Under the direction of Heart Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne – who took on expanded duties earlier this year – iHeart has scored a string of high-profile deals and alliances with producers ranging from the NFL and NBA to Bloomberg and ViacomCBS. And backed the Black Effect Podcast Network and My Cultura to make content more appealing to African Americans and Latinx audiences.
The Most Powerful People in Podcasting - 2021
Jen Sargent says Wondery is testing a new ad format that allows people listening to a podcast using an Alexa-enabled smart speaker to take an action based on an advertisement they hear in the podcast. One thing remains the same under Sargent: Wondery remains the most successful podcast creator at translate its series into TV and film projects.
Rival apps have led Apple to dedicate more resources to podcasting and Ben Cave, Apple’s Global Head of Podcasts, has been leading the charge. That has meant big moves such as launching shows to help promote Apple TV+, the debut of Apple Podcast Subscriptions, as well as smaller content-focused steps such as the addition of Apple Podcasts Spotlight, a new monthly editorial franchise that showcases creators.
Ashley Flowers, whose Crime Junkie series spawned the creation of the Audiochuck studio, has shown she’s more than a one-hit wonder. While Crime Junkie scored Best Crime Podcast in the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards earlier this year, Audiochuck has scored hits with other shows like Park Predators, which Flowers executive produces.
It has become harder to miss Pushkin Industries founders Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg in 2021. The studio best known for the Gladwell-hosted Revisionist History struck a deal to produce a slate of shows with the iHeartPodcast Network in what its founders said was a move to reach even more listeners. It has brought the debut of Be Antiracist so far.
Spotify has about a dozen podcasts that that are have or will be turned into television shows and movies. And more Spotify Original podcasts are likely in store for adaptation under the company’s recently announced first-look deal with Chernin Entertainment. Head of Studios and Video Courtney Holt will have a hand in those deals.
Atlanta director and independent filmmaker Payne Lindsey, and music industry veteran Donald Albright, have produced a string of number one hits like Up and Vanished, Atlanta Monster and To Live And Die In L.A. since launching in 2016, and during the past year they have solidified their place as one of podcasting’s go-to studios.
Netflix has recruited one-time NPR programing manager N’Jeri Eaton away from Apple Podcasts where she was Head of Content in recent weeks. Eaton will guide Netflix’s podcasting efforts, including hiring hosts and producers and working with outside creators.
Radio personality Charlamagne Tha God’s The Black Effect Podcast Network, which he created in a partnership with iHeartMedia, has emerged this year as a destination for content for Black listeners produced by Black creators. MTV veteran Dollie Bishop is the driving force as she oversees the network’s team of producers and editorial direction.
Even with a less news-crazed year, the reach of NPR’s podcast has been undeniable in 2021 as its roster of about four dozen shows has more than 20 million unique listeners a month and consistently has more shows in Podtrac’s monthly top 20 than any other publisher. Under Anya Grundmann’s direction, NPR has shaken up things up in 2021.
Podcast Power Players - 2021
As Executive VP of Ramsey Network, Brian Mayfield leads the engine that powers the distribution and strategic alliances for the network, which is home to some of the top podcasts in the industry. This year that engine revved as financial advice radio talk show host Dave Ramsey joined an exclusive list among podcasters: one billion downloads.
Most people may think of Conan O’Brien as the funny talk show host on late night television. But he has also become a forced in podcasting. His production company Team Coco produces a variety of content, including a growing number of podcasts as its total downloads now totals more than 250 million.
Consolidation has been rampant in podcasting during the past year and the company that Todd Cochrane launched in 2005 as RawVoice/Blubrry remains a holdout. Rather than selling, Blubrry has rolled out new features and updates, and become more aggressive in its targeting of the corporate podcast market. Cochrane says there has always been a need for private internal podcasts, but the pandemic and work-from-home offered them a big opportunity.
As podcast listening has grown around the world, so has the need for measurement. That has opened up new opportunities for Triton Digital, which is now working with audio creators in more than 30 countries. That has helped make Triton Digital’s John Rosso one of the audio media’s biggest champions on the global stage.
The creative force behind hit TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Private Practice, and Station 19, Shonda Rhimes has set her sights on podcasting. She has created Shondaland Audio, the company's podcast division, with plans to produce a full slate of podcasts as part of a three-year deal the iHeartPodcast Network.
PRX has teamed up with public television’s PBS Kids and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to create educational podcasts for kids. And under Kerri Hoffman’s direction, PRX continues to work with Google on an incubator program to bring new voices to the medium. That includes a soon-to-open Podcast Garage site in San Francisco.
As the iHeartPodcast Network closes in on 600 shows, double what it had two years ago, the show development work by COO Will Pearson is one of the reasons why. Pearson ensured iHeart shows did not miss a beat during the pandemic, even if meant recording in closets.
Pod Digital Media released its first app earlier this year featuring shows hosted by Black, Hispanic, Asian and other podcasters of color. It was the latest move by the company created by Gary Coichy, whose aim is to promote and drive revenue for multicultural podcasts and connect them to blue-chip advertisers.
Enrique Santos, the bilingual personality and radio executive who helped iHeartMedia capture a larger share of Hispanic radio listeners, has turned his attention to podcasting. Santos is the driving force behind My Cultura, a joint project with iHeartMedia dedicated to showcasing Latinx creators and sharing the Latinx experience with listeners.
Behind many of the biggest podcast announcements coming from Hollywood this year is Creative Artists Agency and Josh Lindgren is the man leading CAA’s efforts. Lindgren has been focused on podcasting since 2018 and CAA credits him for the agency’s triple-digit growth in the audio space.
Podcasting has become a huge piece of the New York Times business, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue and younger listeners to the newspaper brand. Director of Audio Paula Szuchman is now leading the team of 100 and is in charge of The Daily, which Podtrac says has been the most listened-to podcast for more than two years.
Audio Up Media, created by Jared Gutstadt in 2020, has quickly become one of the most sought after content studios, especially among musicians like Machine Gun Kelly, Nelly, and T. Bone Burnett. He has also scored a big hit when it announced it was bringing horror and true crime legend Stephen King’s words to life in a podcast partnership with iHeartMedia.
Suzanne Grimes, President of Westwood One and the architect of the radio network’s push into podcasting, took on even bigger duties earlier this year as parent Cumulus Media rolled up all the podcasting assets from its local radio stations and created the Cumulus Podcast Network.
As advertising has become more important to podcasters, so too have the software and systems that power it. That has meant a growing business for Veritone One as more podcast publishers use Veritone’s Artificial Intelligence-powered content search and analysis application to ingest, index, organize and analyze content. Veritone has also developed proprietary podcast buying and podcast ad performance tools used by advertisers.
Former CAA agent Rob Herting launched QCode in 2018 and in the years since the content studio has become a producer of some of the highest-profile podcast series. The list includes scripted podcasts like a science fiction series featuring pop singer Kesha and sci-fi series From Now. QCode has also scored development teams to turn its podcasts Gaslight and Dirty Diana into televisions series.
Talent agents are playing a larger and larger role in podcasting. ICM Partner’s Caroline Edwards is one of the agents that is bringing some of her agency’s big-named talent to the audio medium. Edwards is also sniffing out new hosts, writers and production companies that are ripe for development.
Barstool Sports is increasingly turning its attention toward gaming after its acquisition by Penn National Gaming, the casino operator and online betting company. How that will develop for its podcasts will be up to CEO Erika Nardini. The roughly 40 million downloads it has each month offer it another way to promote its sports betting products. Even without live sports for most of 2020, was Barstool’s biggest revenue year to date.
My Cultura, iHeartMedia’s new podcast network showcasing Latinx creators, is building a portfolio of shows covering everything from history to the world of drug trafficking and its ties to political power. Lead Executive Producer Gisselle Bances, a veteran of TV networks including Telemundo, E! and CBS, is helping craft the sound My Cultura.
Since taking the reins of the podcast hosting company Libsyn last year, Laurie Sims has directed a series of steps to bring new capabilities to its platform while improving others. That includes the acquisition of the podcast rep firm AdvertiseCast, the podcast creation platform Auxbus, and the podcast monetization platform Glow.
A year ago Amazon didn’t even make the list. This year it owns Wondery and recently swallowed up Art19 as the ecommerce giant spent millions of dollars to add spoken word content to the Amazon Music app. Amazon General Manager of Podcasts Kintan Brahmbhatt is directing the effort.
The past year has seen conservative talk podcasting explode, and no host may be in a better position to be benefit more than The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro. While his politics-driven The Ben Shapiro Show podcast is a hit with about 15 million downloads a month, the company he co-founded has expanded to offer a lineup with shows like Candance and its new daily news series The Morning Wire.
Since 2019 when Spotify bought Anchor, the company Michael Mignano co-founded six years earlier, he has served as Head of Creation Platform for Spotify as its reach has grown. It is estimated by Listen Notes that more than half of all podcasts are now hosted by Anchor.
USG Audio, the podcast-focused unit of Universal Studio Group, this spring put Scott Nemes in charge of the unit’s outreach to the podcast community. As Executive VP of Creative Acquisitions, Nemes leads Universal’s efforts to secure the rights to podcasts and other intellectual property that can be turned into television and film projects.
As podcasting has become a bigger part of Spotify, Dawn Ostroll’s role in the company has only grown too. She is now overseeing all the content on the podcast and music streaming app, and is also in charge of growing advertising revenue.
Cadence13, the Audacy-owned podcast studio, continues to be one of the first stops when big names are looking to launch a show or bring their brand to audio. Under Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer and founding partner, Cadence13 has signed hosts as diverse as all-time NBA scorer Carmelo Anthony, presidential historian John Meacham, and musician Demi Lovato.
When a big-named talent in Hollywood makes a move into podcasting, the odds are good that UTA’s Oren Rosenbaum had a hand in it. The podcast agent leads a group of agents that work with podcast creators to launch and grow franchises and extend them across platforms into traditional, new, and experiential media.