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Aug. 3, 2021, 10:43 a.m.

Longform joins Vox and will expand its guests to include podcast hosts and documentary filmmakers

“No matter the amount of tweeting or social media promotion that you might do, [the place] where you need to look to grow your audience is existing podcasts.”

Starting today, the Longform podcast — a long-running show featuring interviews with nonfiction writers and journalists about storytelling — will join the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Longform’s team, headed by Aaron Lammer and Max Linsky, will keep producing the show, but Vox will take on sales, marketing, and distribution.

Liz Kelly Nelson, Vox.com’s vice president of audio, said Vox approached Longform for the partnership because it seemed like a natural fit for the network that hosts more than 200 shows.

“Our mission is to explain the news and explain the world, and that comes in all shapes and forms,” Nelson said. “For us, talk shows like Vox Conversations and The Weeds do a really good job of using talk as a medium to get those explanations out to an audience that is very hungry for context … Longform has created this space for makers and creators where they talk not only about their craft, what they do, and how they approach their work but also get these real moments of humanity.”

Lammer, Linsky, and journalist Evan Ratliff started the podcast in 2012 and have produced it independently since. Each week, they take turns interviewing different guests about their work. Longform has a team of 15, though most work on the Longform website, which collects and recommends fiction and nonfiction. Joining forces with Vox Media means that Longform will get introduced to new listeners as it expands its slate of interviewees from nonfiction writers to include other podcast hosts, documentary filmmakers, and other creatives who work in nonfiction.

“Since we started the podcast nine years ago, finding an audience in podcasting has gotten so much harder,” Linsky said. “Part of what’s exciting to us about this is being able to partner with people who have a new audience that they can expose us to.”

The Vox Media Podcast Network is made up of shows from Vox, The Verge, New York Magazine, Eater, Curbed, SB Nation, and others. Nelson said that having such a large network of shows that cover a diverse range of subjects allows for effective cross-promotion.

“No matter the amount of tweeting or social media promotion that you might do, [the place] where you need to look to grow your audience is existing podcasts,” Nelson said.

Vox declined to provide listenership numbers for Longform and its network, but acquiring a show with nearly 500 episodes and an existing audience is part of its push to grow its audio sector with explanatory, conversation-based shows. In April, Vox Media bought Cafe Studios Inc., a publishing company founded by former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara that produces a slate of legal and political podcasts. Last month, Vox announced another partnership (similar to the one with Longform) with Gastropod, a podcast about food and science.

“When I joined the team in 2019, I was the tenth hire for audio at Vox’s news brand. We’re now pushing 35 and are continuing to grow,” Nelson said. “There are a couple of ways to do that. One is to develop talent in-house or to hire in talent to launch new shows with us, and all of those things are happening … But another way is to look at who’s already out there in the landscape doing this work and if it aligns with our values.”

A current Longform podcast episode ranges from a half hour to an hour and is sustained by ad sponsorship. Linsky, Lammer, and Ratliff all work on their own independent projects outside of the show, which has limited how much it could grow, according to Linsky.

“We’ve really just said if we have limited bandwidth, we’re going to put it into the show,” Linsky said. “Part of what Vox brings to the table is real ambition and organization on the audience and business side.”

Longform’s first episode with Vox will launch on August 11.

POSTED     Aug. 3, 2021, 10:43 a.m.
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