Q&A with Stuart Last, COO audioBoom: The go-forward strategy

Stuart Last, COO, audioBoom

Earlier today London-based podcast company audioBoom announced it had obtained funding of 4.5-million GBP to solidify its operating future and strategy. (See details and history HERE.) The regulatory filing which served as formal announcement bulleted a few points describing how the financial resource would be used. Those points included developing more original podcast programs from the bottom up, as well as continued acquisition of existing programs to host and monetize. And one other surprising strategic venture.

We reached out to Chief Operating Officer Stuart Last for more details. The Q&A which unfolded is quite interesting, and portrays a company keen to execute a programming strategy along three key lines of business.

The audioBoom Originals Network

We asked how many programs currently live in the audioBoom Originals Network (“AON”), and what the expansion goal is.

“We currently have 10 shows in production, the most recent Covert launched last week and hit the Top 10 on the Apple Podcast chart. We have 3 new shows launching as part of a Fall content slate and in 2019 we will launch a further 12 shows. The investment that we will make in this area is to have more impact with our Original content – to be more creative in the development process, to be braver and more experimental in our productions, to work with the best on-air and writing talent. We will open studios and production facilities in Los Angeles, grow our in-house production team, and develop a more strategic commissioning process to make sure the best ideas are made. And most of all we will commit a much higher marketing budget to each show launch, making sure great shows don’t get lost in the ocean of podcast content and become the hits that they deserve to be.”

Business Differences of Owned and Non-owned Programs

We wanted to explore what the balance is now of wholly owned-and-operated shows (O&O shows) and shows that audioBoom hosts and sells, but did not develop.

“Our premium sales network is around 150 third party publishers alongside our 10 original shows – by the end of 2019 it will be 200 third party shows and 22 originals, so we’ll quickly move from 5% to over 10% of the network. But the value of investment runs deeper than that – as you mentioned margins are greatly improved. While revenue shares are being squeezed across the industry we can counter this with higher profit from O&Os. Additional value for the company comes from the full IP ownership of those Originals – we can extend the value of the investment through tours, merchandise, books, TV deals. It also gives us security and stability – representation of tier 1 independent podcasts is a competitive business, and shows move between networks often … our originals are going nowhere.”

Straddling a Fence

One of the most interesting (and unpredicted) points in the regulatory filing is audioBoom’s intent to create a buy-side media agency — a line of business that presumably would match advertisers to shows across the entire spectrum of podcasting. It sounded to us like an ambition to straddle the entire monetization spectrum, a foot in both sides of the buy-sell divide. Here is what Stuart Last said:

“Through our Sales teams globally we are seeing opportunities to help brands who are interested in buying podcasts succeed. They are often managing their ad-buying through their own marketing team – we can give them the expertise to find the shows across the entire podcast space that fit their brand, convert to sales and grow their businesses. We are in the test phase of this with a handful of clients, and hope to fully launch in Q4.”

Brad Hill