Daily Detroit is proving there’s a market for local podcasts
Jer Staes monetizes his podcast through a mixture of local business advertising and paid memberships.
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In early 2020, a few weeks before the pandemic shutdown, Jer Staes was sitting at a Detroit bar and chatting with the bartender. Suddenly, a stranger from nearby asked, “Wait, are you Jer?”
Confused, Staes confirmed that’s who he was. “Lo and behold, it was a listener of my podcast who was there with his sister,” he recalled. The person had managed to identify him by the sound of his voice. “He and his dad worked together, and he told me that they both listened to my podcast every morning when driving to their shop. So I started having drinks with him and I ended up meeting his dad at another place later in the night.”
For Staes, this incident illustrated the power of audio and its superiority over other mediums. “There is another level of connection that you have when people can hear your voice,” he told me. While producing his podcast, Daily Detroit, every weekday for the past few years, he’s seen how that connection quickly leads to real influence; not only has he interviewed mayors, governors, and celebrities, but he’s also built out a robust advertising and membership business. What started as a side hobby soon grew enough of a following that he was able to quit his corporate communications job to work on it full time.
Daily Detroit’s success is also evidence that there’s a market for local news podcasts. Most of the high profile news podcasts — The New York Times’ The Daily being the most prominent example — operate at the national level, and many local newspapers, thus far, have only dabbled in the audio medium. Staes proved that both the audience and revenue were there, and so I interviewed him to get a better understanding of how he built it.
Let’s jump into my findings…
Before there was a podcast, there was a Facebook page
Staes wasn’t a stranger to local Detroit journalism. In 2010 he took a job at an organization called the Detroit Regional News Hub, a non profit that operated as a sort of PR agency for the city, connecting outside journalists who were reporting on Detroit with local sources and information. “It was funded by a group called Business Leaders for Michigan,” said Staes. Whenever Detroit was in the national news, whether because of its automotive sector or a major sporting event, the Detroit Regional News Hub could connect journalists to sources or even take them on tours of the city. “It sort of had a similar role to a visitor’s bureau.”
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