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150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

Blue Wire, a sports-focused podcast network, has found success by catering to mid-tier content creators, challenging the notion that only top-tier talent can thrive in this competitive space. Founded five years ago by former radio host Kevin Jones, Blue Wire has grown from a modest $17,000 investment into a network boasting over 250 podcasts and $12 million in funding. Kevin’s journey provides an enticing case study in adaptability, strategic focus, and the power of customer-centric business practices.

150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

“When I founded Blue Wire five years ago, podcasting had Joe Rogan and a lot of big names who were making all the dollars, and I thought that there could be a company helping more of the middle-class creators,” the sports enthusiast reveals when he saw the opportunity in the underserved middle class of podcasters.

Blue Wire’s mission is straightforward: help podcasters monetize their content. The company partners with independent creators, primarily in the sports sector, without taking ownership of their shows. “Our mission is simple,” Kevin explains. “We help podcasters make more money.”

From his sports journalism experience, he aims to create a more collaborative culture at Blue Wire. “I wanted to create a company where I was going to listen to employees [and] podcasters,” he states. “Ideas are based on merit, not on [them] coming from the top down.”

Despite facing challenges, including competition from more prominent players and numerous investor rejections, Kevin has persevered and built a rock-solid foundation for Blue Wire’s future.

150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

Blue Wire’s Unique Approach to Podcast Networking

Blue Wire distinguishes itself in the crowded podcast industry through strategic focus and customer-centric practices. Kevin highlights the company’s blend of national and local content as a key differentiator. “One of our taglines is we have a national reach with a local feel,” he explains. “We have a bunch of great national podcasts… But we also have excellent local content. We’re one of the only podcast networks blending [the two].”

The company’s business model is based on revenue sharing with creators, with larger podcasts receiving a bigger split. However, Kevin emphasizes that Blue Wire’s true value lies in its customer service and transparency approach. “We are podcasters. We have a core value to respond to our podcasters as quickly as possible,” Kevin states. “We give a lot of transparency. We tell creators, ‘Here’s your sales pipeline. Here are the advertisers saying no to you. Here’s why.’”

150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

This strategy is paying off, with Kevin reporting an impressively low churn rate. “95% of our podcasters since 2021 have stayed with us,” he notes. “Most people are making more money today than when they started with us.”

Blue Wire’s operational model is designed to be asset-light, with creators maintaining ownership and production responsibilities for their content. The founder argues this approach allows the company to focus on monetization and support. He’s also investing in technology to enhance creator insights, developing what he claims will be “the first revenue transparency tool for technology ever created in podcasting.”

Blue Wire’s Strategy for Talent Acquisition and Retention

Blue Wire has developed a distinct approach to attracting and retaining talent in the competitive podcasting market. Kevin emphasizes the company’s commitment to swift communication and decisive action. “We show if we’re interested in someone. We don’t beat around the bush. We show them an offer very quickly,” he states.

The podcasting company is a middle ground between larger, publicly traded companies and smaller networks. “We tell them, ‘You’re more of a medium fish or a big fish in a medium pond with Blue Wire,’” Kevin explains, adding that such a strategy makes creators feel prioritized while benefiting from the network’s resources.

The company’s focused approach also plays a role in talent acquisition. “We’re solely focused on podcasting, which gives us an advantage to recruit podcasters,” Kevin notes. The entrepreneur attributes their high retention rate to this specialization and the network’s transparency.

150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

When it comes to developing new podcasts, Blue Wire is selective, preferring established shows. Kevin elaborates, “We don’t launch new shows anymore, but maybe 2 or 3% of the shows we add yearly are new.” The network looks for creators with a solid social media presence and a demonstrated commitment to their content.

The CEO emphasizes the importance of creator initiative, describing Blue Wire’s role as “rocket fuel or the assistant coach.” He adds, “The podcaster has to be the head coach. They have to be driving the rocket ship. We’re not going to drive it for you.”

Hot Trends in the Podcasting Industry

Kevin identifies several key trends shaping the creator economy and the future of podcasting. At the forefront is YouTube’s growing importance in podcasting. “The biggest trend that’s [impacting] Blue Wire the most is YouTube’s adoption of podcasting,” Kevin says. He notes that some newer podcasters now have larger audiences on YouTube than on audio platforms, reflecting a shift in content distribution and consumption.

150M Downloads Per Year: The Growth Story Behind Kevin Jones’ Blue Wire Podcast Network

Another trend Kevin has observed is the rise of creator-led products. “Creators are launching their beer, cigar, beauty line,” he explains. While Blue Wire isn’t currently involved in this area, Kevin sees it as a potential future direction for the company.

When it comes to future trends, Kevin predicts increased consolidation in the podcasting industry. “I think podcast companies will get acquired, but I think more and more will merge,” he states. He believes this consolidation could help companies achieve faster growth and grander scale.

Kevin also foresees a shift in business models, with fewer companies relying on large venture capital investments. “I think lean and mean business models are the way to go,” he says, anticipating more bootstrapped and early-profitable ventures.

Despite these changes, Kevin is optimistic the industry will grow. “[I think] the industry is $2.5B today. I think it’ll be closer to $4-5B five years from now,” he predicts, citing increasing advertiser interest in podcasting as traditional media channels lose ground.

Future Podcasting Opportunities 

Kevin outlines key challenges facing the podcasting industry today. “There’s a lot of competition, for sure. Acquiring new talent requires a lot of competition from advertisers,” he notes. Blue Wire’s chief emphasizes the need for unique offerings to stand out in a saturated market.

Maintaining creator satisfaction is another crucial challenge. “You got to keep bringing home the bacon, keep bringing in the dollars for them to be happy,” Kevin explains, underscoring the importance of maintaining high CPMs (cost per thousand listeners) for the industry’s health.

With his eyes set on the future, Kevin is cautious about immediately embracing AI technologies. “We are less focused on AI at the beginning,” he states. Instead, Blue Wire is prioritizing the development of a revenue transparency tool for creators. “We think we can license that technology out to other podcast networks,” Kevin adds, suggesting potential new revenue streams.

For fresh entrepreneurs and creators, Kevin offers pragmatic advice: “Try and be profitable from day one. Try and establish a business model.” He emphasizes resilience: “You must have a high pain tolerance. To want to be an entrepreneur is a painful experience.”

Scaling Success: Blue Wire’s Growth and Future Vision

Kevin reflects on his proudest achievements with Blue Wire, highlighting three key areas. First, he notes the company’s successful fundraising efforts. “Being able to figure out business and convince investors for money was great,” Kevin says.

Secondly, he’s proud of Blue Wire’s audience growth. “We’re reaching 150 million downloads per year,” Kevin states of the significant scale-up from his initial podcast’s modest numbers.

Lastly, the industry veteran takes pride in building his team. “We now have 15 great full-timers. Some of these people started with me. It was their first job out of college, and they’ve really grown up their skill sets,” he explains.

Regarding how the broader creator economy can better support podcast creators, Kevin singles out the need for a shift in advertising spending. “We got to convince advertisers to stop spending so much money on TV and radio and start spending more with digital creators,” he argues. Kevin believes that while audience attention has shifted towards digital content, advertising dollars haven’t followed at the same pace. He sees this as a crucial area for improvement to support the podcast ecosystem’s growth.

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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