Rachel Corbett on building Nova’s podcast offering for current listener habits

Nova Entertainment's head of podcasts & digital content, Rachel Corbett, chats podcast strategy, differentiation and partnership opportunities with Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson.

Nova Entertainment is in the business of being “where the listeners are” rather than attempting to shape listener habits, head of podcasts and digital content, Rachel Corbett, tells Mumbrella.

Corbett has been in her role since September of 2020, and caught up with Mumbrella following the official launch of the Nova Entertainment Podcast Network (NEPN) last week.

Its launch is off the back of a steady stream of podcast announcements over recent weeks and months, with Nova Entertainment ramping up its original and in-house productions.

This year the slate has expanded with titles including drag superstars Courtney Act and Vanity with ‘Brenda, Call Me!’, Angie Kent’s ‘Angie Tries It’, and just this week with Harley Breen and Nikki Briton’s ‘Mates Talking About Stuff’.

The expansion of original titles is certainly in line with moves by other radio and audio networks, with increasing volumes of original content a sure sign of investment increasing across the Australian podcast industry so far in 2021.

Nova Entertainment head of podcasts & digital content Rachel Corbett

Where Nova differs from competitors comes is with a ‘no worries’ attitude when it comes to whether consumers download the Nova app, or listen on externals like Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

“It’s really hard to change listener behaviour,” Corbett says. “We’re not here to change listener behaviour. We want to be where the listeners are.

“We want to make sure that however you like to listen, we are there with content for you.”

While the likes of Australian Radio Network (with its iHeartPodcast Network partnership), and particularly Southern Cross Austereo (with its new LiSTNR app) are pushing their apps via live reads and audio ads, Corbett isn’t the least bit concerned about Nova’s app downloads.

“We have an app and that is an experience that we offer, but we don’t expect that everybody’s going to come and listen on our app.

“[With the app] we just want to provide a different environment for them to listen with different experiences where we can have everything there. And that can enable discovery to some of the other things that they might not know about.

“But that is [just] one option for us in a lot of different listing options, because, from our perspective, people are going to listen to how they like to listen.”

The increased investment for its in-house podcasts comes after Nova cut ties with podcast partner Acast last year. Corbett says the end of that relationship was, to some extent, about taking back control, both in terms of talent and commercial opportunities.

“The first original I dropped was in September last year [and since then] we’ve been working hard behind the scenes on pushing out the content for this year.

“The decision to move away [from Acast] and start creating their own original content… It was about having a bit more flexibility, commercially, to be able to integrate brands in a deeper way.

“Now we’re the ones working with the talent, and previously there were some limitations with that. We just had less control.”

The reason for bringing together both Nova’s original and in-house productions, as well as licensed material under the NEPN banner, was also about having more direct power over partnerships and monetisation options

“We sort of wanted to do our own original content, because they’re our ideas, it’s our content.

“It’s really good for us to have that content that we own, and can monetise. We’ve got a lot more flexibility around what we can do with that content.

“And it was also about getting that balance right. Between internal originals, which is what I look after, and then licensed podcasts, which are the partners that we work with that we think will fit into the network more broadly.”

Nova Entertainment digital commercial director Kane Reiken

Nova Entertainment digital commercial director, Kane Reiken, says the NEPN has significant commercial implications for partners and marketers, telling Mumbrella it was “built for brands”.

“Our customers have told us they don’t want a siloed approach to audio. With a fast-changing landscape, we’re excited to help our customers realise the total audio opportunity, guiding them to ensure they see clear business results,” he says.

“Nova Entertainment Podcast Network is built for brands, and a strong complement to Australia’s leading broadcast network to deliver integrated audio campaigns.

“Podcasts are clearly a potent environment for brands, driven through the intimacy and stickiness of the medium, the mindset of the listeners to be informed and entertained, and the strong personal connection with the host.

“The NEPN offers advertisers the largest stable of accessible talent, much loved identities, influencers, and experts to create content that builds community, unlocks brand integration opportunities, and enables impactful conversations with audiences.”

So how does Corbett and the team go about choosing podcasts to add to the slate? Well, despite the number of titles dropping recently, she says it’s not a numbers game.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to necessarily to make every single podcast that’s ever lived internally,” Corbett laughs.

“There’s great shows that we think will work within the network that are already there with established audiences, we look to partner with. Then we create our in-house originals.”

Most of the in-house productions are developed internally, though Corbett admits that she does get “a few pitches”. For her, it’s more about going out and finding the right talent to make an idea work.

“All of the shows that we’ve created have been developed internally, there’s been some key talent where we’ve wanted to work with them. And so we’ll come to them and sort of develop an idea.

“It’s about looking to see what kind of talent we want to work with and then just developing ideas internally, that fit into those verticals.”

The commercial side of the equation is just as important as getting involved with the right content creators according to Corbett. “For me, I’m always thinking, ‘how does it work commercially?”

“So my first port of call, when I came on board was really about what gaps do I see commercially? And then how can we build those kinds of gaps in terms of the content that we’re creating?

“When you’re making in-house content, you have that flexibility, you can say, ‘okay, these are the holes that we need to fill, This is what it’d be great now’. You can make those kinds of decisions.

“Whereas if it’s not internal and you’re not making that, then you’re thinking, ‘can we find a show that exactly matches?”

Nova’s podcasting offering now sits under the NEPN

Corbett has been in the business of podcasts for a while, longer than most. She founded podcasting school Podschool, and was previously the head of podcasts at Mamamia. Her experience adds an experienced hand, industry standing and clout to the NEPN.

She’s relishing the challenge, not only of building a growing team around her, but also of holding off those who’ve joined the podcasting ‘bandwagon’ in recent years.

“Nova is an audio business, it always has been. So there is that depth of experience there, and really the idea of building out the digital content team and the podcast team – specifically getting me on board, and then hiring a team of people with that experience in podcasting specifically – is making sure that we have the right people who understand how to create that content.

“Because everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon, but a lot of people realise once they do, they don’t really understand what they’re doing. [They don’t know] what the listener wants, how to create content for them, that is for a podcast-specific audience.

“Then it’s very easy to fail at that. So I think getting people in the door that really knew what they were doing in this specific medium was really important for Nova.”

Reiken adds: “We have been market leaders in Podcasting for over four years now. That experience and understanding over this time, has steered us in purposefully building a network that intersects the audience and advertiser appetite to provide real business results for our clients.

“We wanted to expand on our capabilities and bring greater precision to our product and content offering, to focus exclusivity on the podcasts that could support the depth of creativity and integration the market has come to expect from us.”


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.