BOTW: Mamamia takes on the podcast giants, marketer legacies; A Very Bad Score
Welcome to the penultimate Best of the Week of 2022, written on a beautiful Saturday morning at Sisters Beach, Tasmania.
Happy Wright Brothers Day. Today’s writing soundtrack: Led Zeppelin IV.
Before, and even during, the pandemic, the rhythm had been for most people in the industry to push through to the last Friday before Christmas, only gearing up again after Australia Day.
This year feels different. I get the sense that a lot of people pulled the pin on the year yesterday. It’s been a long, exhausting year for many. Happy holidays, if yours has already started.
Today’s topics: Mamamia joins the Australian Podcast Ranker, big marketer moves and a badly timed cricket collapse.
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Mamamia joins the ranks
I’ve written previously about how Mamamia is somewhat misunderstood as a business.
Created 15 years ago by Mia Freedman, with the company run by her husband Jason Lavigne, Mamamia led the first wave of blogs that became publishing businesses. Then, around the same time that going global didn’t work out, the company pivoted towards podcasting. It now offers 52 shows, all under the Mamamia brand.
When I wrote about Mamamia a year ago, I said I wished the organisation would sign up for the Australian Podcast Ranker so we could understand its audience on a level playing field with the rest of the audio industry. That wish came true this week.
In November, Mamamia had three titles in the top ten Australian made podcasts.
Mamamia Outloud, featuring Freedman along with a roster of other Mamamia journalists, is - based on the ranker - Australia’s third biggest podcast, reaching more than half a million monthly listeners.
As a publisher, Mamamia is seventh overall, coming in ahead of the big dogs at Nine and Nova Entertainment.
In podcast economics, that places Mamamia nicely for show sponsorship revenue. However, I wonder whether Mamamia remains subscale when it comes to the more marginal network sales. That’s still a two horse race between Listnr and iHeart.
Southern Cross Austereo’s Listnr has been aggressive in signing sales partnerships with other partners, including Schwartz Media, Stitcher, Wondery and NBCUniversal. Not a month goes by without the company announcing a new representation deal. You need to aggregate to deliver targeted demographics at scale as a programmatic buy.
That Listnr network stretches to nearly 6.5m monthly listeners and 24.2m monthly downloads.
ARN’s iHeart podcast network reaches slightly fewer monthly listeners - 5.8m and actually delivers slightly more downloads - 24.6m.
After Listnr and iHeart, there’s some drop off before third place Nova Entertainment, which reps not only the output of Nova’s radio operation but also News Corp (which also appears as a duplicate in the ranking in its own right as you’ll see above).
The only other podcast players to deliver more than 1m monthly listeners are Mamamia and Nine.
With Mamamia now on the ranker, that still leaves a major player missing - the ABC.
I understand that the ABC has decided to sign up. There are no idealogical objections to being part of the system, but the technicalities of tracking its audience via its own ABC Listen app means it will be some time next year before it happens.
It’s sensible for the ABC to do so. Those who defend the organisation’s fading ratings in linear radio argue that this is because listeners have switched faster to its podcast output. Being able to demonstrate this would bolster its case. It’s missed the window now, but I imagine Coronacast would have been a top five podcast in 2020 and 2021.
The ranker release is becoming a fascinating moment each month. Once the ABC is onboard, even more so.
Marketers on the move
There were a big couple of marketer moves this week, with departures from Optus and Coles.
First to Optus. Melissa Hopkins, VP of marketing, is leaving after six years to become chief marketing and audience officer at Seven West Media.
Normally, a good way of thinking about someone’s tenure is whether they leave the brand stronger than they found it. In Hopkins’ case, that would be unfair. This year’s data hack created a reputational crisis which Optus is still recovering from.
Over her six year tenure, Hopkins moved the brand forward. Most notably, the tired “Yes” platform became “It starts with Yes”. The first work from Special Group was created in the first few months of the pandemic with the agency stuck in New Zealand, yet it didn’t show it.
Last year’s holiday campaign, featuring the crib building sugar glider, has been back on air in recent days, and has felt like one of the few Christmas ads with a story to tell.
Perhaps because of the high turnover of retail work, telcos are often nightmare clients. The previous rumblings of discontent around Optus dried up under Hopkins, with a roster of agencies who felt respected.
The data hack knocked the company off course, although the brand is bouncing back now. The company proved to be worse at its PR (which did not report in to Hopkins) than it was its marketing. In the first fortnight, Optus was flat footed in its communications, getting into tussles with the government over how the disaster had occurred and having poor spokesperson performances.
However, more recently, the “it happened on our watch” marketing struck the right tone, particularly as public perceptions shifted when several other brands were hacked too. The moment of crisis has passed.
Hopkins’ new challenge at Seven will be something else. She’s the most experienced consumer marketer I can think of to take on that role at a TV network. She replaces Charlotte Valente who came up mainly through the media world. For the most part, TV networks have promoted from within when it comes to marketing.
Leading marketing for a TV company has a completely different dynamic. For starters, there are all those show promos. If you count those as ads, the TV networks are the most prolific advertisers in the industry. As a result they also default to the tactical, promoting the next show rather than building the brand.
What’s also interesting in this big hire is what it says about CEO James Warburton’s plans and ambitions. Optus Sport was the telco’s big streaming play. Does the appointment hint at a deal to be done with NBCU for a partnership launch of subscription streaming service Peacock?
And as I say, the other big move of the week was at Coles. Just like her boss Lisa Ronson who left in August, Sam McLeod, GM of brand, digital and design, has departed without a new role to announce after little more than a year with the supermarket.
At the time, the circumstances of Ronson’s departure were unclear. But both her critics and fans (there are both) now conclude that she was moved on, and the fact that she has not since announced another big role tends to back up that view.
McLeod and Ronson’s departures so soon after the new “Value the Australian way” platform and a bumpy pitch process which eventually saw the creation of the bespoke Smith Street grouping of Omnicom agencies, raises the question of whether senior management are happy with how things are going now the sector’s Covid boost, a tide which raised all boats, has come to an end. I suspect there’s more to come.
Campaign of the week: The Recycled Bar
In an experiment over the next few editions (which may become permanent if readers find it useful), we’re teaming up with our friends at Little Black Book Online to highlight the most interesting marketing campaign of the week.
LBB Australia editor Delmar Terblanche writes:
If there's such a thing as a collective favourite space for Aussies, it's the pub. But as we emerge from a year where Sydney experienced the highest rainfall ever, and with more serious weather events still fresh in people's memories, every moment of recreation seems to happen increasingly under the weight of 'climate anxiety'.
With that in mind, DDB Sydney and 1800 Tequila have created a bar which takes the environment seriously in every aspect of its creation - being made totally out of recycled materials."
You can read the details at LBB Online.
Thunder and shite-ning
I can’t think of worse timing. Last night, Sydney Thunder were bowled out for just 15 runs, in 35 deliveries, in the Big Bash League match against Adelaide Strikers. It was an all time record low. The match delivered Seven a not-very-good metro audience of 223,000. Earlier in the evening, more people watched The Chase.
I wonder what the shambles has done to the psychology of the final stages of negotiations for the next cricket TV rights deal.
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, the winning bidder (likely either Paramount / Ten or Seven / Foxtel) will be the one who persuades themself that the sport can improve its standards back to the early years of BBL. Big, final decisions are likely being made this weekend. What a backdrop.
Unmade Index: Another fall
The Unmade Index dropped another 0.83% on Friday, falling to 651 points.
The only company to improve its price was Ooh Media, which rose by 2.3%.
HT&E, owner of ARN, is now trading at the lowest point in its history after falling 53% so far this year.
Time to let you enjoy your weekend.
I’m planning an early lunch. I hear my local cafe had a delivery of fresh oysters yesterday.
Abe Udy and I will be back on Monday with our podcast look back on the year just gone.
Have a great weekend.