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Podcast Network Wondery Walks Back $10 Million Offer of Free Ads to Small Businesses

Each small-to-medium business will now receive up to 250,000 ad impressions on Wondery shows

Podcast network Wondery on Wednesday walked back its offer of an estimated $10 million in free ad space to help 50 small businesses recoup losses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company behind podcast hits like “Dirty John” now says it plans to provide between 100,000 and 250,000 in free ad impressions to small and medium-size companies identified as “at risk” because of the COVID-19 crisis. An impression measures the number of downloads for a podcast containing an ad.

“The total amount donated to small businesses has not been decided yet,” the company spokesman said in an email.

Earlier on Wednesday, Wondery had announced a more ambitious plan in a press release and a phone interview with COO Jen Sargent, who was asked how much $10 million represented in terms of the company’s overall ad revenue. “Ten million is a meaningful number,” she replied. “It is a modest percentage of our potential for the year — it’s much less than 50% of our potential revenue.”

The Wondery spokesman said the earlier “incorrect” press release was sent in error and that Sargent had “misheard” the question about ad revenues.

The advertising space will be placed across all of Wondery’s 67 shows and Spotify channels, with voiceovers produced by well-known broadcast personalities and Hollywood actors. The ad package includes feature-length promotional spots with a geo-targeted distribution strategy.

Wondery said employees selected businesses that “have a positive impact on their community.” “Our team members drive our company vision with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and we want to ensure we lend a hand to the businesses that are important to them,” the company said in a statement.

The podcast network’s website encourages listeners to support small businesses during the pandemic shutdown in a variety of ways, including leaving positive reviews online or on Yelp, purchasing gift cards, or shopping online and for takeout.

Wondery’s standout shows include “Dirty John,” a podcast it produced in concert with the Los Angeles Times about a woman named Deborah Newell’s experience (accidentally, of course) marrying a con man. The network also jumped on the “Tiger King” bandwagon last month and released a limited series called “Joe Exotic: Tiger King” that examines the illustrious life of incarcerated big cat owner Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel.

Wondery’s shows are offered for free with ads on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, but it offers early and ad-free access on a “binge-able” platform called Wondery+ for roughly $5 per month. The West Hollywood-based network was launched in 2016 and has raised $18 million to date, according to funding database PitchBook Data Inc.

For the record: Due to incorrect information from Wondery, a previous version of this story said that the company had committed $10 million in free ads to small businesses.