Consumers might be willing to pay for Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime to watch TV, but they’re not as willing to shell out cash for subscription podcast apps.
Although some podcasts can create their own subscriptions, most podcasts are distributed for free and a majority of listeners in the United States use Apple’s built-in app on iPhones or streaming services, such as Spotify, to listen. their favorite shows.
However, the Wondery podcast production network, home to hits like “Dirty John” and “Doctor Death,” believes it has enough exclusive and exciting content that people will be willing to use – and even pay for -. a dedicated listening application.
“We want to serve our most passionate fans and bring that Hollywood-style storytelling experience into the app,” said Jen Sargent, COO of Wondery.
Wondery Plus, launched in July, is a freemium service available on iOS and Android that provides access to approximately 12,000 episodes of Wondery content. The ad-supported version is free or listeners can pay $ 4.99 per month ($ 34.99 per year) for an ad-free experience and get exclusive content and early access to shows. Also available with a subscription is a feature called binge mode whereby Wondery Plus releases all episodes of a series at the same time, rather than once a week.
Much of Wondery’s content involves serial storytelling, and die-hard fans are willing to pay to binge on a season all at once, Sargent said.
“General market apps, while quite good, did not do our content justice or present it in a way that was easy to find or consume,” she said.
Launching an app also gives Wondery a direct connection with listeners. Podcast publishers – and by extension, advertisers – are often in the dark about the performance of content and ads on third-party distribution platforms.
“Having an app allows us to better understand and serve listeners,” Sargent said. “There will eventually be an opportunity to give clients a better understanding of audience behavior and get better attribution for our shows.”
Sargent declined to share user numbers, but noted that Wondery Plus subscribers doubled weekly or bi-weekly, and 40% of free listeners end up subscribing.
She spoke to Ad Exchanger.
AdExchanger: Subscription podcast apps are a tough sell. Why is now the right time to launch this?
JEN SARGENT: Listening to podcasts increases during COVID-19. The market has become mature enough to support multiple sources of income.
We are approaching our fifth anniversary in January. We have an established brand and enough content for our customers to support a subscription business. We have a strong pipeline and enough audience to tap into the market.
I think we can live with [a platform such as] Spotify. They have been a great partner and will continue to be. This is an organized experience for Wondery content. It’s like Disney Plus is living side by side with Netflix. Spotify’s app is optimized for Spotify content. Wondery Plus is for Wondery listeners.
What can listeners find on Wondery Plus?
The majority of the content is our originals. We hear from listeners that not only does this seem like enough content, but that they really enjoy the experience.
The navigation and user interface is more like a TV streaming app than a podcast app. Below the hero is content based on your listening behavior. You can keep listening, easily see new episodes of shows you love, and it’s easy to access passion points like real crime, comedy, or sports.
Do you do exclusive shows to generate subscriptions?
We’re not right now, but in some cases we’re making Wondery Plus the only place where some shows are ad-free.
Ultimately, we’ll need content exclusively behind the Wondery paywall. Subscribers who don’t want to wait a week will either have early access or excessive access to our miniseries.
But most of our content will be available [both] ad-supported and behind the paywall.
Will you continue to distribute the Wondery shows on other podcast platforms?
It is important to distribute on many platforms. We don’t expect most listening to happen through Wondery Plus. But we have the opportunity to super serve our fan base, learn more about our listeners, and get extra perks that we can’t on third-party platforms.
What is the link between Wondery Plus and your TV strategy?
We see Wondery content moving to other forms of media. We have 16 optional projects for television. Four were ordered in series. We see the lines blur on the origin of the stories.
Production returns this fall, so we will be bringing shows to market as early as fall 2021. We want to offer more underserved content and different voices, such as educational content for children or meditation podcasts.
What are your growth plans for Wondery Plus?
It is a rapidly growing market in the United States, but also in the world. This month, we’re launching the app in international English-speaking markets, and then expanding into non-English speaking markets. There is a high demand for premium content everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a year or two our international numbers far exceed the United States.
Outside of the United States, podcasting is supported more by direct monetization, such as tipping hosts, payment for different access, or e-commerce. Part of that will travel to the United States.
This interview has been edited and condensed.