If a podcast company fails in the woods…

Ok, I’ll work on this subject line but bear with me folks, I think this might be a good one. This morning I woke up, wiped the impending doom from my eyes and opened up my email before the sun hit the sky, per usual. I like to stay aware of news in the podcast industry, most of which makes me think to myself “oh these quirky unregulated colonizers are at it again” but this morning was a little different. A company called Pacific Content announced they are closing their doors and it took me aback, like whoa.

You are probably thinking, who the hell are those guys well let me fill you in. They are the biggest branded podcast agency in the space. Their client roster looks like a list of all of the places I am banned from, just kidding they love me too. But seriously, I cannot fathom not making payroll every week with a client roster like theirs. It’s like a dream 100 list; Ford, Adobe, Shopify, Charles Schwab, Slack etc etc. The list goes on and that’s just whats on their homepage.

Logos of various prominent companies and organizations, including Ford, Facebook, Atlassian, Slack, Morgan Stanley, and Dell Technologies, with the text "We do it with the world's strongest brands.

Short list of companies working with Pacific

You know I love a good branded podcast and will stand behind them 100% but not in the same way these guys did, and maybe for once I got something right. I think PC hedged their bets on big download numbers, brand awareness and brand loyalty but I am not 100% sure. A lot of companies played the quantity over quality game and lost, so the companies that went the quantity AND quality route probably took a beating. People really dont understand how much time, money, effort and wo-manpower goes into creating beautiful sonically landscaped pieces of content. That super chill coffee shop background noise on your favorite NPR podcast costs around 60k an episode and is produced by people with actual education and certifications in audio engineering.
Co-founder Steve Pratt said: “Pacific Content has a phenomenal team of podcasting talent and a great client roster and I hope they all find new homes soon. I will always be exceptionally grateful to all the people who took a chance to come and work with us – it was the best team and the best culture I’ve ever been part of.”

Initially this statement confused me but then I realized, you would only be willing to say goodbye to all of your “heavy-hitters” aren’t actually heavy hitters after all. When the industry, and Apple, made changes to the auto download feature it wreaked havoc on the podcast download numbers and consequently, the contracts attached to them. It was a blood bath, and apparently still is. Im speculating of course, but Im willing to bet the two things are related.

I think these companies confused brand loyalty with brand obsession. I absolutely love Ghirardelli brownies, I’d cut a man at a family picnic to get not even the last one. But Im not about to listen to a podcast produced by chocolatiers, I mean cmon. Ill buy every chocolate option of that brand but I will never listen to a podcast from them. Hot take, they would be better served with an internal podcast that never sees the light of a public RSS feed.

Same goes for Slack. I love me some Slack, my team maybe not so much but that’s not the point. Im never going to listen to a Slack podcast, Im not that depressed, yet. Now, a 10 episode special edition podcast on how to make the most out of Slack, or a 3 part series on how to make your employees not hate Slack, that’s got some legs. Probably not a lot of traction on the new & noteworthy section of iTunes but probably more valuable. Worth the time spent for Slack sure, worth the investment from companies like PC, definitely not.

In an era of people waking up to corporate greed, profits and overall destruction of life as we know it, bear with me Im feeling a little doomsday-y, the last thing most of us want to do at the end of the day is to cozy up to the fake fireplace and load up a new episode of the Slack podcast. Kill me now. Quite frankly, Id rather clean my bathroom or file my taxes.

But before we fire up the torches and head to Silicon Valley lets talk about the real MVP of the branded podcast world, or as the kids say the GOAT. It’s not some massive corporation, its you. The small business owner who understands that the value of a branded podcast is the relationships you forge with your guests, aka ideal clients. Business owners who leverage the open rate of cold emails with podcast invitations understand that Nike ain’t got nothing on them, in fact I bet you know who wishes their ROI was able to just do it.

I’m not going to lie, reading this news this morning was a little bit like getting a visit from the ghost of Christmas past, or future, or whichever one was the least liked. I mean, we are a branded podcast agency too so of course this hit home. I never want to see any of the homies lose their jobs, whether I know them or not. If you are in the podcast business we are homies because the struggle is real. But I also know that castles made of sand will eventually slip into the sea, thanks to Jimmy Hendrix for the assist on that one. But really, where’s the lie?

Let this be a reminder that podcasting as a business development tool is an excellent resource for you but it has nothing to do with downloads and for most production companies, downloads pay the bills. If you are a small business owner and you need to fill your pipeline this quarter a podcast is an extremely viable option for you. 15 targeted interviews can bring in more revenue than some of your best sales people, especially if that’s you. I know how much some of you hate sales, we will work on that later. However, I also know how good some of your are talking passionately about your business and that’s what closes deals and creates relationships with your ideal clients. On the other hand, I highly doubt that those big corporate podcasts got more clients from their podcasts, Im willing to bet a whole lot of unemployed people that it didn’t.

Don’t let news like Pacific Content lead you down the “I knew podcasts were a phase” path because it’s not. Ive got a few clients who would be happy to tell you how much business their podcast has generated this year, with a handful of downloads. I’ve said it before and Ill say it again, downloads don’t close deals, relationships do. If your sales cycles have slowed or even worse, stopped, lets talk. I bet 15 mins on the phone with me will renew your hope in closing more deals this year. I’ve got the formula to make it work, too bad Audible didnt call me…ahem.

Molly “Will Work For Audiobooks” Ruland


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Molly Ruland

"Listening is the Revolution"