Case Study: Wondery

Founded in 2016 by former Fox International Channels CEO, Hernan Lopez, Wondery is an audio-on-demand network comprised of storytellers in entertainment, drama, personal growth, business, and home.
When RLM PR started working with Wondery, it had just entered the field, with not a lot of industry presence. Over the past two years, RLM PR has brought Wondery from that place to the #1 independent podcast publisher, with more #1 shows and TV deals than any other independent company. RLM has far surpassed the role of a traditional PR agency by conducting premieres, brokering partnerships, creating “real time” opportunities, and organizing studio tours—and helped make Wondery a household name.

2018: Quite A Year!

• Fresh off the success of its viral true crime hit Dirty John, Wondery released expanded 2018 programming slate—including Dr. Death, Business Wars, American History Tellers, American Innovations, Safe for Work, This is War, Inside Jaws, Imagined Life, Gladiator, and TBD with Tina Brown—expanding Wondery’s content into new genres like business, history, science, and straight-on interview format.

• RLM PR leveraged Wondery’s unique storytelling approach, including its emotionally immersive multidimensional audio, by offering reporters advance previews of each podcast. This enabled reporters to immerse themselves in Wondery’s trademark audio – and many of them ended up becoming Wondery fans. RLM PR even worked with Wondery to expand its immersive audio and create a distinct new audio “image” for its podcasts.

• To promote Inside Jaws, which detailed the making of Jaws, RLM PR capitalized on the “Lady of the Dunes” theory by famous author (and Stephen King’s son) Joe Hill. The theory, which says that an extra on Jaws may be an unidentified murder victim, went viral – and Inside Jaws was covered in Esquire, Vice, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Fox News, and many more.

• RLM PR launched a Memorial Day campaign for This Is War, Wondery’s podcast about veterans returning home from war. This resulted in Memorial Day-themed broadcast segments featuring veterans from This Is War on Fox News and Newsmax.

• To boost the profiles of Wondery’s podcasts, RLM PR brokered content and advertising partnerships with major outlets including Smithsonian and TheSkimm. RLM PR secured a National Women’s Month-themed content partnership with Smithsonian for Wondery’s science series American Innovations and an advertising partnership with TheSkimm for its career advice series Safe for Work.

• For Wondery’s interview podcast TBD with Tina Brown, RLM PR leveraged the distinguished career of host Tina Brown as editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, along with the notability of her A-list celebrity guests like Michael Douglas, Alison Janney and Aaron Sorkin. This resulted in viral pickup in outlets such as Us Weekly, People, Cheddar TV, USA Today, and PopSugar.

• As a result of the press attention and partnerships that RLM PR secured, Wondery had eight #1 podcasts in 2018 – more than any other podcast company that year. Wondery became the #1 independent podcast publisher of 2018, ranking #1 and #2 on Podtrac’s Most Downloaded 10 Podcasts of 2018 (for Dr. Death and the huge hit, Gladiator, which made 18 Top 10 lists).

Dr. Death

• For Dr. Death, Wondery’s true-crime successor to Dirty John, RLM PR organized a much-buzzed-bout premiere in New York City. RLM PR invited local press and influencers to the event, where they listened to the first episode, blindfolded, to fully focus on Wondery’s trademark emotionally immersive sound. The premiere also featured a Q&A with Dr. Death’s host, reporter Laura Beil. This event got the press first talking about Dr. Death’s disturbing true story of a sociopathic surgeon and the institutional failure that kept him in practice.

• RLM PR furthered Dr. Death’s explosion in popularity through a press campaign around a Dr. Death billboard across the street from the Texas hospital where the podcast’s villain worked. The pickup was tremendous, with coverage in Dallas outlets like The Dallas Morning News—followed by national coverage. The social media reaction was so viral that the billboard was mysteriously taken down – which of course, led to even more press coverage nationwide.

• Thanks to these campaigns and RLM PR’s relationships with reporters who covered Dirty John, Dr. Death was covered in over 110 top-tier outlets, including Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, GQ, Refinery29, The Dr. Oz Show—we even arranged Sam Sifton to cover it in his NYT cooking column! Dr. Death exceeded even the viral popularity of Dirty John: it was Podtrac’s #1 New Podcast of 2018 (higher than Dirty John last year), and Wondery has a TV deal in place.

2019 & Over My Dead Body

• Wondery kicked off 2019 with the newest addition to its true crime pantheon: Over My Dead Body (OMDB), about the doomed marriage and murder of Florida law professor Dan Markel. RLM PR identified several key trends to entice reporters, including the podcast’s Valentine’s Day release, the racial injustice element of the story, and the previous success of Wondery’s smash true crime podcasts Dirty John, Dr. Death, and Gladiator.

• RLM PR also organized a listening premiere in New York City for local press. The premiere included a preview of the first episode, which the audience listened to blindfolded to fully focus on Wondery’s trademark emotionally immersive sound. There was also a Q&A with OMBD’s host Matthew Schaer and Wondery founder/CEO Hernan Lopez, featuring phone calls and surveillance videos that shed a new light on Markel’s disturbing death.

• By focusing on OMDB’s sensational story and racial injustice, RLM PR turned it into the next viral podcast hit, with coverage in numerous outlets. This included an exclusive in Refinery29; additional digital coverage in UPROXX, Fox News, The Wrap, and Inside Edition; and upcoming TV segments in Dr. Oz and 20/20.

• With OMDB’s viral press coverage, RLM PR brought Wondery a sensational start to 2019. OMDB even eclipsed Wondery’s previous true crime hits Dr. Death, Dirty John, and Gladiator in downloads. The press also garnered interest from high-level showrunners to turn OMDB into a TV series, making this the sixth Wondery podcast to make the leap to television (more than any podcast company).

Wondery/Hernan Lopez Branding Campaign

• One of RLM PR’s chief goals was to elevate Wondery’s brand in the podcast landscape and position Wondery’s founder/CEO Hernan Lopez as a leading podcast authority. RLM PR highlighted Lopez’s decades of media expertise as CEO of Fox International Channels, as well as his unconventional background listening to pirate radio as a teenager in Latin America (his motivation for founding Wondery).

• RLM PR leveraged Lopez’s appearances as a keynote speaker at the IAB up-fronts and as a guest of honor at Cannes Lions to bestow upon the audience his secrets re: the viral success of Dirty John. At Cannes Lions, RLM PR put front and center Lopez’s declaration of Dirty John creating a “zeitgeist moment” in the podcast industry. This resulted in coverage in high-level marketing trades such as AdExchanger, Adweek, and Digiday.

• As a result of these efforts, Lopez has become the go-to expert for all things related to podcasting. RLM PR secured interviews and in-depth profiles for Lopez in numerous top-tier business, marketing, and entertainment outlets – including the WSJ, The New York Times, Digiday, MarketWatch, Inc., The Advocate, Ad Age, Entrepreneur, and several interviews on CNBC. RLM was able to capitalize on Wondery’s $5 million raise—in TechCrunch and a host of others, all proclaiming how Wondery had become a “podcast dream factory”.

• RLM PR turned Wondery’s unparalleled 2018 success into a must-read business story, leveraging Wondery’s status as the first and only podcast company to achieve eight #1 hits that year, as well as three TV deals and seven iHeartRadio Awards nominations. This resulted in coverage in major business and finance outlets, including The New York Times and MarketWatch.

• RLM PR created a campaign showcasing Wondery’s powerful female presence, which includes 60% of Wondery’s employees, 40% of its executive team, and the hosts of 50% of its shows. Through this pitch, RLM PR spotlighted Wondery as a leader in the expanding opportunities for women in the podcast industry, on the talent and production sides – landing coverage in business and career-focused outlets including Forbes and the Femails Podcast.

• Wondery has more TV development deals than any other podcast company (six so far, including Dr. Death, Business Wars, and Gladiator). RLM PR leveraged Wondery’s unprecedented track record of podcasts becoming TV series for in-depth features in major entertainment and business trades, including The Wrap, Deadline, The New York Times, and Fast Company.

• At the end of 2018, RLM PR submitted Wondery for Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies List, spotlighting Wondery’s innovative contributions to the podcast medium, including its story-driven content and immersive emotionally driven audio. Thanks to RLM PR’s nomination, Wondery made the list and is now one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.

• Thanks to RLM PR elevating Lopez’s profile as a thought leader in audio and podcasting, he has been nominated as a keynote speaker at major industry conferences and events nationwide, including SXSW and the Podcast Upfronts. Leveraging Wondery’s massive success as an industry leader, RLM PR has secured Lopez meetings at these events with reporters from top-tier advertising and entertainment publications, including Ad Age, Deadline, and Rolling Stone.

• In addition to national and global publications, RLM PR has obtained coverage for Wondery in numerous local and regional magazines, including Miami New Times and Dallas News, as well as an upcoming feature in LA Magazine. RLM PR obtained this coverage by leveraging the many locales of Wondery and its podcasts, from Felonious Florida to Dr. Death (Texas) to Wondery’s own LA headquarters.

• In March 2019, Edison Research published the Infinite Dial 2019 study, revealing an inflection point in podcast listening: for the first time, more than half of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast at some point, and nearly one-third have listened to a podcast in the last month. RLM PR placed a story about the study in The New York Times, with Lopez quoted and resourced prominently in the article. In April we released the news about Wondery’s partnership with UMG—and it resulted in articles and mentions in newspapers nationwide.

Wondery Industry News

• 2018 saw explosive growth for Wondery, with a successful round and the hiring of a well-known, much-discussed first-ever COO, UPROXX’s Jen Sargent. RLM PR immediately capitalized on this, leveraging Sargent’s distinguished career as a digital media executive and President of UPROXX.

• RLM PR secured exclusives for the news about its new COO in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as well a broadcast segment on A List Daily.

Studio Tour: The Results

• Capitalizing on end of Wondery’s landmark 2018 – which included eight #1 series and the TV premiere of “Dirty John” – RLM PR organized tours of Wondery’s Hollywood studio to local and national press. The goal was to provide reporters with a firsthand look at Wondery unique podcast production method, which revived the classic Hollywood studio system for the 21st century.

• This ongoing campaign has resulted in several in-depth profiles of Wondery and Lopez, including an Advertising Week article, a MarketWatch feature, a New York Times front-page Business section story (well, two stories in two weeks), an LA Times feature, and a story on the “creation of Wondery” for Fast Company magazine. And New York Magazine highlighted Lopez as one of Big Pod’s Big Players. (Do we need to mention the three Bloomberg stories in early 2019?)

And…

• Finally, we launched Justin Long’s “Life Is Short” podcast to great acclaim in May. Already a top 10 entry in the podcast wars! Two of our favorite shows—“Inside Star Wars” and Bloomberg’s “The Shrink Next Door”—received media attention all throughout June.

Summary

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Date published

April 1, 2018
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