How Pacific is cashing in on podcasting

This week saw Pacific launch another podcast to its already hefty suite, a true crime investigation titled The Rock Star and the Nanny. Mumbrella's Hannah Blackiston speaks to group content and brand director Louisa Hatfield to find out how the publisher is commercialising audio content and where it sits in Pacific's wider strategy.

Pacific currently has 22 podcasts in the works. Some of them, like New Idea Royals, have created entire brands of their own, responding to the interests of hungry royal family fans.

Others, like Get Lippy, have created their own commercial success via sponsorships with big brands like L’Oreal.

This makes newly appointed group content and brand director Louisa Hatfield a very busy woman. Despite just a few months in the role, she’s already working towards lofty commercial targets for the next few years off the back of Pacific’s growing suite of podcasts.

Louisa Hatfield

“I’ve got three or four key strategies for next financial year and 2020, with podcasting being one of them. That’s sort of been my baby, but I’m also highly focused on innovation in print and video strategy moving forward.”

Podcasting has become an important part of the strategy for the second half of FY19, but Louisa says heading into FY20 it will become an enormous part of the Pacific commercial strategy.

With the success the company has already had in the space and an eye to grow its portfolio significantly over the next few months, she says the revenue targets going into FY20 will be lofty, but she’s confident they can be hit if Pacific continues its attitude to audio content.

Unlike the world of print media which can be lumbering and slow to respond to feedback, podcasting is much less laborious and far more agile. Hatfield says this is something Pacific is relying on, and that the publisher has no allegiance to content that isn’t performing as it should.

As part of the audio strategy, Hatfield has been championing the development of a new podcast for every single brand under the Pacific umbrella. Most titles have already delivered on this, with the weekly titles going above and beyond – New Idea has five podcasts live and in development, and Who has three.

With all that new content, there’s guaranteed to be some that don’t strike the right chord with audiences.

“What we’re doing with podcasting is so cost effective that we can have a great idea, we make the podcast, test is against the audience and if it doesn’t work we stop doing that podcast. So for us that means if it’s not hitting thousands in the first few episodes and doesn’t start to get to tens of thousands, then it becomes something we have in our library, but we don’t continue to do further episodes.

“We test on things like frequency – weekly, fortnightly or monthly, testing on different types of descriptions, different headlining, different marketing. We’re ticking all the boxes on everything we should be doing, and with each podcast we get the learnings from it and move on if necessary.

“There’s no shortage of great ideas, so if a podcast isn’t resonating with audience, then we just kill it. We do not muck around. We just say ‘Ok, let’s move away from that, and start with the next.’”

This focus on results is what will drive the revenue targets Hatfield expects to be placed on Pacific’s podcast output in FY20. The company has already had commercial success with some of its titles, beauty podcast Get Lippy is sponsored by international cosmetics brand L’Oreal, and season one of Women’s Health Uninterrupted was sponsored by Samsung.

Indeed, there’s been a lot of discussion recently in the podcasting space about the best way to drive revenue. Podcast success stories to date usually involve independent brands which are able to springboard off their audio output into tours, merchandise and even TV specials. This is harder for a podcast which exists inside a brand like Pacific, and is very much part of a bigger picture rather than an entity on its own. Hatfield is confident that as the publisher continues to find its feet in the space it will develop the best commercial solution.

“[Sponsorship] is just the tip of the iceberg. We have so many clients and agencies excited about the suite that we’re building and the numbers we can deliver. We’re doing two things, we can deliver on huge audiences and also we deliver highly educated women primarily who are engaged in what they’re consuming. They’re highly engaged when they’re listening because it’s an intimate one-on-one experience. So when you get that beautiful read in the middle of the podcast, by the host, that really delivers for the clients,” she says.

“The other thing we can do is we can deliver a whole package. It’s not just the downloads and listens, it can be editorial, online display, native, print ads within the brand. We are truly multi-platform.”

In terms of podcasts taking on their own personas, Hatfield gives the example of New Idea Royals. Already a part of the weekly New Idea print magazine, something Hatfield says significantly drives sales for the title, it also has its own social media platforms, New Idea has a royal correspondent who regularly does the Seven West Media morning circuit, and there’s a podcast. This 360 strategy gives Pacific a highly-engaged audience it can access from a number of different portals and proves what they can deliver, she says.

Identifying a USP is something that’s important to the Pacific podcast strategy. This is something Hatfield takes very seriously – knowing the audience and how each podcast will sit in its suite. She’s pragmatic about not being able to take on the big players in the game, and not expecting to hit the astronomical numbers of News Corp’s The Teacher’s Pet or other large-scale success stories. It’s about delivering content that resonates, creates engaged listeners and is quietly but consistently successful.

Alongside working with brands and bolstering Pacific’s suite with content which is quick and cost-effective to produce, Hatfield is also looking for stories that resonate. On April 8 Pacific launched the latest podcast under the New Idea Investigates banner – The Rock Star and the Nanny. Following the story of the 1991 killing of Penny Hill near Coolah in New South Wales, the investigative podcast may have taken more time and money than some of Pacific’s other outputs, but it’s worth it to tell a story Hatfield is confident will hit a chord with audiences.

“If you can get that powerful emotion and you can get a journalist who can deliver the telling of the story – Mary Ann Harris [the host of The Rock Star and The Nanny] delivered some beautiful interviews and then to be able to edit it together. One of our early learnings was to involve people with the skillset you get from TV. I worked in TV for three years and obviously we have the benefit of Seven West Media, and because telling a podcast story is a lot like telling a documentary you need that. You’re not just doing an interview, you’re cutting and pasting and editing and bringing in different audio and nuggets from news bulletins and so on. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”

Going forward, Pacific is focusing on building its podcast suite and making sure each output is high quality and well received. As we reach the end of the financial year, Hatfield is working towards lofty targets for the next.

“We want to make sure that quality control is a thousand percent, marketing is a thousand percent and then we basically want to commercialise and educate not just our sales teams on how to sell those podcasts, but also agencies and clients on how we can deliver for them both in huge audience numbers but also in highly valued audiences in an environment where they’re so engaged,” she says.

“It’s going to be a really tough revenue and profit target for me and the team, enormously tough. So it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.