May 21, 2024 - News

The future of podcasts and Austin's Dear Media

A photo of three people on stage with the words "Dear Media" and "Shutup I'm talking" behind them.

Michael Bosstick (right) and Lauryn Bosstick (center) speak at a Dear Media event in Austin. Photo: Courtesy of Angelica Marie Photography/Dear Media

Dozens of podcast enthusiasts gathered at Distribution Hall earlier this month to hear from Austin-based Dear Media talent — many hoping to take their own platform to the next level.

Why it matters: Podcast listenership has continued to boom, and Austin-based Dear Media has grown its lineup to over 80 shows since the media company first launched in 2018.

  • Co-founders Michael and Lauryn Bosstick relocated the company's headquarters from Los Angeles to Austin in 2020, and their growth here is another sign of Austin's new influencer market.
  • Dear Media has since "reinvented the internet celebrity," the Washington Post wrote in 2022, and its shows remain designed for a mostly female audience.

State of play: Like the music and television industry, audio companies have suffered from a slower ad market in recent years.

  • Co-founders Michael and Lauryn Bosstick have worked to diversify Dear Media's revenue, building out in-person events, social media content, videos, book deals, lifestyle brands and more.
  • Plus, Dear Media offers sponsored episodes, where guests pay thousands of dollars to be featured on popular shows. In 2022, Michael Bosstick told Bloomberg he and his wife's "The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast" charges between $20,000-$40,000 per sponsored interview.

What they're saying: "I've never felt confident in just podcasts as a platform," Michael Bosstick tells Axios. "I think a lot of companies have gotten in trouble because they become just a podcast network."

  • Dear Media has a following of more than 150 million across social media channels, according to figures provided to Axios.
  • "We're known for audio, but it's more of a holistic approach where we want to jump in, look at the creator's brand holistically and say, 'What other extensions make sense that we can help you with?'"

Between the lines: Dear Media hasn't been without controversy.

  • In 2022, the company brought in Claudia and Jackie Oshry, despite the pair's numerous scandals.
  • Most recently, Dear Media's "The Art of Being Well" made headlines for host Will Cole's interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, who promoted restrictive eating and wellness fads that are backed up by little scientific evidence, such as intermittent fasting and a paleo diet.

But Bosstick said he tries to steer clear of policing creators' content, adding that "it's impossible to appease everybody."

  • "I kind of put responsibility back on the consumer and say, 'If this is not for you, if you don't like this … there's 1,000 other places to go,' but we're not out there intentionally trying to harm or hurt," Bosstick said. "We're cautious with what we say. We try to point out that this is just an opinion from our perspective."

Zoom in: The Austin Dear Media IRL event this month was the company's second-ever in-person event and featured panels with popular Dear Media hosts like Whitney Port, Molly Sims and Claudia and Jackie Oshry.

  • Bosstick estimates that at least half of Dear Media employees are based in Austin with the rest in Los Angeles and New York.
  • "We saw a lot of movement (in Austin)," Bosstick said. "It's a city that's excited about having new companies and excited about people investing for growth here."

What's next: Bosstick says he plans to continue to grow the company in Austin, adding that he's not focusing on an exit strategy at the moment.

  • "We've doubled revenue since we've started year after year, and we're profitable," he added. "I also think that's because of the approach that we take, which is we haven't pigeon holed ourselves into just one thing."
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