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Podcasters Talk Audio Evolution At Advertising Week Event.

The past few years have seen marketers take a fresh look at the audio channel, and one of the factors behind that reconsideration has been the level of A-list Hollywood talent rushing into podcasting. With a portfolio of a dozen fiction podcasts and 15 more shows in development, QCode Media’s is one of the podcast studios driving that evolution. QCode Chief Strategy Officer Steve Wilson said that one way they have brought in talent is by getting actors to invest in projects, becoming producers in the creation of the show.

“As the show continues in derivative formats – many of our shows are being picked-up for TV and film – they’re still a part of that project,” Wilson explained. “One of the wonderful things about podcasting is it is easier to make a project than it is in TV or film,” he said during an Advertising Week event on Monday.

Much like radio’s theater of the mind, Wilson said podcasting activates listener imaginations and lets them see fictional characters as they imagine them. That has even spurred a crop of listener-generated art beyond the cover images for podcasts. “There are artists out there that are making fan art of their own, and drawing the characters as they see them themselves – that happens all the time for Pixar and Marvel – and we are thrilled people are doing the same thing for QCode shows,” he said.

Yet technology is also at work. QCode has partnered with Dolby to produce and master all of its podcasts in Dolby Atmos, even though it is not yet available on any podcast listening app. “We’re at that edge of making content on the high end of audio even though the average listeners can’t experience that today,” he said.

‘Audio Is Broader Than Radio’

Audacy still has an estimated 170 million listeners on one of the oldest audio mediums – broadcast radio – but its focus is moving toward digital. “Our future is multiplatform,” said Chief Digital Officer J.D. Crowley, explaining they now also reach “tens of millions” of listeners on streaming radio and podcasting.

Audacy made headlines earlier this year when it rebranded from Entercom and scrapped its app name for a streaming app that matched the corporate brand. Crowley said it was not the word “radio” that was the problem – he noted that lots of streamers have embraced the term – but the “dot com” that was the sore spot. In an app-based world, brands with “dot com” did not have the same cache as they did a decade ago.

“We didn’t have an issue with radio, but audio is broader than radio,” said Crowley. Having an app and company with the same name offers “clarity of vision” for the audience and advertisers, he added. The new focus on its own app does not mean Audacy is looking to take on Apple, Amazon or Spotify according to Crowley, who said they work with Spotify on producing several podcasts. “This is not a winner-take-all environment,” he said.

It’s Funny In Video Or Audio

While some companies are stretching from one form of audio to another, other producers are seeing opportunity by expanding into it. After mainly focusing on video during its first three years, Laugh Out Loud Network launched the LOL Audio division last year in what President/COO Thai Randolph said was a response to shifting consumer behaviors during the pandemic.

“Audio consumption was becoming the primary entertainment experience as people looked to diversify their normal media consumption,” she said. “But we still spend a lot (of time) in our cars, at the gym, walking down the street – audio often is what is following us around. The idea of being able to take advantage of that attention to build a meaningful relationship throughout the day with consumers made audio not a no-brainer, but a must-do for us.”

LOL Audio’s biggest podcast effort has involved its work with its founder – actor and comedian Kevin Hart – who in September expanded his deal with SiriusXM and Pandora to build off his podcast Straight From The Hart into a lineup of additional podcasts and vodcasts. That led to the launch of Comedy Gold Minds via its Stitcher division, which features Hart interviewing comedy greats. LOL Audio also works with syndicated iHeartMedia radio host Charlamagne Tha God on a joint effort to bring more diverse audio content to Audible.

As LOL decides whether a project is right for podcasting or its YouTube channel, Randolph said they their ideal is finding ideas that work across more than one media opportunity. “The idea is to find through lines that have a connective tissue,” she said.

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