The kids industry has been investing in audio content in a major way this year. Big players including Marvel and National Geographic have lined up new podcasts, and the market is quickly filling up with competitors. But with so many voices vying to be heard, the challenge for kids content creators has evolved from making kids podcasts to making sure the content stands out.
The global podcasting market was valued at US$9.28 billion in 2019 and is expected to climb by 27% by 2027, according to Grand View Research. Children, in particular, are hungry for audio content. A 2017 survey from Kids Listen found that of active podcast listeners, 80% tune in to an episode more than once, with 20% of those kids tuning in more than 10 times.
Today, Kidscreen is kicking off its Podcasting 101 series to answer burning questions about doing business in the space, such as what are platforms doing to stand out? Can you build a brand through audio organically? And today’s query: What does an audio-first content strategy even look like?
LA-based kids podcast company Wonkybot believes the secret to a greenlight is an audio-first strategy. Begin with the podcast, and success in other mediums will follow.
The podcast producer behind superhero Tara Tremendous and the recent Origins Unknown is now working with Marc Platt Productions (LaLa Land, Dear Evan Hansen) to turn Tara Tremendous into a feature film, says co-founder Stewart St. John.
“Our audio-first strategy lets us establish an IP in an easier and less expensive way, while not being reliant on big networks,” says St. John. “Now that we have the audience, we’re able to bring our brands to other mediums. With audio content, we’re removing all of the difficulties that make it hard to get TV or movie projects picked up.”
Making a podcast can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but these numbers pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands it costs to make a live-action episode, or the millions that go into an animated TV series, adds St. John.
Podcasts also offer a much quicker way to build up an audience. Wonkybot can create a 10-episode series in around three months, says St. John. The shorter timeframe allows the studio get to market faster and juggle more projects. And he adds that the medium has more built-in flexibility than a traditional TV show because the content doesn’t rely on visuals, so the team is able to swap characters’ genders or age them up or down when bringing a property to TV without affecting the audience’s assumptions.
Wonkybot launched Tara Tremendous in 2015, when the podcast market was still in its infancy. The majority of offerings were geared at adults, like Serial, and putting out original content for tweens and teens helped the studio stand out. Today, there’s more competition, and St. John says the keys to continuing to draw in listeners are high production values and volume.
Wonkybot is gearing up on a new time-traveling teen adventure called Historynauts (working title, 10 episodes), which is expected to deliver in early 2021. Hannah Monson (Glitch) has been cast as an alien who guides five teenagers from a small town on time-traveling missions to protect history.
Correction: Kidscreen mis-reported statistics from Kids Listen. This article has been updated with accurate numbers. Kidscreen regrets the error.