Podcast investments are on the rise, and scouts are on the hunt. Not just for shows and talent to acquire. But for other assets you might own that give them leverage. Here are a few things to consider before they show up on your door with bags of money.
“There is no such thing as selling out; only the chance of selling out top cheaply.” That’s a quote I first heard from Dave Slusher, one of the original OG podcasters with the Evil Genius Chronicles.
Acquisitions are coming to podcasting. It’s one of the many stages in the consolidation efforts that continue to increase, both visibly and behind the scenes. Podcasting is coming into its own (finally or again, depending on which camp you live in) and enterprising companies and individuals are happy to buy their way into the game.
You and I know it’s hard to build an audience for a podcast. Those with bags of money know that too, so they’re willing to let people like you and me do the hard work and then, once it’s viable, make that acquisition happen.
Acquisitions Are A Part Of Podcasting’s History
Acquisitions and mergers have been a part of podcasting since nearly the beginning. In recent years, with an ever-increasing portion of ad spend allocated to podcasts and the continued increase in podcasting listenership, the pace has accelerated. It’s not out of the question that you might be approached with a money-bag-holder in the near future.
Historically, podcast networks have been the entity responsible for most acquisitions. Networks are often built around a particular topic or genre. While the viability and benefit of being in a network vs running independently is a mixed bag, it’s generally considered a Good Thing to at least be approached by a network. And if they’re offering to pay; even better!
Acquisitions For Increased Podcast Ad Spend
I think we’ll see more ad rep firms start their own networks. They’re hearing from companies who have money to spend money on podcasting. They know precisely which desirable audiences those advertisers want to reach. Today, they’re all on the lookout for more shows they can add to their stable of rep’d shows. Tomorrow, they could start commissioning and acquiring shows that make their business model work better by appeasing the needs of their customers — the advertisers with money to spend.
Ad rep firms know that running ads on smaller podcasts is often a money-losing proposition. If takes many hours of work to land, set up, deliver, and report on a single ad campaign. That effort just isn’t worth it for companies when the income is in the few tens or hundreds of dollars range. But there are economies of scale when the ad rep firm “owns” their stable of shows and the tech that power them. If they can build a network of 10 different podcasts that get 1000 downloads a month, that’s 10,000 downloads. Run multiple ad placements and that’s starting to approach viability.
Acquisition In Lieu Of A Branded Podcast?
Brands might also be interested in acquiring existing podcasts, especially if there’s a hyper-focused podcast that’s a perfect match to the niche the brand occupies, right? Huge brands are already investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to create short-run branded podcast content. That price tag is out of budget for most small brands. But a smaller brand might find benefit owning a stake of an existing, popular podcast rather than trying to build something completely original on their own from scratch.
Podcast Acquisition Beyond The Obvious
There are lots of ways in which a show might be impacted by possible acquisition. Even a show that’s been “dead” for years might be attractive. I once joined and rebooted a show that hadn’t released an episode in six years but was still seeing 2,000–3,000 downloads of old episodes each month. Clearly, there was an audience hungry for the content! Luckily the owner continued to pay his hosting bill each month, else we’d have missed the opportunity.
There are now well over 1 million podcasts. And while I don’t think it’s getting “crowded”, I do know that show names are becoming a perceived precious item. Even though podcasting titles aren’t like domain names (there can be more than one), having a unique title is key to discovery. And if a money-bag-holder may want to pay you to change the name of your podcast so they can take it. Would you consider a name-change to your show, knowing that your existing subscribers wouldn’t be impacted at all?
Talent is another scarcity, and one that doesn’t scale. Whether it’s you, another voice on your show, or one of your talented folks working behind the scenes, the talent required to make your show is valuable. And if not to you, then to someone. What do you do if it happens to you? What do you do if the offer is extended to a valued member of your team?
Domain names are still popular points of acquisition, and if you were early enough to nab a clear and concise domain without adding “.diamond” at the end, someone may be willing to pay for it. Switching domains is a lot more complicated than switching show names, but it’s doable.
And then there’s the nuclear option, where someone wants to buy your show… and not you. What they actually want is your audience. Companies buy other companies all the time and swap out everyone, from the leadership team to front-line workers. That same thing can happen in podcasting. What sort of price tag would it take for you to hand over everything about your podcast to someone else and never look back?
Getting Ready For Podcast Acquisition
While some may actively seek out acquisition, others will be hit with a request out of the blue. Regardless, both of these paths start from the same place: Getting your ducks in a row.
Ownership is the big question, especially if you podcast as part of a team. I’m not an attorney, so I can’t tell you what kinds of documents you need to prepare. But I can tell you that you need to prepare for those documents by having an honest conversation with all of the stakeholders of your show so everyone understands who owns what.
But the bigger question is this: What’s it worth? Whatever “it” is. Yesterday someone asked to buy a domain of mine. I was (and still am) prepared to keep paying the registrar fees on that domain for… forever. That’s a great position of leverage to be in, and it means I probably won’t be tempted by an offer of hundreds. Maybe not even thousands. Tens of thousands? Maybe!
And I think that’s the key. If you get a request to acquire some aspect of your podcast, don’t rush to make a decision. When somebody comes knocking on your proverbial podcast door holding bags of money, don’t jump at the offer. If you don’t need it (or want it), then you don’t need it (or want it).
Because like Dave says, there’s no such thing as selling out; only the possibility of selling too cheaply.
And because it needs to be said, I’m always willing to field all talks of acquisitions of this show or other content I own. Evo@podcastlaunch.pro reaches me. Just bring really big bags of money.
Much more likely — perhaps you know a fellow podcaster who’s brought up the prospect acquisition with you previously. Send them and email, a text, or a DM with a link to this episode, would you? My show is 100% reliant on person-to-person transmission. And it’s a great way to position both of you for the larger conversation.
Since you got this far (and going against what I just said), how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as an episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.