Ben Youatt: Growing a publisher podcast network

Immediate Media’s head of podcast on moving from magazines to audio

As a publishing company, many of Immediate Media’s brands have a long heritage in the world of magazines; titles like the Radio Times, BBC Gardeners’ World and BBC History have graced newsstands up and down the country for decades. However, Immediate was also one of the first UK magazine publishers to invest in podcasting as a strategic part of its business.

Since then, shows like HistoryExtra and The BBC Good Food Podcast have gone from strength to strength, building a dedicated audience and racking up awards. We spoke to Ben Youatt, head of podcast for Immediate Media, to find out how the publisher approaches audio content, some of the challenges it’s had to contend with, and how it achieves sustainable growth.

Key takeaways

Don’t assume something won’t work 

“Most of our brands have experimented with long-form podcast video at one point or another. We've done it recently with Top Gear, We've done it with Radio Times, and it normally gets good engagement, but the drop-off is quite short. So basically people listen to seven, eight minutes and then they think, well, I haven't got time to watch 45 minutes of this video just sat on my laptop. I like to be on the go. I like to consume different things. There's a different user behaviour around that.”

“But with history audiences, maybe it's because it's a history audience, maybe because of the age demographic, the geographic demographic, for whatever magical reason, the video around history massively bucks trend. The videos that are an hour long, or an hour plus, where it's just a historian talking about a set subject, do really, really well.”

Focus on platforms, not pipelines

“We want to be as visible as possible on as many touchpoints. And that's the thing about podcast marketing. Some people just like the playlist videos on YouTube; to them, that's how they view a podcast. It's not actually listening to it without the visuals. Some people just like the funny clips that they see on reels, and that's okay too.” 

“So I would encourage publishers out there not to see that as some sort of big defeat, that you haven't been able to pipeline those people through to this other listening platform or this other way of consuming it. To some people, that's their favourite thing about the podcast, the social media content, the YouTube content, whatever it might be. That's where the most value is for them. So to see success in different metrics across different brands is a big thing we encourage.” 

Not every brand needs a podcast

“I don't think every brand does need a podcast, because… it's an oversaturated medium. If 10 years ago it was the new frontier, it is very much the old frontier at this point. It is completely saturated. If you're not gonna do something that is best in class, then you're not going to be able to cut through the noise. So I take your point, Rhianna, about, you know, it's not for the sake of it, but that's what people are doing; people are doing ‘for the sake of it’ product. And I think often publishers are getting those directives from a corporate standpoint.”

“That thinking about the heart of what podcast really began from, which was sort of this pirate radio online… I think that soul of where podcasts began, 10, 15, even longer ago at this point, years ago, is still there. And people still associate that with why they like podcasting and why it's valuable to them because it feels a little bit more rock and roll or independent in a lot of ways. But I think a lot of publishers don't understand podcasting when they get into it.” 


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