This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.
Mike Jensen is CEO and founder of Rhapsody Voices — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
MJ: Rhapsody Voices is a boutique network and content creator for podcasts. Everything that we touch in terms of a development of a show should be able to be consumed across audio, and when appropriate, video. We perform a comprehensive scope of work for every potential show that we bring on, and we look at every aspect of how that show can be monetized with a real focus on audience growth and the way that we can help that show across a number of different touchpoints.
JC: When is video appropriate?
MJ: I really enjoy the exploratory conversation with content creators, because sometimes you’ll find in the middle of the conversation - especially if it’s on a zoom or face to face - that they’re jumping to life in a video format. As one example, we have a show that we’re launching that we’re moving to multichannel because the hosts are natural on screen; whereas there are a number of shows and personalities which are a better audio only experience. There are certain cases where you just want to have a conversation - you don’t necessarily want to be on camera. So in every instance, we look at different aspects of the people, the content, the show to see if it is additive with video or not.
JC: Some podcast networks just take a show and they stick it on their platform: with it sounds as if you are working much more in a developmental way?
MJ: We are: but we also look at shows that that are existing. You can see that there are a number of shows that have built stadiums full of people in terms of audience levels, - and credit to them - but they haven’t always looked at all of the analytics, or maybe not had creative producer support to look at their show. That’s what we’re doing. Rhapsody Voices can be really powerful for existing shows, in addition to developing shows. We’re doing scopes of work - we’ve done a number of them over the last few weeks and they end up being a few pages long, and sometimes I worry if they’re a bit wordy - but we’re talking about everything, from what episodes did well, what merchandise they have, what cross marketing to use. Is it really general cross marketing, or a lot more targeted? All those aspects end up being a multi-page scope of work that you discuss with the show, and it can drive everything from an analysis but also ideas around content and things that they could expand further.
JC: We spoke to Jeff Umbro last week, talking about marketing shows. What have you found works well in terms of marketing the shows that you look after?
MJ: Over the last four years, I’ve been doing show surveys that are online and ask a number of different questions around that audience and their behaviors and other shows that they listen to, as well as what technology products they buy. When we all understand what genre a show is in, or what the topic is about, we can examine other similar shows and we can pull cross-audience over. That’s one step of it - I’m sure Jeff touched on that. There’s also other elements that you can learn from the existing listener base for an existing show, and for a new show. We lean into historical work with similar shows, and run that playbook to start trying to build the audience up to a level where we can start learning more about that particular listener or viewer, and then start layering in those other pieces of data that help us with other marketing aspects around what we’ve learned.
JC: Do you work with advertisers directly?
JC: We’re chatting at Podcast Movement, and a lot of the people that I’ve been speaking to tell me that advertising is not on a downward slope anymore. It seems to be quite stable if not going back up again. How are you seeing the market?
MJ: We are definitely feeling the benefit of maybe the lower point of concern about the media landscape, and we are seeing a movement forward. For the first time over the last two months, you see not just existing advertisers that we’re familiar with, but new advertisers moving into the space, both brand and direct to consumer direct response. We’re seeing the health of the media landscape improve overall. For podcasting, you’re going to see a nice rebound in Q4.
JC: Have you launched any big shows recently?
MJ: Well, we we are excited about the launch of Rabia and Ellyn Solve the Case. That is a show that had a very successful beginning, but it’s been on hiatus for the last month or so, and the relaunch of that show will be multichannel with both audio and video. That is a no brainer because those two hosts jump off the screen. We’re also excited about some of the format additions that we’re making on that show. Listeners and viewers are going to be happy with with the weekly episodes, and the differing formats and enhancements that we’ve made. So we’re super excited about that. We’ve got more announcements on the way.
JC: Where do you see the future? To me, you look at massive large podcast networks, and very very small ones. I think that’s the beauty of the podcast industry is that every size of company can be on the same platform. Where where do you see the future going?
MJ: I see a bright future for big, medium and small. And as an industry, when I say big, medium and small like that, that means different things to different people. But one of the things that we’re excited about building is some of those medium podcasts that we talk about, like some of the development stuff we can do to help grow those audiences. I think that there’s going to be more folks, not just Rhapsody Voices, but more boutique content development and creators that also lean into that connectivity with the show, the content and how we can best monetize it. That will help shows that are pretty substantial in their audience size already to grow and get bigger and find ways to extend the the level of sponsorship revenue that they see, in addition to other revenue sources across merchandise and live and virtual events, and paywalls when it’s appropriate.
For the smaller shows that you talk about I see some of these collections of shows that are finding similar demos or content adjacencies, and some of the technologies that are coming to allow them to rise - a rising tide lifts all boats, right? They’re seeing more monetization, even if their show in and of itself isn’t considered large or medium. The opportunity for them to grow and gain sponsorship dollars targeted at scale with advertisers, realizing this is a right show along with even as many as a hundred others. Not just programmatic, but targeting marketing solutions, non-host and host. I think that’s going to really help those. And then large shows - if large shows need help, what will help large shows is the fact that podcasting isn’t going away. You’re more of the expert than I am, but I always quote family and friends: we’re still in a world in which about one in every three Americans are actually listening to podcasts. I can’t even still get my wife to listen to podcasts on a regular basis! I know I’m going to get there, and I know we’re going to land her and a number of others - the medium is only expanding in quality of choice and the quality of content.
JC: Well, Mike, thank you so much for your for your time and thank you for your support of the Podnews newsletter as well.
MJ: Thank you, sir. Really appreciate the work that Podnews and the Podcast Business Journal does.
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