well. They bring both, but it doesn’t feel like some of the other VCs I’ve met. There’s a much more familiar feel to it.

SS: I think one of the things that you will appreciate, having done the deal you’ve done, is that you can now sleep at night. Every entrepreneur worries about - How do we make payroll? Have I got imposter syndrome? Am I doing this right?

MS: The challenge of our business in the first three years is that we built to scale from the start, which meant that we had overheads that were bigger than other businesses right from the start as well. And the challenge of that in a market where literally everything takes twice as long to sign off as you expect it to - sometimes longer than that - is enormous. I wouldn’t wish I wouldn’t wish those kind of stresses on anybody. It’s hard work. So that is a big part of it as well.

If I was having an honest conversation with anybody about trying to do something on their own like this, I’ve learnt so much in the last four years, but I’ve just had to learn as I’ve gone. The stresses and pressures at times of running a business can be horrendous, but it can also be amazing once you get to the other side of it as well. So it’s a double edged sword. But yeah, removing all of that is very much a lovely part of this as well.

SS: Matthew, congratulations on the acquisition, and good luck for everything you’re planning on doing.

MS: Thanks very much. I appreciate that. Yeah, thanks for having me.

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