SiriusXM’s Adam Sachs on why Staff Coco and different podcasts are exhibiting up on the radio

That is Sizzling PodThe Verge’s e-newsletter about podcasting and the audio trade. Join right here for extra.

It’s solely Tuesday, and it’s already been a packed week for podcast information. Shortly earlier than hitting publish on this subject of Sizzling Pod, I obtained the information that virtually each late-night discuss present host in America is teaming up with Spotify to launch a restricted podcast sequence in regards to the Hollywood strike. The 5 hosts: Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver, have all had their exhibits on pause since Could as a result of Writers Guild strike. Strike Drive 5 will launch on Spotify and different platforms on August thirtieth, and the plan is for the restricted sequence to run for no less than 12 episodes. 

Notably, the proceeds from the present will go to the late-night sequence’ staffers, a lot of whom have been unemployed for a couple of months now. As is now normal with Spotify, Strike Drive 5 received’t be an unique podcast — it’ll be out there on different podcast gamers. So will a brand new Spotify Authentic with Trevor Noah, which is because of be launched later this yr. The present shall be hosted on Spotify’s Megaphone, and Spotify will function unique gross sales accomplice. 

The unique isn’t lifeless, although: on Monday, Wondery introduced a take care of Dr. Seuss Enterprises to launch a slate of authentic podcasts that includes IP from the long-lasting youngsters’s guide creator. The primary podcast, The Cat in the Hat Cast, will launch solely on Wondery Plus and Wondery Plus Youngsters on the Apple Podcasts app. Exclusivity is normally unhealthy for podcasts — however mother and father additionally are usually prepared to pay for a premium membership in an effort to entry ad-free programming for his or her youngsters. 

The announcement of Strike Drive 5 is unusually good timing, given the Q&A I’m that includes in at present’s Sizzling Pod. Learn on for my chat with a longtime chief within the comedy podcast area.

SiriusXM’s Adam Sachs on podcasts as a mode of distribution

Final week at Podcast Motion, I caught up with Adam Sachs — the senior vp of leisure, comedy, and podcasts programming at SiriusXM. Sachs served because the president of Staff Coco up till March of this yr, when the satellite tv for pc radio large reduce 475 jobs as a part of a restructuring.

SiriusXM, which acquired Staff Coco in Could 2022, now needs to streamline all of its audio programming throughout leisure and discuss — no matter distribution technique. Meaning podcasts airing on SiriusXM’s satellite tv for pc radio channels. Staff Coco already has its personal 24/7 SiriusXM channel, which it launched final November. I spoke to Sachs about what radio can supply podcast creators, together with former late-night discuss present host Conan O’Brien. 

This transcript has been evenly edited for readability and size.

What’s your perspective on taking up the leisure, comedy, and programming division at SiriusXM? What are your ideas in regards to the route of the programming for the remainder of the yr?

So I came to visit from Staff Coco once we have been acquired in Could of final yr. So it’s virtually been a yr and a half. For the primary 10 months or so, it was very a lot “let’s hold Staff Coco separate and allow them to function in their very own remoted bubble,” which I believe made lots of sense. SiriusXM was good to not say, “Let’s combine all people instantly.” I believe they wished to keep up some continuity. And likewise to not have folks run out the door after the acquisition — and it was profitable in that sense. 

After which in March of this yr, so like six months in the past, my position did change. The corporate went by way of a full reorganization, actually. Individuals from the Staff Coco crew went and joined the video crew at SiriusXM, or our folks joined their authorized crew. It made sense at that time. We had gotten sufficient time to familiarize ourselves with the group and the totally different departments and totally different personalities and the way in which the features work internally. 

Since I took over this position in March, there was positively a studying curve. The position contains podcast programming, which incorporates Stitcher, Earwolf, 99% Invisible, all these manufacturers — in addition to Staff Coco. For that stuff, the educational curve was brief. Clearly, lots of these companies are near Staff Coco. But in addition, beforehand, I used to be the CEO of Midroll Media, which we sold to E.W. Scripps, and Midroll Media in the end grew to become part of Stitcher. 

So, in lots of methods, after I took this job, it was like reuniting with that previous — it was very round. It concerned reuniting with lots of my outdated colleagues and lots of the expertise I used to work with. I’m on a panel tomorrow morning [at Podcast Movement] with June Diane Raphael of How Did This Get Made. And it’s like, I labored on the present 10 years in the past when it was part of Earwolf. It’s a lot larger than it was after I was working it. But it surely’s acquainted and simple to wrap my head round. 

Radio is one other part to the job. And that’s the place the educational curve was — it’s actually a enterprise mannequin I didn’t know. I obtained a bit of little bit of an introduction as a result of about six months after the acquisition, we launched Staff Coco Radio. In order that’s Conan O’Brien’s channel. That was my first introduction to how beginning a channel works, how the monetization works, how the prices are allotted, and what a few of the roles are like behind a radio channel. I’ve a very good, fairly senior crew that has helped educate me on the radio facet of the enterprise. 

Can we discuss that transition a bit of extra? We’re seeing type of the reverse of what occurred when public radio began embracing podcasts. What’s the dynamic like now, and what do you envision shifting ahead? 

That’s an enormous a part of my mandate, truly, and that’s why SiriusXM is placing podcasts and discuss radio on demand — it’s as a result of there’s an enormous alternative to succeed in a complete new viewers. To begin with, it’s a fairly disparate viewers. There’s not a ton of overlap between the [general US] podcast viewers and the SiriusXM radio viewers at present. It’s an actual alternative to succeed in incremental audiences if you could find the correct content material.

“SiriusXM is sort of a bunch of little channels which have manufacturers.”

SiriusXM is sort of a bunch of little channels which have manufacturers. And so, for us, we’re this on a case-by-case foundation at this level. We launched Kelly Ripa’s podcast, Let’s Discuss Off Digital camera. And in order that’s a very good match — the sensibility match for radio and Andy Cohen’s radio channel. And so, for us, we thought, let’s reap the benefits of that. After all, we had to ensure Andy Cohen agrees since he oversees [Radio Andy]. 

Staff Coco is an effective case examine as a result of we’ve been taking the present podcasts and placing it on the radio the day that the podcast goes reside. So it was like serving two totally different audiences on the similar time with primarily the identical content material. 

I believe an vital factor we’re determining once we do a brand new take care of expertise is ”what does a holistic partnership appear to be?” It’s not gonna appear to be simply signing you to a podcast or signing you to a [radio program]. It is likely to be extra like, right here’s the podcast part of the partnership, right here’s the radio part. Perhaps it’s simply that we’re rebroadcasting podcasts to radio, however extra seemingly, we’ll determine one thing unique. Like a bonus episode, or one thing reside, that basically lends itself to radio — that we will add to the deal within the package deal. 

For creators, what can including a radio part to their podcast obtain? 

Incremental viewers. Extra direct interplay with followers as a result of the podcast isn’t reside, type of by definition, proper? So the chance to do one thing reside and discuss to your followers and neighborhood immediately is one thing that appeals to lots of creators — and has the potential for extra income. 

I’ve seen many comedians embracing podcasts for the reason that pandemic — and particularly in the course of the Hollywood strike — both as friends or doing their very own present. For somebody like Conan O’Brien, who’s already an enormous title and really, very proficient with interviewing friends, what’s the enchantment of a podcast? What does a podcast supply somebody like him versus an rising star? 

So, with Conan, and I can communicate for him as a result of I’ve heard him say it so many occasions. I imply, he did spend 20 years perfecting his expertise as an interviewer. However one among his massive frustrations with [the late-night show] is that he would have somebody on that he loves, and he would get like six minutes, and it could get interrupted by a band. The interview can be very superficial and normally be pushed by somebody approaching to advertise one thing. And he needed to fill two or three slots each evening. So he wasn’t all the time getting the primary friends he wished to get. The podcast permits him to be very picky about who he talks to and to speak to folks in a longform method, which permits him to get deeper with folks and never really feel rushed to get proper to the purpose. He can flex that interview muscle he’s been constructing over so a few years. 

“The direct connection that listeners get to podcast hosts could be very highly effective.”

And it’s virtually a cliché at this level — however the direct relationship between podcasters and listeners is de facto robust and actually deep. He walks down the road now, and I’ve been there with him, and folks will name out catchphrases from the podcast. The TV present was vital to folks, too — I’m not saying that it wasn’t. However the direct connection that listeners get to podcast hosts could be very highly effective. In the course of the pandemic, we obtained so many messages from folks saying that Conan O’Brien Wants a Good friend was a respite in the course of the darkish occasions. I don’t assume that’s distinctive to that present. What number of occasions have podcasts offered an escape for folks once they have been caught at dwelling or feeling darkish? I believe that just about applies throughout the board. 

You’ll be able to catch the rest of my interview with Sachs in Thursday’s Insider version of Sizzling Pod

What’s a “heavy” consumer within the podcast world?

Certain, a “heavy podhead” feels like one thing that ought to star in its personal horror film. However likelihood is, you in all probability are one. Roughly 1 / 4 (or 22 p.c) of podcast listeners tune in for greater than 5 hours per week, inserting them within the “heavy podhead” class, in line with a YouGov study launched this week on podcast consumption. Whereas 5 hours of podcasts per week could sound like lots to newbies, it’s much less surprising whenever you remember that many hearken to podcasts while doing one thing else — whether or not that be commuting, doing chores, or exercising. If somebody’s day by day commute is roughly half-hour every method, they will simply match into the “heavy podhead” classification. 

Nonetheless, YouGov’s outcomes aren’t too surprising: an Edison Analysis study from 2016 truly discovered a fair higher chunk (29 p.c) of weekly podcast listeners tune in to 5 or extra hours. Whereas the numbers could fluctuate from yr to yr, the findings are constant. Principally, we all know there’s a fraction of podcast listeners with existence that enable them to tune in very regularly. However there’s no signal (no less than within the knowledge) that “heavy” podcast listening is changing into extra widespread yearly. 

Fascinating sufficient, a “heavy podhead” doesn’t even must eat that many particular person exhibits — being a daily listener of two or three weekly podcasts could also be sufficient.  Whereas the size of a mean podcast episode is roughly 41 minutes (in line with a 2019 analysis by Dan Misener), episodes of many chart-topping podcasts run for for much longer. The most recent episode of The Joe Rogan Expertise was two hours and 22 minutes (which is on the sunshine facet for that present). YouTube podcasts can simply run over an hour. This American Life usually places out hour-long episodes, although many are a bit of longer. Whereas The Vergecast has executed shorter episodes, many run effectively over 75 minutes (a June episode that ran for an hour and 38 minutes included a dialogue of our Google Pixel Fold evaluation and Microsoft’s authorized battle with the FTC). 

For some folks, 5 hours is nothing. A author for The Reduce estimated she listened to 35 hours of podcasts per week, and this was again in 2017. After which there are nonstop podcast listeners, which The Washington Publish profiled this week. Taking part in podcasts or one other kind of “background media,” reminiscent of Netflix, YouTube movies, or a stream on Twitch, might help with focus and focus, some listeners discover. Many additionally depend on podcasts as an alternative to day by day social chatter with associates and colleagues. So, some listeners will begin listening to podcasts upon waking up — after which simply hold enjoying episodes all through the day. Whereas it’s unclear how a lot consideration these listeners are paying to the podcasts — they’re seemingly a few of the most loyal followers.