This year, Zach Braff will star in a new ABC comedy called Alex, Inc., based on the Gimlet Media podcast StartUp. Julia Roberts is set to be the lead in a TV adaptation of the Gimlet Media podcast Homecoming, created Mr. Robot executive producer Sam Esmail. And Richard Linklater has optioned the rights to “Man of the People,” an episode of Reply All, a podcast from, you guessed it, Gimlet Media. This is a big reason why HBO, Netflix, and Hulu veteran Jenny Wall decided to join the three-year-old company as its new chief marketing officer.
Wall, who was Hulu’s senior VP and head of marketing until she stepped down in May, had been talking to Gimlet co-founders Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber for about six months and says she “couldn’t shake the amazing storytelling they’re doing and the direction where their brand is going.”
In the short history of podcasting, marketing has been almost refreshingly rudimentary: Host gently interrupts pod to read a custom message from their sponsor, which at some point probably included MailChimp, Stamps.com, and, I don’t know, Blue Apron, maybe? If that’s basic, the marketing of podcasts themselves is almost non-existent, save for mentions on other related pods and ratings via podcast apps. It’s here that Wall sees significant opportunity, particularly for a network like Gimlet. Like Def Jam Records back in the day or A24 in the indie film world now, Wall points to the same potential in podcasts.
“I go back to my HBO days in that you create incredible shows and you associate that with the brand. It becomes about not just one show but many shows that represent this incredible brand,” Wall says. “So when someone says it’s a Gimlet show, you know it’s going to be good. That’s the biggest opportunity, is having people associate the brand with all this incredible content.”
The marketing budget at a podcast company is significantly less than Netlfix, HBO, or Hulu, but Wall says it’s about being strategic.”It’s also about figuring out how we can work with partners in TV and film to extend the exposure for these IPs and maybe extend it back,” she says. “The answer isn’t just, let’s spend some money to promote these shows, like we would a show on Netflix or Hulu. We’re not going to be buying billboards or TV spots.”
Wall sees the handful of TV and film projects the company is involved in as a harbinger of things to come, calling Gimlet “a storytelling brand.”