Internet media brand Slate has launched a new podcast network called Panoply. Slate is not new to podcasting, having developed a portfolio of on-demand programs over several years, and operating a subscription service with enhanced features called Slate Plus. Panoply will expand the current program lineup by including shows produced externally, choosing programs that match well with Slate’s existing audience, or bring in compatible audiences.
“We want to grow as rapidly as we can, while not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Andy Bowers, Executive Producer & Creator of Slate Podcasts, in a phone call with RAIN News. “We’re looking carefully at potential partners, to determine a connection with our existing audience — or that they might bring an audience that could be of benefit to the network. We’re not going to say Yes to everyone, but we do want to grow rapidly.”
Early partners include The New York Times Magazine, Huffington Post, Inc., and Real Simple.
Panoply’s business model offers ad representation, but does not insist on exclusivity, or any sales involvement. That principle seems based on a kind of Slate ethos. “We wanted to reach out to other networks with the sort of deal we would say Yes to,” Bowers told us. “Anyone who has an ad sales operation, or wants to start one, is free to sell their own podcasts. We can serve as their main sales team, or supplement their team, or let them do it all. We are flexible on that, which is an important part of our model.”
There is an egalitarian approach to slate’s own participation in Panoply. Andy Bowers told us: “Slate is one partner in Panoply; one of the providers. We want to make sure that everyone has a level playing field in this network. We’re going to do cross-promotion between existing and new shows, find overlapping audiences wherever we can, so we don’t want any partner to feel like Slate is the 800-pound gorilla.”
Currently about 15 wholly owned-and-operated Slate podcasts, representing 6.5-million monthly downloads, are in Panoply. They include Whistlestop, Slate Money, Amicus, and Culture Gabfest.
Any talk of revenue generation in podcasting naturally leads to native advertising. Host recommendations of sponsor products and services have become the go-to format. We asked Andy Bowers about that. “That kind of delivery has become the gold standard of podcast advertising,” he said. “Our hosts do it extremely well. We’re careful to make it clear that ads are ads. Often the host has been able to try the product and speak from the heart about it.”
An informal, genuine approach to on-demand programming informs Bowers’ entire outlook on the new Panoply network. “We want to be a listening companion. We’re looking for interesting companions. People you’d want to hang out with, at a dinner party or a bar. People who have knowledge, and interesting ways of imparting it. We’re building a network of podcasts that you can listen to one after another, the next to the next to the next. We want listeners to feel like they’re hanging out with people they know, and whose companionship they enjoy. That’s something I like about podcasts, and I want to increase that experience for other people.
Panoply has launched as a desktop web service. A mobile app is under consideration.