In the past week, both Midroll and WNYC announced major podcast festivals on opposite coasts: LA-based Midroll’s Now Hear This festival will take place in New York, while WNYC’s Werk It, a podcast festival focused on women, will take place at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Later this month, Gimlet, the venture-backed podcast startup from Alex Blumberg, will present its very first live podcast at the Bell House, in Brooklyn; even podcast newcomers Spotify, which announced its first slate of original shows this week, is putting on live events for shows like AudioHQ’s recently launched scripted podcast Bronzeville.
While most of these events are powered by headlining talent like Midroll’s Marc Maron or WNYC’s 2 Dope Queens, producers have learned that live shows are a great venue to pilot a series. WNYC, for example, has begun using the Greene Space, a small theater across the street from its lower Manhattan headquarters, as a place for podcast trials and workshops, including newly launched shows from Michelle Buteau.
Events have all kinds of marketing benefits too. For proven shows, the road isn’t a bad place for advertisers, either. While a lot of the live shows mounted by established acts are sponsored via package deals that also include ads that run during regular episodes, a handful of brand sponsors, including Acura and Delta, have signed on to sponsor live podcasts and podcasters’ tours. Several other direct response advertisers, like Casper and Mack Weldon, have signed on to sponsor everything from one-off shows to multi-day festivals.
It’s not clear when, or if, live podcasts become a major money-maker unto themselves. But for the rest of this year, we’re going to see more and more publishers devour the details and using them to their full advantage.