In every episode of Mr Ballen, series host John Allen appears in the center of the frame, usually dressed in a plaid shirt with a few buttons unbuttoned and a baseball cap swung back, and slowly talks viewers through the events of a “strange, dark, and mysterious” true crime story. Episodes with titles like “What I Saw in My Room Still Haunts Me” and “The Real “Ghost Ship” Has a SECRET,” racked up over 40 million monthly views — a massive volume that still isn’t enough to get Allen into it. to stop the highest echelon of YouTube influencers. But what about podcasting? He’s a star.
Steven Cohen, a longtime sales executive in the audio industry, was shocked when he got into the statistics for the podcast version of Mr Ballen, which was launched in February. The show was “with songs that I had honestly never seen, because I came from a fairly large network,” he told The edge. Chances are, Cohen decided to step down from his role as vice president of the Audacy-owned podcast network Cadence13 to join the independent true crime show.
Cohen, who joined the company in May as head of sales, said July is on track to do the same. And yes, 7 million is less than 40 million. But 7 million monthly downloads put you at the top of the Spotify and Apple podcast charts and high CPM rates with advertisers that YouTube can’t compete with.
The show has a few things in its favour: the insatiable demand for true crime content; a pre-existing fan base; and Allen’s radio voice. But Mr Ballen‘s success is also indicative of the merger taking place between YouTube and podcasting. YouTube is the No. 1 platform for podcasts (yes, above Spotify and Apple), according to a study by Cumulus, and with videos of podcast recordings now taken for granted, it’s getting harder and harder to tell what exactly is the difference between a podcast. and a YouTube video.
Allen recognized the resemblance early on after the YouTube show launched in March 2020. “It’s a video podcast on YouTube. We don’t call it that, but it is,” he said. “I really had no idea how to scale a YouTube channel to something else. I wanted to do a podcast, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth.”
He brought in a business manager, Nick Witters, created a sustainable YouTube audience and expanded his staff. Two years later, he finally got his podcast off the ground, and it wasn’t long before he had millions of listens. It also gave the brand more visibility, even though the raw numbers in podcasting are less than what they see on YouTube.
But just because the bar is lower with podcasting doesn’t mean it’s easier to break through. Podcast has a discovery problem and the charts are still dominated by longstanding shows like The Joe Rogan Experience and My favorite murder. Newer hits usually come from celebrities like SmartLess with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett and The always sunny podcast starring Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney.
However, being an audio star is no longer enough. Apple Podcasts has hosted videos since 2005, featuring TED Talks daily and Club Random with Bill Maher take advantage of the functionality. Spotify has some of its biggest stars like Rogan and call her daddy‘s Alex Cooper posts video podcasts, and the company recently announced it is expanding the video podcast feature to six additional countries, including France, Mexico and Brazil. The public likes to have the video option, and Spotify and Apple have an interest in warding off YouTube. In addition, video clips can be shared better than audio clips — remember call her daddy‘s viral “Unka Jahms” moment.
Mr Ballen, despite coming from YouTube, it hasn’t merged its video and audio business yet. The podcast is still audio only and there are some differences between the episodes. The YouTube videos tend to be shorter and creepier, while the podcast episodes are more in-depth and feature true crime stories.
That division will soon end. Cohen said that “we’d love to find a way to bring all of those things together in the middle.” on August 8, Mr Ballen launches a new YouTube channel dedicated to videos from the podcast recordings.
And while other hit shows have spawned networks like Pod Save America with Crooked Media and My favorite murder With Exactly Right, Allen and Cohen want to focus on the core product for now. “Before we expand and potentially dilute what we have, we want to be very, very careful,” Cohen said. “We rock this very gently to bed every night, making sure it sleeps well, wakes up refreshed and refreshed the next day.”