Digital media publisher HowStuffWorks is spinning out from parent company System1 as an independent podcast network with a $15 million Series A investment from The Raine Group, the company said on Thursday.
HowStuffWorks, which launched as a website in 1998, publishes and distributes podcasts, video and other digital content that explores curiosity-driven topics. Popular podcasts include “Stuff Mom Never Told You” and “Stuff You Missed In History Class.”
As an independent company, HowStuffWorks will double down on its podcast business. The network recently surpassed 1 billion downloads across its shows to become the largest ad-supported podcast network in the world and is ranked as the number two publisher by streams and downloads by podcast analytics company Podtrac.
“Our team has had incredible success with podcasts not necessarily as our big focus,” said Conal Byrne, President at HowStuffWorks. “Now we have the support to focus on and grow [our podcast business].”
HowStuffWorks wants to not only grow its slate of in-house produced content, but bring new publishers onto its network and support them with sales, marketing and dynamic ad insertion capabilities through its ad server, AdsWizz. So far, the company has signed on five new shows which it will announce at the IAB Podcast upfront in September.
“There’s an explosion of podcast creators and we want to enable that,” Byrne said. “Our biggest focus in the next few months is to build out our sales and marketing teams.”
HowStuffWorks joins a flurry of podcast companies that received funding this month.
Last week, podcast hosting platform and dynamic ad server Art19 raised $7.5 million in a Series A round from DCM ventures. Earlier in August, broadcast radio network Entercom took a 45% stake in podcast network DGital Media, and podcast network Gimlet raised $15 million in a round led by Stripes Group.
“We’ve been tracking podcasting for a long time and think now is the right time to invest because analytics are coming to the industry,” said Peter Amaro, Vice President at The Raine Group. “As soon as you see the brand dollars come over, it’s a watershed moment.”
Like other podcast networks, HowStuffWorks hopes to cash in on brand dollars, which are seeping into the podcast space thanks to deeper audience analytics and more metrics like listen-through rates. According to radio broadcaster Westwood One, marketers and agencies who plan to invest in podcasts in the next six months has increased threefold, from 10% to 27% year over year. HowStuffWorks is on track to double its number of advertisers from last year.
“We have tools now to say, ‘here’s what happens when you work with podcasts,’” said Jason Hoch, chief content officer at HowStuffWorks. “We not only think [brands] are going to come on the platform, but they’re going to spend a lot of money.”
To remain relevant in an increasingly crowded podcast space, HowStuffWorks will double down on its evergreen content while pivoting into new genres, Byrne said.
“While we’ve been doing this for going on 10 years, it’s still ‘early days,’” he said. “There’s room for every entrant to test shows and grow without really overlapping or getting into each other’s way.”