5 Questions: “We often consider podcasters’ growth and revenue as a higher priority than competing platforms’ because that drives long-term growth for us,” CEO Yu Wang says
Himalaya Media is the latest company to throw its hat in the podcasting arena, backed by $100 million in new funding. The San Francisco-based company, which has courted content partners like The Daily Beast, Paste Magazine, Studio71 and the Dallas Mavericks, is using its resources to launch a podcast platform and produce original content with a creator-driven approach.
“Too many podcast companies and platforms today make selfish decisions that drive greater revenues and growth … for them, but hurt overall audience growth and revenue opportunities for creators,” Peter Vincer, Himalaya VP of global partnerships and marketing, said. “Every single decision we have made, and will continue to make, is guided by the same question: ‘Is this best for our creators and partners?'”
Launched in February and backed by General Atlantic, SIG and Ximalaya FM — an Asia-based audio network — the platform allows listeners to comment on programs, create playlists they can share with friends and donate money to their favorite creators.
Additional features — which the company says will focus on personalization, gamification and monetization — are currently being developed by Himalaya’s 50-plus person engineering team, and will be rolled out in the coming months.
Unlike Spotify — which has purchased Gimlet Media and Anchor this year as part of a $500 million investment in the podcast space — Himalaya has no plans to buy podcast producers, according to CEO Yu Wang. Instead, the company will work to empower podcast creators with tools, monetization options and audience growth support, in an effort to “bring the real value to creators as well as the entire podcast ecosystem,” Wang said.
“Premium content will continue to emerge, but we don’t believe the ‘Netflix for Podcast’ model is going to succeed. Podcasting was born open and we think it will stay fundamentally open,” he said. “We are working on supporting the open ecosystem by empowering podcasters of any size to receive sustainable revenue, while at the same time keeping their podcasts freely and openly available.”
Wang goes deeper into the details of the new podcasting venture and how the company plans to use its recent funding.
1. How do you plan to spend $100 million in the podcast space?
Besides developing our core technology and building out additional features that will increase engagement and growth opportunities for creators on our platform, we are investing in growing our partnered and original shows.
For example, the Himalaya Podcast Network continues to expand, with recently launched shows around pop culture, comedy and entertainment. Those include “The Last Laugh: A Daily Beast Podcast” with the Daily Beast’s Matt Wilstein interviewing great comedians each week, starting with Sarah Silverman and Tony Hale, and produced in partnership with Starburns Audio; “The Paste Podcast” with Paste Magazine; “Dexter Guff Is Smarter Than You,” which we acquired from Panoply and recently relaunched; “It’s Not About the Podcast” with James Kennedy from Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules;” and most recently, “Westeros Weekly: A New Rockstars Podcast,” a weekly look at HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and our second show with our partners at New Rockstars.
We have several podcasts launching through our partnership with Studio71, including “Worst Firsts with Brittany Furlan,” which just premiered this week, and will be launching a podcast with Luka Dončić, the rookie sensation on the Dallas Mavericks.
We also have a growing originals studio, which is producing premium content across genres, including food (“Hugh Acheson Stirs the Pot,” “Pizza City”) and popular YouTubers (“The Corey & Aaron Show,” “Last Two Brain Cells with Nick and Dom”).
2. What is the biggest issue facing up-and-coming podcasters?
Growth and monetization. To help with growth, we offer marketing resources to help podcasters identify and gain new listeners from other shows and through social media and influencer reach.
To help with monetization, we provide ad sales support, as well as features in the app, such as follower bonuses and tipping. Even creators that don’t formally partner with us can claim their show on Himalaya in order to be able to turn on the tipping feature. So we are really providing the full suite of services that an up-and-coming podcaster would need.
3. Whether it’s video or audio, being discovered has remained a problem for most content creators. What advice do you have for them?
The most effective way to get discovered is to target the right audience. Understanding the potential audience’s needs and where they are is the key to “getting discovered.” A platform like Himalaya analyzes listeners’ behavioral data to recommend content and identify cross-promotional opportunities among podcasts.
A podcaster should do the same thing: Find other shows that your potential listeners are listening to and reach out to the creators to see whether they might be interested in cross-promotion.
4. Himalaya wants to be a platform where creators can actively interact with their fans, and establish their own communities for future growth and monetization. What would this look like exactly?
We believe that podcasters already created their communities by gathering listeners to their content. Yet the ties within these communities are relatively weak because of a lack of tools. We are providing tools like our tip-jar and episode-level comments to make these ties stronger.
It’s encouraging to see that listeners are using these tools to show support and love for their hosts. There are additional features in that vein that we are developing, including more monetization options.
5. From a creator’s perspective, how does Himalaya differ from other podcasting hubs that connect creators and listeners, like Patreon or YouTube? And what’s the strategy for courting creators and listeners?
The main difference is that we are 100% dedicated to podcasts. That means several things: 1. The listening experience is our top priority in terms of functionality. 2. We have the data that only a podcast player can have. 3. The resources we provide are completely centered on the needs of podcasters.
The features we are building are designed to help podcasters establish their own passionate listener communities. We’re also interested in developing tools to help creators more easily communicate directly with their listeners. The monetization resources — including revenue shares and follower bonuses — and both paid and organic marketing support we are providing are to drive more revenue and grow their audiences.