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iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio's top country music radio host Bobby Bones is launching the Nashville Podcast Network, a podcast network built to lure Middle Americans into podcasts. The network will include six other podcasts to give listeners an inside look at the lifestyle and pop culture in Nashville, Tennessee, with the hope of drawing country music listeners in rural communities into iHeart's podcast network.

Why it matters: iHeart sees a business opportunity in bringing podcasting to a more diverse audience — including the center of the country, which is having trouble discovering content that resonates with them. The company is the second-largest podcast publisher in the U.S. behind NPR, with 525 original and branded podcasts, according to Podtrac.

  • "My goal is to bring the lifestyle and culture of Middle America to the podcast world, reaching an audience that has yet to be reached, by offering a broad range of content," says Bobby Bones. The network will launch with a new podcast called "Good Company with Jake Owen," featuring the country music star and Bones riffing about life and music.

iHeart is hoping to leverage its massive terrestrial radio footprint to get migrate listeners over to podcasts, where there are more diverse revenue opportunities.

  • "By leveraging our more than 850 radio stations across the country, we have the unique opportunity to introduce new podcasts to more than a quarter billion broadcast listeners – some of which may only be hearing about podcasting for the very first time," says Chris Peterson, senior vice president of podcasting for iHeartMedia.

Podcasting has typically catered to more high-end, urban audiences, and podcasts featured on popular distribution channels, like iTunes, are often produced from urban areas where the biggest distributors and podcast networks are located. Most listeners in the U.S. are highly educated, have higher household incomes and work full-time, according to Edison Research's latest podcast survey.

Expand chart
Data: Edison Research; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios What's next? "Whats going to grow podcasting is more mass appeal content," says Tom Webster, vice president of strategy and marketing at Edison Research.
  • A game-changer: Podcast buffs will see a huge improvement in podcast data and discovery with changes to the Apple Podcasts app coming with iOS 11.
  • FYI: If you're interested in learning more about rural podcasts, Kelly Moffitt's "Flyover Pocasts" newsletter, is worth a read. (h/t podcast aficionado Lisa Kovitz of Edelman)

Go deeper

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.