Omeda Asks: Annex Business Media About Podcasting
Omeda Asks is a new interview series that we’ve launched in 2020. The conversations are structured around sitting down with our clients to gain insights on the media industry, topics we’re passionate about, and anything else that comes up. Our first interview was with Annex Business Media’s Kyle Shay and Stacy Bradshaw.
Kyle Shay, Director of Digital Media – Kyle oversees the digital media department, taking care of anything and everything that readers look at on their phones or computers to make sure it’s viewable and readable. He also manages the IT team and the Annex brand, focusing on how the company is marketed and presents itself.
Stacy Bradshaw, Digital Project Manager – Stacy leads up the programming team, the email marketing team, and all their websites. She takes the needs of the editorial staff and sales staff to facilitate everything Annex puts out online for their 65 brands within the company.
Together, Kyle and Stacy started a podcast called This Is Annex. We were able to converse with them about all things podcasting including their series, how Annex has introduced podcasting for many of their brands, how to start a podcast, where they see the future of Annex’s podcasting headed, and how it has helped them become a thought leader in the B2B landscape for Canada and beyond.
Take a look into our conversation:
When did you launch your podcast?
Stacy: We have two tracks of podcasts. The podcast that Kyle and I co-host is called This Is Annex. It goes out to our advertisers and focuses on B2B marketing best practices. We also have started doing podcasts for some of our magazine brands, though we haven’t created one for all 65 brands yet.
Kyle: We’re getting there – not all of the brands have podcasts but that’s the goal. We started doing the brand podcasts a little over a year ago for brands such as Blue Line, Fire Fighting in Canada, Canadian Pizza, etc. We’re really focusing those ones on the audience for those individual markets, obviously. With our This Is Annex podcast and our brand podcasts; we are trying to become the thought leaders in the various markets we serve.
How long has the This Is Annex podcast been going on?
Kyle: We just started that one in November of 2019 so it’s pretty fresh. We were surprised by the response. We’ve been really good at marketing our own publication brands, but we haven’t consciously put a lot of effort into marketing Annex Business Media as a whole over the years. Starting out, we were unsure what the response would be, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that our advertisers and clients are looking for this type of content. The podcast has turned out to be the perfect medium. It’s still just getting off the ground, but we’re happy with the success so far.
Do you have metrics to gauge how many listeners you have?
Kyle: I’ll let Stacy talk about the in-depth metrics, but what we really want to do is see the uptick in our marketing efforts for the podcast. The plays and subscribers are important, but what we’re looking for is the response to our podcast and how it benefits our readers. Our salespeople have been passing the podcasts along to their clients as well when we have content they will benefit from. For example, if our clients are pushing webinars this month, our sales team will send along the episode on our webinar podcast. Some of our clients are actually changing their marketing because of information we have put out, which is great to see. Stacy, you can go into more of the numbers.
Stacy: Gauging success and metrics on podcasts can be tricky because you don’t get a lot of demogrphic data back from the various distribution channels about who is listening. It’s tricky to cross reference the actual downloads to your existing audience. We focus mostly on unique plays and unique downloads to gauge the success of each episode.
Kyle: Also, we send each of our episodes out to our marketing list – through Omeda’s Email Builder. We send it to the Annex client list and other people that make sense on our email lists across the various brands. When we are looking at the success of our marketing for our podcast, we also look at the success of the email marketing pieces that go with it. They are a good indicator of who’s interested. We also use LinkedIn to look at those metrics and see who’s liked or shared the posts. We are seeing a lot of success there as well.
Stacy: Also, the anecdotal feedback we get through email has reassured us that the content is resonating with the audience, and gives us ideas for new topics. We really pay attention to the feedback we receive from our audience. We have been happily surprised to receive emails after each episode. It’s been great.
Do you have a specific domain you use for the feedback or are people just reaching out to you both directly?
Stacy: We have a landing page for our This Is Annex podcast on our corporate site so you can see all the episodes there and we have a specific email address set up to send us feedback. We also have a call to action at the beginning and end of every podcast to encourage people to send in their comments.
Have you been using that call to action the whole time or did you implement it later upon realizing that getting feedback would be beneficial?
Kyle:, Well it’s funny because we recorded our first 3 shows all at the same time and then kind of delivered them out around once every three weeks or once a month. When we first recorded them, we didn’t include that specific email address for feedback. Although, the beauty of doing three shows in a row, by the third one, we were pretty secure in how we wanted to do this podcast. Once we determined the format, we were able to go in and edit the first two shows to include that feedback information after the fact.
Stacy: The repetitiveness from podcast to podcast works to promote and reinforce that call to action.
It sounds like it’s important to have repetition in your podcasts, so listeners get a sense of how the episode is structured, what to expect, and when to expect new podcasts. Are there also other key concepts that you like to implement for each of your episodes that you’ve found successful?
Stacy: For the This Is Annex podcast, we are taking an educational approach. The way we converse is in almost a teaching style. We want to deliver value to the audience and give them something tangible that they can take away and apply to their marketing strategies. We do so by outlining 5 key takeaways for the episode. This is especially important for more complex topics. For example, when we were covering compliance legislation (CASL), we outlined 5 key takeaways in the preamble, conducted the interview, and then reiterated them at the end. We really want people to walk away with new knowledge. Sometimes, you have to reinforce and reiterate things in order for people to remember the information. We’re not executing this for just the sake of doing a podcast or for self-promotion – we want it to be educational and beneficial for our audience.
Kyle: Yeah and we first started doing the five key takeaways in a previous episode and found that the structure really makes sense for our podcast. It brings the focus to having the audience come away with something. If you can remember one of the five key takeaways, then we will be happy. We really honed it with the CASL episode. Going forward, we know that we are always going to have five key takeaways and that adds to the repetition, so people know what to expect. I hope they can get at least one thing out of the podcast that they can take back to their business and do something with it.
In terms of what content you’re covering, how do you go about creating your ideas? Is it more covering topics that are current in the industry or do you try to preplan? Do you have an editorial calendar?
Kyle: Yes, we have an editorial calendar for our podcast that has the next 18-20 episodes laid out and planned that we can do going forward. However, that won’t stop us from pivoting. If we see something that is really in need of being talked about, we will change it up. But, we have things ready to go as well.
Stacy: In terms of the actual topics that are in our editorial calendar, we focus mostly on the products and services that we offer here at Annex to our advertisers. Topics that we are subject matter experts in. That was the purpose of coming up with the podcast. We have 65 brands with data and evidence from all of the B2B campaigns we’ve done over the years, so we can definitely say which ones are working and which ones aren’t.
And there’s an opportunity here to position ourselves at thought leaders, especially with the media landscape changing so much. The ad agency model is in flux, organizations are taking their marketing in-house, and sponsored content is really blurring the lines. As publishers, we feel we need to step up our game and be more than a bridge between the advertiser and the reader. We need to be data and analytics experts and digital marketing experts. We need to know how to deliver, distribute, and measure content that resonates with all of our audiences. So, as we have been evolving our own expertise, we felt that it was prudent for us to share that with our advertisers. When our advertisers succeed and do well, the industry in general does well, which in turn is good for the magazine(s).
Do you have a full team of people who are helping to develop the podcast content?
Stacy: For the sponsored podcasts we do for each of our individual brands, the editorial team and sales team work together to come up with the content. They develop topics that are timely for the industry and address some of the pain points that the industry might be having. They then take those 3-4 episode ideas to a sponsor and ask if this is the type of content they would like to associate their brand with. Advertisers have been very receptive to this because they are looking for messaging that is a bit more authentic. There’s a sense of “realness” with a podcast that you can’t get with traditional advertising mediums.
Kyle: For the This Is Annex podcast, it really is just Stacy and myself. We’ve sat down and generated a bunch of topics that we can go forward with, but we are always looking for things that are currently happening in the industry. One that recently cropped up is covering events. That’s a big push here at Annex and we have an expert in-house that we will be interviewing. It’s just the two of us coming up with the content and then getting help from readers if they send in comments, suggestions, etc.
Have you noticed that people who listen to your specific brand podcasts are also coming to your This Is Annex podcast? Or is it more a situation where there are different audiences for each brand podcast and then the This Is Annex podcast as well?
Stacy: The This Is Annex podcast is definitely directed towards the marketers and advertisers, but certainly we have found some of our readers in specific markets that have becoming interested in the podcast as well. We recently had an association reach out to us about giving accreditation to their members for listening to our podcast. In this industry specifically, people have noticed that there’s a skills gap in marketing for their readership. They’ve been trying to come up with programs that would help their association members with marketing and our podcast has proven to be beneficial for them. So yes, there has been some crossover for sure.
Has your audience been growing since the creation in November?
Kyle: Yeah – the funny thing is every time we release an episode, it seems to be the most listened to episode. We’ve also been noticing that the new releases also increase the listenership of previous episodes as well. When we release the next episode, we see this wave of more people listening to the older content.
Stacy: What we’ve been doing so far with This Is Annex is monthly releases that are around a half hour in length. The library we are building is evergreen content that will continue delivering value long after it’s been released.
In contrast, we have a magazine in the food service industry that’s doing a weekly podcast, but only for 5-10 minutes. The episodes are designed specifically so that their audience can listen to it on their break. Those are the types of podcasts that might be more news/timely focused content.
I love that you are meeting your audiences with the content where and when they need it. Can you see what time of day people are listening to your podcast?
Kyle: I don’t think we’re looking at that right now. When we release a new episode, our main push is through email marketing, so we use that to gauge what works best. We try to send the emails out at the beginning of the week, around Monday mid-afternoon or so, because it is a marketing related podcast for businesses. We use those email metrics to track engagement in terms of opens and click throughs. It’s harder to capture information like are they clicking on the links and listening to it immediately or are they bookmarking it for later? Are they subscribing on iTunes?
Do you take the podcasts and transform them into writeups, or do you want your audience to head to the podcast, so you only offer it there?
Stacy: Our editorial staff has been working with a great app called Otter. It transcribes your audio into text. They’re mostly using it for interviews, but we’ve been talking about making that available so there’s greater accessibility and can give our audience options for how they’d like to consume the content.
Kyle: Yeah, but right now we aren’t doing a companion blog post. It might be something we think about, but even show notes are sometimes a hard thing to make happen depending on your workload.
Making the podcast in general probably takes a lot of effort. How do you find the time to make these? Do you do a lot of post-recording edits or additional work after you’ve created the episode?
For sure, since Stacy and I both have our fulltime jobs, we are doing this at lunch or times when we are a little slower. And it does take time to create and edit them. We don’t do a lot of editing, but one thing we like to do is to pace the podcasts. If you were to sit at the table and listen to us record the podcast and then hear the final result, it would sound quite different. The sound we create for our conversation is intense and powerful. Our recordings have great cadence, banter and rapport with one another. A lot of it is because we naturally do, but a lot is also editing. We try to keep it minimal, but if the episode doesn’t necessarily flow right, then we will go back and redo it or edit the glitches out.
When you both decided to start the This Is Annex podcast, did either of you have experience with podcasting, or was it something you had to learn?
Kyle: I did back in the day when podcasting first started, around 2004/2005. I worked at an advertising agency and we did some podcasts back then – I did a personal one. My background in the agency world was a lot of video, commercial and radio editing for advertising. Using that background, it was easily transferrable to creating the podcast here at Annex.
Stacy: I don’t have any podcast experience. I was admittedly apprehensive at first. I think my biggest fear was whether we would be covering things that had already been said before, and how we were going to deliver value.
Kyle: When it comes down to it – most of what we talk about is already out there. Where our podcast is different from other information is with the format we have created. We try to bring all the information on a topic into one place. For example, an advertiser or client interested in webinars can listen to our episode on them and gain a well-rounded view of what they’re looking for. They’ll hear about everything from the good, the bad, how to market them, what they are, what’s a good subject, the timeliness, etc. Listeners can then take the information from our podcast on its own to have a good point of view on what webinars are and how to market them, OR they can come to Annex and we’d be happy to help them with it. Regardless, it’s a nice succinct place for whatever topic we are covering, where a lot of details are included and readily available for individuals.
Stacy: It ended up being easier to do than I initially thought, I think because I’m very enthusiastic about my role as the Project Manager here at Annex. A podcast the a perfect platform where I can sit and talk about the things I do every single day. I hope that enthusiasm comes across in an authentic way in the podcast, because I think that helps make the podcast more listenable.
Do you have any advice for anyone who’s just starting out trying to create a podcast?
Kyle: Get a good microphone, which can be as little as $59. We like the Yeti Snowball. Start off with a good mic, a nice quiet room, a subject matter that you love, and just do it.
Stacy: Yes, I agree – just go for it. I think it’s easy to overthink trying to make it sound polished, which doesn’t need to be the case. To me, the epitome of what a podcast should be is genuine and authentic, and that can be captured when you just dive in. In terms of getting that dialogue and cadence that we developed, you just have to start and go for it. Then, if you’re not happy with it, you can polish it in the editing stage … because ultimately it is a product you’re putting out and putting your brand around.
Kyle: Being fair, not everyone can naturally create that sort of dialogue and cadence. However, you won’t know until you’ve tried. With us, even though we had trepidation at first, we decided to do one episode and then if it didn’t work, it didn’t work. We did one episode and it worked very well, but we only knew that because we went for it.
What editing software do you use?
Kyle: Right now, we record in Garage Band and I edit it through there. I have experience in higher end stuff as well, but you don’t need that. The editorial staff uses Audacity, which is another good one.
Stacy: When we do an interview, we use GoToMeeting. This is for people who are off site. We have them phone in through GoToMeeting, or you can use any online webinar platform, and then we record it. We always do a bit of a dry run before we start recording. We check to make sure the quality of the audio comes through clearly and our technical audio quality is set up as best it can be. It’s harder to control the other end when someone is on the phone, but sometimes it’s the only way to make the podcast interview happen.
Kyle: Yeah and when it comes to the actual editing itself, I would encourage people to listen to other podcasts they like and how those series have done things. Stacy and I edit ours so there’s quick banter back and forth – not a lot of pauses or ums/ahs. It’s a rapid-fire sound to the point of almost being unnatural, but it really works for us. There are other styles as well though, like the laidback sort of NPR style where there’s a lot of slow talking and thought or ones with music backgrounds. Just listen to what you like, what makes sense for you and try your hand to mimic that style.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
Kyle: Through our podcast, we have been invited to speak at an event through an association here called Magazines Canada. They do a yearly industry trade show called MagNet – this year’s is MagNet 2020 – and they’ve asked us to talk about podcasting. We are excited to attend and will be doing a live podcast called This Is Podcasting. That event is on April 22-23, 2020.
Stacy: That’s another example where we are fulfilling our goal with the This Is Annex podcast – to position ourselves as industry leaders. The MagNet conference is a very natural extension of that. We can see that doing the podcast has already proven to have some residual benefits in terms of getting ourselves and the Annex Business Media brand out there.
Do you have any ideas of where you want the podcast to go or any reach goals you want to accomplish?
Stacy: Well, I think for our brand podcasts I could see all of our 65 brands having a podcast at some point. The advertisers have been getting a lot of value out of them, so I don’t see that growth slowing down anytime soon. In terms of This Is Annex, I think we just want to continue to be a thought leader for B2B marketers in Canada. We know that the digital marketing landscape is ever-changing, so we want to be there to learn and coach marketers through the ride.
Kyle: With the This Is Annex podcast, the original thought was to try to help better market Annex to our clientele, agencies and advertisers. I think what’s happened is that we are doing that, but we are also becoming thought leaders in the B2B space in Canada. This is a nice benefit for both Stacy and myself, as well as Annex as a whole. It brings Annex to that next level of the ones to watch.Also, most of our topics can be carried across all of North America because it’s Marketing 101, but told in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Thanks for reading along in our first Omeda Asks conversation. If you have a topic you’re interested in talking about or want to learn more information about this series, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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