The Business of Content podcast

The Business of Content

Simon Owens, tech and media journalist

The podcast about how publishers create, distribute, and monetize digital content.

100 episodi

  • The Business of Content podcast

    Can the mainstream media compete with Substack?


    Over the past few years, dozens of star journalists at mainstream media outlets announced that they were quitting their jobs to launch their own ventures, usually on platforms like Substack. As a result, some have drastically increased their income, sometimes into the seven figures.  As more and more writers defected, I and others wondered how legacy media outlets would respond. Would they adapt their business models so that their writers could capture more of the value that they generate? Last week, The Atlantic announced that it's partnering with about a dozen writers to author standalone newsletters for the magazine. Though the partnership details are somewhat vague, they could provide a framework for how media outlets will compete with platforms like Substack moving forward. To discuss these moves, I sat down with communications consultant Jonathan Rick. We dove into The Atlantic's newsletter strategy and discussed whether it's effective enough to lure independent journalists back into the warm embrace of legacy media.
  • The Business of Content podcast

    How The Globe and Mail uses AI to drive engagement


    For the past decade, publishers have utilized metered paywalls to grow their subscription businesses. Under that model, a reader gets to view a certain number of free articles before a paywall pops up and requires them to subscribe.  But how many free articles should a user encounter before they hit a paywall? Increasingly, the answer to that question is: It depends. Publishers are starting to roll out dynamic paywalls that assign varying weights to different kinds of stories. If you’re reading a business article, for instance, you may only get to read three free articles before hitting a paywall, but if you’re perusing real estate listings you might get unlimited free access. The Globe and Mail has taken the idea of the dynamic paywall to the next level: it’s developed a sophisticated AI that’s able to analyze user behavior and determine the exact moment that a reader is most likely to subscribe. The AI is so powerful that the newspaper’s editors now allow it to automate the placement of stories on its homepage and social media. I recently sat down with Gordon Edall, the person who runs the product team that developed the AI. We talked about how the paywall was initially designed, his experience recruiting data scientists, and why the Globe and Mail is licensing its AI product to other publishers.
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    Spotify is the newly crowned king of podcasting


    Over the past several weeks, Spotify made several major announcements in the podcast space. It opened up its advertising ecosystem to anyone who hosts their podcasts on Anchor. It launched the ability for podcast hosts to create video versions of its podcasts. And it reported two major milestones on its quarterly earnings call: that it grew its podcast advertising revenue by 100% over the last year and that it surpassed Apple as the #1 podcast player in the U.S. What do all these announcements mean for the podcast industry? To figure it out, I invited on Jaclyn Schiff, CEO of a company called Podreacher. We discussed whether Spotify is a threat to the open podcast ecosystem and if it can become the YouTube of podcasting.
  • The Business of Content podcast

    How Google collaborates with news publishers


    Google has a long and complicated relationship with news publishers. On the one hand, it sends billions of visitors to their websites every year through its main search engine, Google News, and other products. On the other hand, some publishers believe that the Mountain View company has siphoned away ad revenue on the back of their content. Amy Adams Harding, Google’s director of analytics and revenue optimization for news and publishing, believes the search giant has the potential to provide a net benefit to publishers. Over the past several years, her team has developed a suite of tools aimed at helping media outlets to optimize their content so it reaches a bigger audience and drives more revenue. In our interview, Amy walked me through these tools and explained how they work. She also talked about why publishers need to adopt many of the strategies that ecommerce platforms developed over a decade ago.
  • The Business of Content podcast

    The Juggernaut is hyper focused on an underrepresented market


    Snigdha Sur’s first idea for a media startup was a kind of Netflix-for-Bollywood streaming service, but when she spoke to investors about the idea, they all pointed out that it would be too easy for Netflix to simply copy her strategy. Though she quickly scrapped that idea, she still wanted to launch some sort of outlet that would service South Asian Americans, a group that she felt was underrepresented in mainstream media. This led to the launch of a free weekly newsletter that amassed several hundred readers. That free newsletter eventually evolved into The Juggernaut, a subscription-funded publisher that has a dedicated and growing fan base. I interviewed Snigdha about how she convinced YCombinator to let in a media startup, why she launched a hard paywall, and whether she’ll ever introduce advertising into her revenue mix.
  • The Business of Content podcast

    Content creators are charging their fans for text messages


    Most subscription strategies have a pretty straightforward value exchange: in exchange for a monthly payment, the subscriber gains access to premium content that’s locked behind some kind of paywall. But what if you want to keep all your best content in front of the paywall? What could you still offer to your audience to make a monthly subscription payment worth the price of admission? Thousands of content creators have turned to platforms like Subtext, a tool that allows them to exchange text messages with their fans. Creators can either send  mass texts out to their entire audience or get into individual conversations with subscribers. I’ve tried out the tool myself, and it’s truly innovative. For this episode, I spoke to Subtext CEO Mike Donoghue. We talked about how his team developed the application and the different ways creators use it to generate revenue.
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    How the Art of Manliness monetizes its loyal audience


    Most major media companies are focused on scale. They want to reach ever larger audiences and then leverage that reach to drive more revenue. To accomplish this, they invest time and resources to create content across all major social platforms, from YouTube to TikTok to Snapchat. The Art of Manliness isn’t that kind of media company. Let me give you an example of what I mean: it managed to build its YouTube channel to 1.2 million subscribers, an impressive feat, only to mostly abandon the channel several years ago. In a 2017 video, founder Brett McKay explained that there were other projects he’d rather devote his time to -- projects like writing a book, lifting weights, and producing his podcast. According to Jeremy Anderberg, the Art of Manliness’s managing editor and one of only three full time employees, this kind of narrow focus is part of the company’s ethos. It purposefully didn’t try to scale like the BuzzFeeds and Vox Medias of the world. Instead, its team devotes nearly all of its energy into writing articles and producing a podcast, the latter of which has an incredibly loyal audience. That audience is so loyal that thousands have signed up for a 12-week bootcamp the company runs for “those who wish to revolt against our age of ease, comfort, and existential weightlessness.” Anderberg spoke to me about how The Art of Manliness built its audience, why it launched its bootcamp, and what it’s like to work for a media company that purposefully stays small.
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    How Mental Floss evolved over its 20-year history


    In the spirit of Mental Floss’s 20th anniversary, let me give you a few pieces of trivia about the magazine. It made a cameo in two episodes of Friends and an episode of Netflix’s The OA. It started as a print magazine but discontinued its print edition in 2016. In addition to its web content, it produces several popular video series on YouTube. And in 2018, it was acquired by Minute Media, a conglomerate that mostly consists of sports media sites. Suffice it to say, the Mental Floss of 2020 looks a lot different than when it was a magazine published out of the dorm room of two Duke University students. I recently sat down with its editor in chief Erin McCarthy to talk about its post-print strategy and why a sports media company was interested in a publisher that specializes in history trivia.  
  • The Business of Content podcast

    He writes one of Hollywood's most influential newsletters


    By the time Richard Rushfield launched his newsletter The Ankler in 2017, he had held journalism jobs at several major media companies that included The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and Gawker. But because he served as a behind-the-scenes editor in most of these roles, he didn’t have much of a personal brand to speak of, which meant he needed to build a newsletter readership from the ground up. Despite these headwinds, Richard managed to replace his full-time salary within about two years, and The Ankler is now a must-read for virtually every Hollywood studio executive. In our interview, he explained how he built his audience and why he prefers his life as an independent writer much more than his past career as a traditional journalist.

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