Adam Sachs is just a little more than a month into his tenure as CEO of Midroll Media, after joining the company in September 2013. It seemed like this would be a good time to give readers and Earwolf fans a chance to get to know him better and learn more about what he envisions for the company and podcasting in general.
Q. How did you get started working at Midroll?
A. I was in New York City running my previous company, StepOut.com, when I got an email introducing me to Jeff [Ullrich, founder of Earwolf and Midroll Media]. That email came from a mutual friend of ours, Ally Hord, who is an executive producer at Funny Or Die.
Jeff and I met over coffee when he was in New York in early 2013. It was inspiring to hear about the company that he was building. In fact, I was so excited that afterward I immediately ran home to tell my wife about how well the meeting went, and what a great opportunity it would be to work with Jeff at Midroll.
What he was doing combined so many things that I love. One is comedy. I’ve been a life-long comedy fan. Ally Hord–who introduced us–during and after college she and I were writing partners. We would write comedy spec scripts, and then she would go on to achieve our collective career goal by herself. Radio-Television-Film was my college major and still a big interest for me. And, so, those aspects alone were exciting to me.
What was perhaps more exciting and impressive–and what I was so envious of–was that Jeff built a sustainable, profitable company from the ground up. He didn’t have a board, he didn’t have investors, and he was able to make decisions by himself, or with his trusted advisors and management team. But ultimately he was able to guide the direction of the business, in a way where he didn’t have to rely on investment dollars coming in.
At the time [Jeff and I met], I was at a company that struggled to get to profitability. It was a venture-funded company, and eventually was acquired by IAC / Match.com. It was a different world. I had a board, I had investors, and I did not have profits. Therefore I was so excited about the business Jeff had built.
Q. Were you already a podcasting fan?
A. I’ve been a big podcasting fan for a long time. At my previous company, I traveled to India all the time and podcasts helped me get through those flights. I listened to a lot of different stuff, including Earwolf shows. I’ve been a big Improv4Humans fan. In High School I used to take the train from New Jersey into NYC to see Matt Besser and Assscat at UCB. It’s very cool to be working with his show now.
Q. What attracts you to podcasting, as a business?
A. I love the fact that podcasting feels like a truly pure art form. The artists have the freedom to create their content when they want, where they want, and how they want. They get to do it in a way where, typically, they don’t have a studio giving them notes. What results feels very free, authentic and original. I feel that it’s some of the best content I’ve been exposed to.
What also is so powerful is the relationship it creates between the host and the listener. As a long-time podcast listener I have felt that. You just feel a connection to the podcast host or artist in a way that you don’t feel when you watch them on TV.
Q. What’s the biggest opportunity for the business of podcasting?
A. We’re still in early adopter mode from a consumer basis, a listener basis, an advertiser basis, and an artist basis. There are more people everyday who are getting turned on to podcasting–listeners, artists, and advertisers. But there is still so much greenfield opportunity to get more of the world’s best content creators making podcasts, for more mass audience adoption, and more big advertisers. We truly believe it’s going to happen.
Listening to podcasts is a mobile experience. People are turning away from traditional media and moving to on-demand media. There’s going to be 4G in cars that is helping people to access content while they commute. The wind is at our backs.
Q. It seems like we’re at this precipice. The stars are aligning for on-demand audio, and, as you say, people will be able to get that content in their cars more easily than before. Given this, what do you predict will happen in a year?
A. A year will go by quickly. We’ll have people using 4G in their cars to listen to podcasts within a year, without having to hack in an auxiliary cable from their phone to their dashboard.
I think that in five years we’ll take that for granted. We’ll just blink and there we are. At least that’s my hope.
Q. Kind of like how five years ago we wouldn’t have predicted that so many of us would just be watching Hulu and Netflix all the time?
A. Yes. There were a few people doing it, and then suddenly you blink and it’s a major part of the fabric of our media consumption.
Q. So, what’s in store for Midroll and Earwolf in the next year?
A. There are a lot of things I can’t talk about, yet (laughs).
What I can say is that we really are focused on creating more great shows. With Earwolf, for example, we’re not slowing down. We have a couple of new shows that we signed and are working on their first episodes.
Looking forward, we’re not restricting ourselves entirely to comedy, but we’re maintaining that same integrity when it comes to only producing shows that we think are the highest quality. We’ll have more to talk about soon. But know that we’re in the process of creating more content under the Earwolf banner, and other shows, perhaps under a different banner.
On the Midroll side the momentum is really incredible. We’re working with some great content creators. Some are from traditional media businesses that are finally getting into podcasts. Others are from new media or are artists who have podcasts who need help monetizing.
But for us it’s all about growth. We are a profitable company and we’re investing all of the profits back into the business to keep growing on all sides. We have hired a new Director of Business Development, and we’re continuing to hire more people. We want to continue this momentum.
Q. Do you think podcasting has room to grow, in 1, 3 and 5 years?
A. I think it has a lot of room to grow, and it’s already grown an incredible amount. Our most popular [Earwolf] shows have quadrupled in audience size over the past couple of years. They’re big and they’re going to get bigger, gaining more listeners. More great content creators are coming into the space.
Also, the tools for listening are continuing to improve. You can listen in more places. Everywhere you go you’ll be able to access the content. It will be ubiquitous.
So, we feel bullish about the opportunity.