“We will concentrate on creating, aggregating, and nurturing the best content out there.” That’s what Midroll CEO Adam Sachs told me last month when I asked him to look ahead to 2015. Sharpening the point, he explained “we’ll focus on delivering the best.”
Midroll is taking a leap forward to deliver on that promise by hiring Chris Bannon as our first Chief Content Officer. Chris brings a wealth of expertise to the table, with nearly twenty five years of experience at the cutting edge of public radio and digital media.
He joins Midroll from New York Public Radio, where as Vice President for Content Development and Production he led development of the wildly popular digital-first program Freakonomics. He oversaw other successful shows like Soundcheck, Studio 360, and Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin, while both The Leonard Lopate Show and The Brian Lehrer Show won Peabody Awards on his watch.
One of Chris’ first objectives is to help accelerate the development of original, entertaining, and innovative programs. In particular, he told me that he wants to focus on storytelling, because he sees how audiences are fascinated by compelling narratives.
Chris hears stories on improv shows like Earwolf’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, where listeners come back every week to check in on recurring characters they care about, like Paul F. Tompkins’ Cake Boss and Marissa Wompler, brought to life by Jessica St. Clair. So he’s looking forward to working closely with the Earwolf and Wolfpop talent rosters, while developing fresh concepts with the next wave of podcast stars.
Adam said, “With our roots in Earwolf, Midroll has always been a ‘content first’ company, but we’ve never had a Chief Content Officer. Our strategy has always been, and continues to be, working with the best talent to help them create the most engaging and entertaining podcasts. We are excited to have a seasoned content specialist like Chris join our team to help us achieve a level of scale and infrastructure previously unseen and unexplored in the podcast industry.”
Seizing and Building On Momentum
Chris will be based out of a new office and production studio in New York City that is slated to open in the first quarter. This will be Midroll’s first location outside of Hollywood. Because our focus has always been to support the best artists with all aspects of production, this new base of operations allows Midroll to work more closely with a diverse range of talent located in the Northeast.
Hiring Chris and opening the New York office will allow Midroll to seize and build upon this moment of great momentum for podcasting and our company. 2014 was an amazing year, where we tripled sales over 2013, launched the 13-show Wolfpop network, and introduced three new Earwolf shows. The websites for these two networks together served over 20 million page views to more than 1.9 million users. When we add another 130 off-network podcasts from our full Midroll roster, collectively they all had 300 million downloads last year.
Now, just half-way into February, our sales for the first quarter of 2015 are already on track to maintain the kind of aggressive growth we saw last year. This is fueled by even more great podcasts joining our line-up, pushing the total over 200, and expanding every week.
An additional focus for Chris will be audience development, another impressive section of his resume. For six years he was Program Director of WNYC AM and FM, which are the two most listened-to public radio stations in the country. During that time he launched the number one classical music station, WQXR, and New Jersey Public Radio.
“This is a great opportunity for anyone who loves audio. Although I’ve spent many years in radio and podcasting, the recent surge of public interest in this medium is truly exciting,” Chris said. “I look forward to working with Midroll’s smart, strategic, and passionate staff to explore new frontiers in audio entertainment, while helping their roster of great shows expand and find new audiences.”