Pivoting to podcasts: An ad agency builds scalable success producing local newspaper podcasts

Nine months ago the BG Ad Group in Marietta, Georgia approached a metro Atlanta newspaper with an idea to increase non-traditional revenue, digital downloads, and hyperlocal following. The idea? A hyperlocal podcast. The plan was greenlit, and the project — the Marietta Daily Journal Podcast — has been successful. BG has grown the model to other newspapers in Georgia, and formed the BG Podcast Network.


“We believe the audible world of entertainment and information is in its infancy.” –Darien Southerland, President & GM, BG Podcast Network

While many branded podcast production companies serve a variety of companies in many fields seeking to enter the audio space, BG’s focus on newspapers, which bring their own news gathering resources and built-in audiences, is naturally scalable and replicable. “We deliver hometowns” is a catchphrase used in marketing collateral BG shows to prospective newspapers.

The enterprise is young, but has already settled into a machine-like production process, as bulleted to RAIN by President and GM Darien Southerland in an email conversation:

  1. Our news content producer identifies the biggest hyper-local stories of the day by using various determining factors
  2. VP of content Jeremy reviews the info, cross-checking each story, and ensuring that it fits our target audience
  3. After approval, scripts are written and sent to voice talents
  4. The voiced scripts are married with feeds from writers at the local papers, local interest interviews, etc.
  5. Spots and added value content are inserted
  6. Promotions department executes a social media strategy to ensure maximum market awareness

Southerland says that BG has “switched its focus to podcasting.” He also notes that some advertisers in the podcasts have inquired to BG about creating branded podcasts for their companies. “Audible entertainment and information are essential,” Southerland asserts. BG handles the ad sales for podcasts, working in collaboration with the newspapers’ sales staffs. Four to five ads are inserted into 15-minute shows. In browsing the Marietta show, we also find one-minute updates some days.

In his marketing value equations, Darien Southerland puts Nielsen’s radio cume metric (number of unique listeners) side by side with a podcast’s average daily downloads. “As the product grows, we feel we will be able to beat the radio stations in our geographic area on downloads vs. cume,” he told RAIN. He also notes: “We bring in the Time Spent Listening number.”

The local newspaper market is shrinking but still substantial. According to Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and reported in Statista, there are 1,260 local papers in the U.S. That is a substantial petri dish for expanding BG’s experiment. Even so, the company is eyeing tangential markets:

  • Cities, municipalties, and government agencies: BG has released its first municipality podcast for Woodstock, GA.
  • Colleges and universities: BG has done work with University of St. Louis to help recruit students during Covid.

“We see the next five years as a crazy growth period,” said Southerland.


Brad Hill