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How Dear Media reinvented internet celebrity
The podcast network has become ubiquitous by targeting women listeners and treating podcasters like content creators.
When Pia Baroncini, an influencer and the creative director of the fashion label LPA, decided to launch a podcast at the start of the pandemic in 2020, there was only one company she wanted as a partner: Dear Media. “Dear Media’s ability to understand the podcast host is a creator and monetize from that angle is really the biggest appeal,” she said.
Now, two years later, she considers her podcast, “Everything is Best” — where she offers conversations on issues such as parenting, pregnancy, financial planning, entertaining — a big success. She credits her partnership with Dear Media.
Since its launch in 2018, Dear Media has quietly become one of the most prominent names in women’s media. The podcast network’s social media channels reach a combined audience of more than 120 million. Dear Media’s shows were downloaded more than 200 million times in 2022, and the company has launched over 50 lines of influencer merchandise and doubled its annual revenue in each of the past four years.
The brand has become ubiquitous in women’s spaces online. It’s hard to scroll through TikTok or Instagram without seeing a Dear Media podcast video clip. “You see a clip on TikTok and you know immediately it’s Dear Media,” said the TikTok star Corporate Natalie, who has nearly half a million followers on the app.
Podcasting is forecast to be a $94.88 billion industry by 2028, and big players including Spotify and Apple have acquired or commissioned a slew of high-profile, exclusive shows. And the growth of platforms such as Anchor, which allows anyone to create a podcast, has led to a tidal wave of homegrown shows. But, as the economy contracts and this media sector enters what the podcast critic and analyst Nicholas Quah calls a “podcast winter,” competition is becoming fierce. That’s where Dear Media comes in.
“[There’s] generally a feeling of pessimism in the podcast business,” he said. “I haven’t seen that many attempts at building out a women’s focused multimedia lifestyle brand that has a distinct podcast presence like Dear Media. The big question of a network of that scale is whether they have the downloads.” Meaning, for Dear Media to survive, it must continue to churn out shows and expand its audience.
Dear Media seems to have tapped into a winning formula: leveraging podcasts as a springboard for female influencers to build multimillion-dollar brands. The Dear Media network hosts 63 shows, primarily chat shows (where hosts and guests have freewheeling conversations) with dozens more in development, and is constantly bringing on new talent. Its popular slate of shows includes “Not Skinny But Not Fat,” a pop culture show hosted by the influencer Amanda Hirsch, “Back to the Beach,” which is hosted by the reality TV stars Kristin Cavallari and Stephen Colletti, both of whom starred on the MTV show “Laguna Beach,” and “Absolutely Not,” a comedy podcast hosted by the actress and comedian Heather McMahan.
“They’ve created this network of powerful women that all have really interesting channels,” Baroncini said. “...We’re all constantly doing pod swaps with each other.”
Last year, Dear Media launched its first limited series, “Summer of Gold,” hosted by the retired figure skater Michelle Kwan and co-produced with Togethxr, a women’s sports media company. It tells the oral history of the 1996 Olympics, when the women’s sports teams swept gold. And this year, the network also introduced its first fiction show, called “Bone, Marry, Bury,” with Sarah Hyland, about romance and murder. Dear Media also has announced a show with the “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross called “I Am America.” It features stories that spotlight everyday Americans and “transcend[s] all the divisions we have in this country,” an announcement for the show reads.
Although Dear Media itself has managed to stay out of the online drama that is often synonymous with the influencer industry, it has not shied away from controversial talent. In October, the company recruited Claudia Oshry and Jackie Oshry Weinreb, daughters of far-right extremist Pamela Geller, to host a show, despite Claudia Oshry’s being mired in backlash for espousing views similar to her mother’s, such as repeatedly making racist comments and downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.
An untapped market
Dear Media was founded as a joint venture between the entrepreneur Michael Bosstick, who serves as the company’s chief executive, and Raina Penchansky, the founder of Digital Brand Architects (DBA), the leading lifestyle influencer management company, which helps social media creators monetize and expand their brands. DBA’s primacy in the field was cemented when the management company was acquired by United Talent Agency in 2019.
The business came to fruition after Michael Bosstick and his wife, Lauryn Bosstick, a massively popular lifestyle influencer known by her handle, @theskinnyconfidential, produced a successful podcast built off her brand called “The Skinny Confidential Him & Her.” The show featured frank conversations with entrepreneurs, content creators and authors.
Although their show was a success — the Bossticks have produced more than 500 episodes, never missing an episode a week in six years and garnering over 150 million downloads — they had trouble finding a podcast network. They didn’t feel that any of the leading networks took them seriously or were interested in serving a primarily female audience.
The Bossticks recognized that countless influential women with huge online followings, including lifestyle content creators, reality stars and entrepreneurs, wanted to start podcasts but were dismissed or were greatly undervalued by the male-dominated podcast industry. So, they partnered with Penchansky, whose company had a record of working with major female content creators, and Dear Media was born.