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Why Erica Mandy left TV news to launch a daily podcast
The Newsworthy delivers 10 stories in less than 12 minutes and generates over 800,000 downloads per month.
As a CBS reporter in Los Angeles, Erica Mandy had a thriving career ahead of her in TV news. But in 2017 she quit her job and launched her own daily news podcast. It’s called The Newsworthy, and every morning it gives listeners a 12-minute rundown of the most important headlines. It also delivers weekend longform interviews with newsmakers. After four years in operation, it now generates over 800,000 downloads per month and has a growing team.
I spoke to Erica about why she made the jump from TV to podcasts, how she found her audience, and whether the daily news podcast space is becoming saturated.
To listen to the interview, subscribe to The Business of Content on your favorite podcast player. If you scroll down you’ll also find some transcribed highlights from the interview.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Why Erica left TV news
Prior to launching The Newsworthy, Erica was a correspondent at a Los Angeles CBS affiliate. “I've done editing, shooting, photography, anchoring, and reporting. I've done it all, but most recently I was a field reporter.” Though there were aspects of the job she liked, she eventually became disillusioned with TV news. “The way that we were reporting news was just really depressing. I wasn't telling the types of stories that I loved to tell as much, but I also started to hear from other people that they felt news was too time consuming and biased and overwhelming, and so they were just tuning it out altogether. And so that's why I kind of became passionate about trying to find a solution that would help people stay informed without feeling all of those things.”
She also saw that broadcast news audiences were shrinking. “They were losing viewership while things like podcasting were trending up. And while obviously TV news and radio were still much bigger than podcasting, I wanted to be on the forefront of where things were going and not with the old school way of doing things. And so it was a combination of all of those things that brought me to creating The Newsworthy.”
Launching a daily podcast
Given Erica’s experience as an on-camera personality, I asked her why she didn’t launch some kind of video news project. “Podcasting is just, frankly, easier to start. You don't need a lot of equipment.” Shooting and editing a daily video newscast would take significantly more time and resources, and she didn’t have any help when starting out.
She also saw a need for a daily news podcast that could be passively listened to when people were commuting to work. “At the time there actually weren't many daily news podcasts, and so I became passionate about podcasting because I saw an opening in that particular marketplace. There was nobody doing what I wanted to create in the podcasting space.”
Erica decided early on that she wanted to keep the show extremely short. “I wanted to fit into someone's morning routine, to be part of their habit. And I wanted people to be able to walk into work and have a good idea of everything that's happened in the last 24 hours.” She also knew that the short length would limit the number of sponsors she could fit into each episode, so the daily cadence vastly expanded the amount of available advertiser inventory.
The Newsworthy launched in August 2017. “When I first started out, I said, I'm going to give myself a year.” When Erica wasn’t producing the podcast, she focused on building relationships with other influencers in the space. “As a TV news reporter, I'd never been to a conference before in my life, but with the podcast I decided I have to go to podcast industry conferences to be able to meet people in the industry and just learn a lot about the business side.” She started to do cross promos with other podcasters. “There was somebody I met who had a financial podcast, so I would create a two-minute roundup of financial news for her show and she would create something about financial news for my show, and so I really tried to lean on any of those cross promotional opportunities to get exposure.”
The audience grew steadily, and by the end of the first year Erica felt that The Newsworthy had enough momentum that it was worth it to her to keep it going. She also decided it was time to monetize the show.
Monetization and scaling operations
Initially, Erica sold sponsorships for The Newsworthy herself, and many of them included some kind of affiliate code that rewarded her anytime a listener bought a product. “Then once we got bigger, we switched to working with an ad agency that sold typical sponsorships at a flat rate.”
The Newsworthy carries two ad slots per episode, and Erica reads them herself. Thus far, she’s eschewed programmatic advertising that’s dynamically inserted. “That's a conscious decision that we made. We just feel that there's added value to the sponsor when I can tell them it's baked in.” Also, programmatic advertising works best when there’s a deep backlog of evergreen content, but because The Newsworthy focuses primarily on current events, there’s a steep drop-off in audience within a few days after an episode airs.
I asked Erica about how the onset of the pandemic affected her downloads, especially since such a large portion of her audience listened during their commutes. “We saw a really small drop at the beginning and then it spiked because people really wanted to stay up with what was happening with the pandemic. We were lucky in the sense that we had a couple of sponsors cancel initially and then we were immediately able to fill those ad slots. From a business perspective, we really weren't impacted that much.”
Erica has slowly built up her team over the years, and at the time of our conversation in October she had one full-time employee and six working part-time. For now, she’s still focused on growing the audience for The Newsworthy, but she has ambitions to launch more shows. “I think what I've really built over the last few years is a podcast playbook. I know what it takes to launch a show and I've learned so much about the podcast industry, and so I think there's a lot of opportunity for new podcasts, especially because the audience that I've built already loves podcasts, and so it's easy to tell them about something new that I'm doing.”
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