Group Nine this month announced it has partnered with iHeartMedia to extend its digital brands – including Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Seeker – into the podcast age. For a media company that reaches a majority of American twentysomethings, the expansion into podcasts was an easy decision.
“We have enough data to know that 66% of our audience listens to podcasts several times per week,” VP of New Initiatives Brett Kushner said in an interview with Publishing Executive. “We like to be where our audience is.”
Kushner also credits the team at iHeartMedia for helping Group Nine figure out how to take media properties that have a highly visual identity and convert them into audio brands. He told PubEx that started with shows for each brand that fit most closely with its core. He also noted that they’ve learned that using audio to tell stories is different than using the written word or video, two formats Group Nine has been focused on. “Audio allows for that type of storytelling where you don’t have to have the visual components that you would normally need,” he said.
Group Nine had already been producing a few science-focused podcasts under the Seeker banner and its Los Angeles-based studios team Jash has a handful of comedy podcasts. The lineup will expand this fall when, as part of the iHeartMedia alliance, Thrillist will release a podcast called “Re-Rank” that features the website’s writers discussing travel, food and beverage reviews and rankings. NowThis will launch a podcast called “Who Is?” exploring backstories of America’s most powerful people. That podcast launches with a 16-episode run, and is hosted by “NowThis” correspondent Sean Morrow. And another podcast, produced by Jash, will also be moved under the iHeart banner.
Kushner said aligning with iHeart is the “best way” for all of its digital brands to quickly establish their audio footprints. “Working with someone who was fully established in that world that had a lot of big podcasts going and had the radio element which nobody else was able to offer was really the perfect fit,” he told PubEx. “They have a grasp on what works, so we don’t have to guess. We can really target our audience the best way possible and get people to transition to audio on totally new platforms.”
There will also be a promotional component to the alliance. Kushner said that iHeart will promote Group Nine’s shows on other podcasts, through social media, and on the radio—including having some of its writers appear on local iHeart radio stations. That could include a Thrillist writer appearing on a radio show to talk about local restaurants, entertainment or attractions as well as to plug the new podcast.