Strategy

Visual Storytelling Best Practices from the World’s Third Largest Listening App

How does the third largest podcasting app stay on top of millions of listeners’ minds for over 10 years?

To close the 20/21 Vision Innovation Summit, Amy Fitzgibbons, PhotoShelter’s former VP of Marketing and Stitcher’s current Chief Marketing Officer shared the digital stage with Aaron Nestor, Stitcher’s senior designer to discuss how they collaboratively build visual brand identities for some of the most beloved podcasts streaming on digital radio waves these days — Scam Goddess, Conan O’brien Needs A Friend, Freakonomics and more!

Play back the full session on demand now, or dive head first into the takeaways below to learn more about how the Stitcher team develops delectable visuals (eyecandy, if you will,) that drive brand awareness campaigns, grow listenership for over 100,000 sensational audio programs they promote and ultimately, revenue increases year after year.

The Situation

Originally founded in 2007, Stitcher’s product and reputation has since evolved beyond being just a podcast listening app. In addition to the app, they also have two other revenue-generating areas of the business to credit for their growing success in recent years.

The Stitcher studio produces 70 to 80 owned and operated shows and Midroll is the advertising company they monetize their programs through by selling episodic advertising spots to brand partners.

Stitcher can’t just rely on audio ads alone to promote their product and programs, so all forms of graphic art elements are utilized to create engaging visual assets that then drive traditional and innovative promotional marketing and advertising efforts.

Amy said, “We were joking yesterday [in the dress rehearsal,] saying ‘Podcasts are visual! Or at least the marketing of them is,’ and that’s what I do for a living.”

The Marketing Tactics

So, how does Stitcher use visuals in marketing to tell and sell their auditory offerings? 

In July of 2020, Stitcher was acquired by Pandora and SXM Media. Although the merger gave Amy’s team access to more creative resources, bigger budgets and a wider general audience, it also increased her team’s demand and output.

Through internal partners:

“What I want to stress is not only do we have a lot of channels we’re marketing in, but we as marketing also have a lot of partners that we work with to promote our podcasts…Now that we’re in a larger company with SiriusXM, I don’t have ownership over every social media channel myself, I don’t have ownership over every email channel or over push notifications in the Pandora app. These are all places and channels that many other people own and run and now especially in a bigger company where we have access to market our podcasts on other platforms like SiriusXM’s app, like SiriusXM Satellite, like in the Pandora app and other places, we just have so many internal partners who need assets from us in order to get the creative done and get it onto their channels in a timely manner to help us promote the podcasts and really grow the audiences on launch day.” — Amy Fitzgibbons

On the big screens:

“The Times Square billboard is always the most exciting both for myself and for our creators and for everybody around. You can see Full Release with Samantha Bee and Freakonomics Radio and we’ve done a few others there. Aaron, who will jump in here in a couple of minutes, is the designer of all of these things, but we also use these visual assets on social media. You can’t just use an audiogram or audio on social media; it’s a visual medium, so you’ve got to be visual; and here you can see just a few ways we’ve used the cover art and other artwork to create our social media posts.” — Amy Fitzgibbons

You know, you hear the phrase, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Well the stat was: 61% of people judge podcasts by its cover. It’s like a fine wine, like a book, like anything else, and so the cover art is the opening of the podcast.

Amy Fitzgibbons

By getting crafty and turning cover art into sellable merchandise:

“This is PodSwag, so again this is just another way that the visuals come to life in podcasting, whether it’s a t-shirt, or a pin, or a mask, or a necklace and we sell quite a bit of merch, and fan merch, using our visuals. But, where it all starts is the cover art. For podcasts, the cover art and the visual brand of the podcast are pretty much one in the same. There is an audio brand and a style and we very much try to match that also with what you are hearing and the style of what you’re hearing to what you see in the visuals, but recently I saw a stat — you know, you hear the phrase ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Well the stat was: 61% of people judge podcasts by its cover. It’s like a fine wine, like a book, like anything else and so the cover art is the opening of the podcast. It tells you—is this going to be fun? Is it going to be serious? Who’s the host? Usually if it’s a celebrity we’ll put them on the cover art. So again, all of these are credit to Aaron Nestor who works on all of our cover art and is just so great at bringing together the essence of what is an audio medium to have a visual component to it as well.” — Amy Fitzgibbons

They even make limited edition merch puzzles!

“We try to work proactively to make sure everything is set up for success for the launch, so much so that we can handoff illustrations to merch to get cool puzzles made for a synchronous launch with the show and it just creates this perfect harmony between everything. Again, working in this industry for the last 10 years and how we were doing it 10 years ago versus what I can do now just organizationally, it’s night and day. It truly is and I love the adage ‘Work smarter, not harder’ and this is definitely working smart.” — Aaron Nestor

The Solution

How does the Stitcher design team manage to juggle the production schedule, organize and maintain a living archive of the art for all 190+ shows and distribute their final assets to their internal teammates and external partners?

Templatize Recurring Assets to Increase Creative Productivity

As a busy creative, Aaron prefers to work smarter, not harder. PhotoShelter’s secure, fast and easy to use DAM platform allows him to implement a timesaving best practice he developed as a younger designer: create one graphics-pack template, equipped with over 10 different asset sizes and a few file types. Then, duplicate the template and add custom sizes for each new client or partner request as needed.

“What this allows for is consistency when bringing in anybody to help; new designers, new freelancers and things like that. Each asset here—the cover art, the graphics pack, everything that you would need to hand off to designers to produce artwork to our standards with consistent branding across the networks is all right here,” he said.

💡 Pro Tip: Make a graphics pack for your next launch campaign and all the promotional graphics will be done at once!

Once each show’s visuals are final, he creates a new Collection in Stitcher’s PhotoShelter media library and invites people via email to access, view, and download the assets in them depending on how they should be using them, or maybe he gives them open access to do all of the above, via one centralized link.

Amy shared, “I think someone earlier when I was listening to other presentations said, ‘it’s about what innovation means inside your own company and not necessarily what the world is doing to be innovative,’ and this concept of the graphics pack at launch means that Aaron doesn’t get a thousand requests from every partner across our organization for a different size that he then has to go back and send one by one by one. He just delivers this whole pack—we give every partner a link, we have a launch plan, the link to all the assets are in there and so it just cuts down on the back and forth and cuts down on the amount of work involved tremendously…”

💡 Pro Tip: Aaron says he refreshes the file sizes in the graphics pack every six months to make sure they always have the correct, up-to-date native platform file size requirements to receive optimal audience engagement.

He says, “It’s something I maintain consistently as a lot of the times we’re getting new file sizes from our vendors—Apple, Twitter— things change and so having PhotoShelter as this house for these templates is really, really great because I can just update it and make sure everyone’s on the same page and there’s pretty much little room for error.”

Implement Clear File Organization Practices to Improve Discoverability

Aaron then walked us through Stitcher’s PhotoShelter for Brands Library, showcasing the streamlined and easily searchable Collection taxonomy.

He detailed, “Each show has its own folder and these are organized by network and then within the network we have different shows. Within each of those show folders we have a pretty easy to understand [breakdown of subfolders]—if you want the cover, there’s the cover, if you need the graphics pack, there’s the graphics pack…you’ve got all these different legible, easily understandable ways to dive in and this is really great for when you’re sharing with anyone who needs access to that from producers to hosts, to marketing, to merch, and even external partners. It’s really, really painless and I have yet to hear anyone go in there and go ‘I can’t find anything I’m looking for.’”

“Without PhotoShelter, I can’t imagine wrangling this in any manageable fashion that is actually functional within a larger organization or with all the external partners and everything else we have to deal with.”

Aaron Nestor

Fast Forward

Curious how Stitcher proactively strategizes podcast cover art or if you can expect to see them on TikTok any time soon? Check out a snippet of the Q&A (moderated by PhotoShelter CEO Andrew Fingerman) below or watch the full session right now.

Andrew: How frequently is the creative for a popular podcast refreshed, or any one of those?

Aaron: It really just depends. I know Scam Goddess just got refreshed recently, but it was a light refresh—they just did a color retouch I think. WTF has been the same since it started. Comedy Bang Bang! has refreshed. Some stay, some change — it really just depends on the team producing that show and if they feel things are getting stagnant, so I don’t think there’s any firm number of years or expiration date on podcast creative. It’s really whatever you feel like your audience wants.

Amy: Yeah, we usually try to connect it to some sort of marketing event — you know, if it’s a new season or a 100th episode or there’s a reason to give it new life or are we doing it for the sake of just doing it, although you know, there are some hosts that want to do it for the sake of doing it and we do that too. 

Amy: Yeah, so the marketing team, we’ll usually feed Aaron if there are other marketing specifications—like right now it’s been a year since SiriusXM bought us, but we’re still working on gathering requirements that SiriusXM has for their assets and getting those in because they’re also a little bit different. So, I would say any time there’s a repetitive task of a resize or something like that we see come across more than a handful of times, it’s going to get templatized because we just know we’re going to need it.

Andrew: Is Stitcher using TikTok?

Amy: Yes and no, I mean we’re dabbling. Pandora and XM actually have a partnership with TikTok and they’re working with some of the creators directly. It’s interesting with podcasts because the podcast app audience is actually a little bit older still; older meaning 25 and up and the TikTok audience is so much younger, so we haven’t put a lot of resources into TikTok yet, but I will say YouTube is a big place where people come to ‘listen’ to podcasts and so just before the pandemic, we outfitted our EarWolf studio with a Sling Video capture system so that we can start using video and the idea was that it would go into PhotoShelter and so we can get it on there, too. Obviously, now we’re on Zoom, so it’s not as exciting to capture video yet, but when we get back that would be something we could use for TikTok and YouTube. So you can very quickly understand how I look at things like if I can use an asset lots of times, I will pay for the Sling to be set up, you know?


To learn how 10+ other innovative, creative leading marketers have pivoted their visual content strategies and thrived in 2021 and beyond, tune into the full Innovation Summit now.



Source
Visual Storytelling Best Practices from the World’s Third Largest Listening App is written by Larissa D Green for stories.photoshelter.com

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