Immediate Media have featured numerous times on the shortlists and as winners of categories both for 2020 and 2021’s Publisher Podcast Awards. Olive magazine podcast was the winner of 2021’s Best Sponsored Podcast.
We spoke to Immediate Media’s Head of Podcasts Ben Youatt. He works across the publisher’s whole portfolio of podcasts, including the olive magazine podcast and 2020 winner History Extra. He talked about scaling up the podcast team, facilitating audio operations, and getting to be the ‘engine’ that enables editorial teams to implement their ideas.
Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity:
How the team at Immediate has grown
So before I arrived, there was one technician. His name was Jack Fletcher. He’d been there for a number of years. He was an editor, and he run podcast production studio, and he’d go out on shoots, he’d just manag kit and edits on a weekly basis. And I think around about that time, when I came in, there were probably about four or five different brands that all had different podcasts; some were doing two a week, some were doing one a week. But it was a lot less than what we do now.
Since I came in, we’ve got a much larger team. So we’ve got a team of three editors and some admin support around the business. We’ve scaled things up considerably. On any given week, we probably release now about 20 to 22 episodes a week across various different brands.
That happened gradually over about two years. But hopefully that sets the scene for how much it’s ramped up the last couple years in terms of output.
Ben’s role as producer
I often joke saying, I wear all the hats; I write the theme tunes, I play the theme tunes, I sing the themes…that gag! Typically, my fundamental core purpose at Immediate is just facilitating podcast operations.
I’ve got a team of three editors that could be making sure that they have got their schedule sorted out, making sure that they know what recordings are on, what edits are going to hit their desk this week and making sure that they get their deadlines in. But it’s also talking to the brand teams and working with editorial and trying to kick around ideas for editorial content that relates to the podcast medium.
I’m not an expert when it comes to history, or I’m not an expert when it comes to food, or gardening or anything like that. And I’m always constantly in awe of the editorial teams. They know so much, they are genuine experts in what they do. And I’m just there to be an engine to try and help them do it.
The improvement and evolution of Immediate’s podcasts
Quality is a weird word. Because there’s audio quality, there’s editorial quality, there’s branding, and marketing and consistency. But I think basically, all of those have improved. Every now and again, something will be recorded, and you think, “Oh, my God, how have you done that?!” But it’s about training, and it’s about support, and it’s about staying on top of it and pushing things along.
So we regularly do trainings with different teams. We invest in equipment, we make sure the process is really nailed down and super clear and easy to follow. And the audio quality, I mean, probably 10 years ago, podcasting, even at a commercial publishing level was probably just one person with a recorder going out on location and just sticking a mic in front of someone. Now, there’s such high expectations from an audience level that it has to be really your standard production quality.
When you’re doing as many episodes a week as we are doing, it’s sometimes a little bit difficult to maintain that because you can’t be in 22 different places at once. But we still managed to do 22 episodes a week! Overall just better equipment, better understanding, better training with the teams, and more of a community emphasis within the company.
Where to start with a publisher podcast
That’s always the simple one for me, because going back to the bit where I’m not an expert on any specialist subject, I get to be very objective in that. And it normally just boils down to one simple question, which is, what do you want your show to be? Do you want it to be a super niche thing, that’s a niche within a niche within a niche? You could do food, and then you could do cooking for health, or you could do individual series, you could do one for baking and you could do something on cocktails, you could do something on this and something on that, vegan series etc, which are all things that we’ve done.
Or you could go more general and say, it’s a magazine program. So each episode, we’re going to cover something completely different. One week, it’ll be drinks, the next week, it’ll be travel. And that’s just using food as an example.
You can do this for every single topic, every single medium, do you want it to be broad and chatty and fun and friendly? Do you want it to be a deep dive, you want it to be very personal? Do you want it to be a round table discussion or debate?
So I think once you start to get the broad picture of what the team want, then you can start putting the building blocks into place.
Ben’s involvement in sponsored podcasts
I work with podcasts day in, day out. So from the start, probably when I first started working at Immediate, I didn’t have a lot to do with the commercial side. And that’s grown and grown. Now I have a fairly big hand in a lot of the commercial strategy, or at least I’ll give my input to different teams in terms of how they can sell sponsorships, or which markets they should be looking at, you know, here’s your audience here, this is what you can do there.
Again, it’s just understanding the format and how podcasts work. So you can do a host read, or you could do a sponsored episode, or you could do a sponsored series. It’s just about introducing those ideas into the team.
Some teams might hear those three examples and go “Yep, sounds good to us. We’ll take a lot.” And other teams might go, “Well, we’re happy to do that. But we don’t think that would work for us.” And it’s just about having that dialogue and that relationship with different teams to figure out commercially what are they interested in, what they’re willing to stand behind, where you can adapt the content and how you can structure it.
This year’s Publisher Podcast Award winners will be revealed on April 27th at a live event in London, as well as streamed online. See our tickets page for more details. Entries for next year’s Publisher Podcast Awards will open in September. Think you’ve got what it takes to win an award? Sign up to our mailing list at www.publisherpodcastawards.com