E.W. Scripps has just announced that it has acquired Midroll Media, parent company of Earwolf, Wolfpit, and Midroll. Midroll Media is a podcast ad network that sells across a portfolio of 200 home-grown and externally produced on-demand audio programs.
Scripps, whose motto is, “Give light and the people will find their own way,” is shining a bright spotlight onto podcasting with this acquisition. A multi-faceted media operation, Scripps own TV stations in 24 markets, and 34 radio stations across eight markets. The company owns digital properties Newsy and WeatherSphere, and owns the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“We’re witnessing another significant shift in how audiences and advertisers interact with digital media,” said Adam Symson, Scripps chief digital officer. “Smartphones are everywhere, over-the-top audio streaming is at an all-time high, and consumers are connecting through their cars in record numbers, especially young people. Midroll’s leadership in the growth of podcasting, both as a content platform and as a business, made the company very attractive to us.”
“This is the first big transaction in a nascent category. It really affirms the trajectory of on-demand audio.” –Steve Goldstein, CEO, Amplifi Media
Midroll Media began as The Midroll, a sales organization spawned by comedy podcast network Earwolf. The two entities merged in June, 2014, creating Midroll Media, allowing Earwolf to continue operating as a promotion and listening platform for shows.
After that merger, CEO Adam Sachs told RAIN News, “We care most about the podcaster and making money for podcasters, allowing them creative freedom to make their art, and getting them compensated fairly for it. Our fiduciary duty is to the podcasters.”
Midroll specialized in host-read native advertising sales, which must be individually endorsed by all program hosts who have sold into any campaign. The theory behind carefully curated campaigns is to preserve authenticity and trust in a program’s endorsement of a product. “We allow full veto right,” Sachs told us a year ago.
High-profile programs in the Midroll network include WTF with Marc Maron, Savage Lovecast, Comedy Bang! Bang!, and Star Talk.
Adam Sachs emphasized the fiscal health of Midroll Media:
“Podcasting ad rates remain among the highest across all media mainly because of the high-touch nature of the listening experience,” Sachs said. “Historically, podcast advertising has been very direct-response oriented, helping brands and agencies to carefully monitor how effective they are. We’ve been profitable since the beginning and have continued to grow because those agencies have seen the effectiveness of podcast advertising and reward its effectiveness with more revenue from repeat and referral business.”