Best Media podcasts target women, attract millions of downloads – The Washington Post

Best Media podcasts target women, attract millions of downloads - The Washington Post

Commentary

When Pia Baroncini, an influencer and creative director of fashion label LPA, decided to launch a podcast at the start of the 2020 pandemic, there was only one company she wanted as a partner: Dear Media. “Dear Media’s ability to understand that the podcast host is a creator and make money from that angle is really its biggest draw,” she said.

Now, two years later, she considers her podcast “Everything is Best” – in which she offers conversations on issues such as parenting, pregnancy, financial planning, entertainment – a huge success. She credits her partnership with Dear Media.

Since launching in 2018, Dear Media has quietly become one of the most prominent names in women’s media. The podcast network’s social media channels reach a combined audience of more than 120 million. Dear Media’s shows were downloaded more than 200 million times by 2022, and the company has launched more than 50 lines of influencer merchandise and doubled annual sales in each of the past four years.

The brand has become ubiquitous in women’s spaces online. It’s hard to scroll through TikTok or Instagram without seeing a Dear Media podcast video clip. “You see a clip on TikTok and you immediately know it’s Dear Media,” says TikTok Corporate star Natalie, who has nearly half a million followers on the app.

Podcasting is expected to be a $94.88 billion industry by 2028, and major players including Spotify and Apple have acquired or commissioned a slew of high-profile, exclusive shows. And the growth of platforms like Anchor, which allows anyone to create a podcast, has spawned a flood of homegrown shows. But as the economy shrinks and this media industry enters what podcast critic and analyst Nicholas Quah calls a “podcast winter,” competition is getting fierce. That’s where Dear Media comes in.

“[There’s] generally a sense of pessimism in the podcast business,” he said. “I haven’t seen as many attempts to build out a female-focused multimedia lifestyle brand that has a distinct podcast presence like Dear Media. The big question with a network of that size is whether they have the downloads.” This means that in order to survive, Dear Media needs to keep making shows and expanding its audience.

Dear Media seems to have hit upon a winning formula: using podcasts as a springboard for female influencers to build multimillion dollar brands. The Dear Media network hosts 63 shows, mostly chat shows (where hosts and guests have casual conversations) with dozens more in development, constantly bringing in new talent. The popular series of shows includes ‘Not Skinny But Not Fat’, a pop culture show hosted by the influencer Amanda Hirsch“Back to the Beach,” hosted by reality TV stars Kristin Cavallari and Stephen Colletti, who both starred in the MTV show ‘Laguna Beach’, and “Absolutely not”, a comedy podcast hosted by the actress and comedian Heather McMahan.

“They’ve created this network of powerful women who all have very interesting channels,” Baroncini said. “…We’re all constantly doing pod swaps with each other.”

Last year, Dear Media launched its first limited series, “Summer of Gold,” hosted by retired figure skater Michelle Kwan and co-produced with Togeth+r, a women’s sports media company. It tells the oral history of the 1996 Olympics when the women’s sports teams won gold. And this year, the network also introduced its first fiction show, called “Bone, Marry, Bury,” starring Sarah Hyland, about romance and murder. Dear Media also announced a show featuring the “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross dubbed “I Am America.” It features stories that showcase and “transcend” everyday Americans[s] all the divisions we have in this country, reads an announcement for the show.

While Dear Media itself has managed to stay out of the online drama often synonymous with the influencer industry, it hasn’t shied away from controversial talent. In Octoberthe company recruited Claudia Oshry and Jackie Oshry Weinreb, daughters of far-right extremists Pamela Gellerto host a show, despite being Claudia Oshry involved in resistance for holding views similar to her mother’s, such as repeatedly making racial slurs and downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.

Dear Media was founded as a joint venture between the entrepreneur Michael Bosstick, who is the company’s CEO, and Raina Penchansky, the founder of Digital Brand Architects (DBA), the leading lifestyle influencer management firm, which social media helps make money and expand their brands. DBA’s primacy in the field was reinforced when the management company was acquired by United Talent Agency in 2019.

The company came to fruition after Michael Bosstick and his wife, Lauryn Bosstick, a hugely popular lifestyle influencer known by her name, @theskinnyconfidential, produced a successful podcast built on her brand called “The Skinny Confidential Him & Her.” The show featured candid conversations with entrepreneurs, content creators, and authors.

While their show was a success—the Bossticks have produced over 500 episodes, never missed an episode a week in six years, and amassed over 150 million downloads—they struggled to find a podcast network. They didn’t feel any of the leading networks took them seriously or were interested in serving a mostly female audience.

The Bossticks recognized that numerous influential women with huge online followings, including lifestyle content creators, reality stars and entrepreneurs, wanted to start podcasts but were either fired or greatly undervalued by the male-dominated podcast industry. So they teamed up with Penchansky, whose company had a record of working with major female content creators, and Dear Media was born.

“That’s when we realized how many other female-focused shows weren’t getting the attention or resources they deserved either,” said Michael Bosstick. “The charts of major podcast platforms were all male dominated and very few women were represented in the way that we both felt was appropriate. We had worked with and spoken to so many incredible women and thought it was time to even out the charts a bit.

What Dear Media recognized most was that the media industry was shifting from traditional brands to online creators. “The idea of ​​building a platform by makers, for makers, targeting female audiences looking for opportunities beyond audio was born,” said Michael Bosstick.

Each Dear Media brand appeals to a specific type of woman or interest. Dear Media shows cover topics such as fashion, entertainment and pop culture news, dating, marriage, pregnancy, the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, and more. While the network does feature men, they largely appeal to the company’s predominantly female audience.

“Consumers see Dear Media podcasts as a tool for real life,” said Siffat Haider, an influencer and the founder of wellness brand Arrae, who hosts “The Dream Bigger Podcast.” “The [listener] finds many Dear Media shows relatable no matter where they are in their lives. Whether it’s a parenting podcast or career podcasts, there are a lot of real, real-life uses.

“The hope is that you might come to Dear Media for a comedy show, but then decide you want to hear a parenting show as well. Or maybe you come in to listen to a business show and discover that you also like a pop culture show,” said Michael Bosstick. “Our goal is to create a broad enough offering that can appeal to everyone during the week and day, as well as different moods throughout the week.”

Unlike other podcast companies that have generic equipment and bland studio spaces, Dear Media has built Instagram and YouTube-ready studio spaces in West Hollywood and Austin. The spaces have become a hub for influencers and celebrities who come in as guests or to host their own shows, just to sit in front of the Dear Media brand microphones. Dear Media branding is applied to each show’s thumbnail and the Dear Media name is shouted at the beginning of each episode of each show on the network. That branding has enabled Dear Media to achieve a level of brand awareness that other networks struggled to achieve.

“Branding is something that’s at the forefront of any business conversation,” said Paige Port, president of Dear Media. “What does the brand look like on album covers, in the studio, when it comes to distribution. It’s something that’s become really relatable, and when you see content on other platforms, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a Dear Media show.’”

While Dear Media uses podcasts as a launchpad for the talent it works with, the network’s success stems from its ability to help influencers build mini-media empires around them. “We think of all shows as brands in their own right, and when you think of them as brands rather than just audio channels, you can do so much more,” said Michael Bosstick, citing opportunities such as merchandise, live events, touring, product lines, streaming and IP. “This is a focus that many of our competitors are unable or unwilling to maintain.”

For the talent, working with Dear Media opens up monetization opportunities not often available in traditional podcasting. “Why would I have a random advertiser on the podcast that I don’t actually use?” Baroncini said. “I wanted to work with brands that are part of my life and can integrate seamlessly with my other social media channels.”

Michael Bosstick favors sponsored episodes, where guests pay thousands of dollars to appear on a show, similar to how influencers would produce sponsored content for brands on their social feeds. The practice is common in the online creator space, but in podcasting it traditionally only happens behind the scenes. Bosstick puts it out in the open. “The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast” costs between $20,000 and $40,000 per sponsored interview, according to Bloomberg News. “We always formulate it as: there are no topics of conversation; you cannot submit questions; the only thing is only your brand is listed,” he told Bloomberg. And sponsored episodes account for only 1 to 3 percent of Dear Media’s total programming, he said.

The company also produces consumer products. Dear Media has incubated The Skinny Confidential, Bosstick’s original lifestyle brand, and Woo More Play, a sexual wellness toy company. The company also has invested in and helped to grow a supplement brand, a line of vegan and gluten-free cookie dough, a humidifier company, a line of sparkling wine cocktails, and a line of natural remedies. It also runs a thriving trading business.

Chat shows remain Dear Media’s bread and butter, but the company is rapidly expanding into new formats. In 2020, best media took in $8 million on Series A investment tell Forbes that the company intended to use that money to expand its programming. “We’re focused on adding more diversity, not just in the type of women we represent, but also in the type of content,” Bosstick said at the time.

In November, Dear Media introduced “dailys,” five- to 10-minute segments aimed at the Dear Media audience. Port calls them “digestible, snackable episodes that help people start or end their day.” The company hired a team to focus on the product.

“You can listen while you do the dishes, fold the laundry, you can walk or work,” said Port. “It’s content that doesn’t take up much of your day and can be added to programs you already listen to.”

Leave a Reply