Politico Turns to Panoply for Listeners and Sponsors

Politico announced earlier today that it has joined forces with Panoply, Slate Magazine’s podcasting network, to stream its podcasts Off Message and Nerdcast.

In the announcement Politico’s President, Poppy MacDonald, said, “this partnership will make it easier for our listeners to tune in each week, as well as for new listeners to discover our compelling content.” She added that partnering with Panoply will help Politico “ensure [it’s] well-positioned to continue to grow our podcast audience.”

The aim of this partnership is likely two-fold. As MacDonald says, Politico wants to expand its podcast listenership, which is also likely to attract more sponsors. Panoply is uniquely positioned to help with both goals.

Both of the Politico podcasts in question are political talk shows. Off Message is a personality-driven interview show hosted by Glenn Thrush, Politico’s chief political correspondent. Launched in April 2015, the show has featured a variety of political A-listers, from Barney Frank, to Ben Carson, and Hillary Clinton (Donald Trump has been notably absent). Nerdcast is a political roundtable with Politico reporters Kristin Roberts, Charlie Mahtesian, Hadas Gold, Scott Bland, and Eli Stokols. The podcast loosely revolves around timely political topics, data trends, and listener calls.

Panoply has a lot of experience with political podcasts like these, and both of the Politico programs resemble existing shows in their network. Even though it is older, Off Message recalls Vox’s The Ezra Klein Show, which Panoply distributes, in its breadth and format. Nerdcast parallels Panoply-produced-and-distributed podcast Political Gabfest, which is currently in its tenth year. The podcast network also distributes several other well-ranked and well-regarded political programs, including Vox’s The Weeds and Politically Reactive. Panoply’s vast political podcast know-how makes them an ideal match for Politico.

But while the similarities between Panoply and Politico make a compatible partnership, the differences make the cooperation necessary. Politico’s podcasts struggle with low listenership, and have yet to crack the iTunes’ top 150 shows. This puts them behind many other political podcasts, including shows from Vox, The Washington Post, and NPR. Panoply has dozens of podcasts within that top 150, making it an experienced player in drawing listeners to its programs.

The biggest difference, however, traces back to the money: Panoply shows have sponsors. Politico shows don’t. Or at least, not yet.

Though it is owned by Slate Magazine, Panoply distributes podcasts from many media organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and and Sports Illustrated. Panoply is able to attract these prominent media partners because they have pre-established relationships with advertisers. Panoply not only offers media outlets the opportunity to outsource podcast distribution, but gives partner organizations access to advertisers who are looking to sponsor podcasts. In this sense, Panoply is not just a distributor for podcasts, it is also an agent for the companies that create them, brokering relationships with potential sponsors that help build a bottom line.

Both Off Message or Nerdcast are free to download, so the sponsorships Panoply could attract would be the only way for the programs to turn a profit. Although Politico is not in any way reliant on these podcasts for revenue, professional-grade, long-running shows certainly demand dedicated resources of their own.

Panoply’s homepage lists two calls to action for those looking to dive into the podcasting world: “Partner with Us” and “Advertise with Us.” In this case, it is likely that with this new partnership, we will see Politico choose the first option to get access to the second.

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