Podcasts’ New Playbook + Prepping for 2024 M&A

August 17, 2023 by  Chris Erwin

RockWater Roundup

RockWater analysis to make you a better investor and operator. Today we discuss podcasts’ new strategy playbook, and how to prep for an M&A sales process in 2024.

Podcasts’ New Playbook

by Chris Erwin


The podcast network playbook has changed.

Here’s what the market will value going forward.

Below I highlight 3 different strategies. These are based on convos I’ve had with multiple podcast exec teams over the past month.


  • Weekly episode formats aka 50+ / year
  • Content volume and consistency drive audience growth, more ad inventory
  • Rapid dev cycles, lower cost production
  • Mix of network and owned formats that can cross promo audience
  • Talent incubator to seed convos for premium projects


  • Free content drives new audience discoverability and reach
  • Paywalled content engages core fans, creates recurring revenue
  • Custom-built tech, or 3rd party tools like Patreon, to capture emails
  • Discords, newsletters to deepen community ties
  • Live events, merch for other monetization
  • Can replicate for other fandoms (e.g. other sports teams, pop culture affinity groups)


  • Has target lists of media brands or studios to acquire, already in talks with some
  • Targets add scale to existing or adjacent audience demos, incl new geos
  • Targets are diversifying revenues, have leadership that want to keep building
  • Targets add production infrastructure to increase output volume / speed
  • Doesn’t have financing to close deals, needs help raising $$ from new investor / buyer

If you know of a company with these attributes, DM me! We have a client actively looking to acquire.

Any other modern podcast strategies I’m missing? What else are you seeing out there?

…btw that photo is me and colleague Michael Booth in LA last week, right after discussing these strategies over dinner!


Prepping for 2024 M&A

by Chris Erwin


Lately I’ve been having more CEO convos about how to plan for a potential exit. There’s a few reasons why.

One is that we’re headed into Q3/Q4 planning season, where companies will present 2024 budgets and strategies to their boards. Planning a sale is a big decision, so there’s a lot of upfront evaluation and prep before a final decision is made by the board and leadership.

From a macro perspective, I’m also seeing a wide range of dynamics. There are companies who are outperforming in fast growing markets, and we’re in a market where premium assets earn premium price tags.

But there are many companies who are running out of cash, can’t raise additional capital, and time is not their friend. Either the addressable market is a lot smaller than initially expected, consumer demand has softened due to macro headwinds, and / or the company was not run with the right discipline and requires new leadership.

Any many flavors in between (desire to exit a non-core business unit, seek to go bigger with a larger strategic partner, owner requires liquidity, etc).

So, below is how I think about prepping for M&A, as there are different types of M&A sales processes.

The right process depends on (1) sale viability and (2) ownership goals…


  • Market Attractiveness – size, growth, saturation
  • Company Performance – revenue scale and quality, margins, growth, competitive moat, scalability, future opportunity
  • Team – leadership quality, vision, desire to stay on
  • Buyers – strong combo logic, ability to pay


  • Speed
  • Price
  • Certainty

Other goals include privacy, founder fulfillment. But above 3 are primary drivers.

Once sale viability and goals are considered, a company, along with its financial advisor, can design the best-fit sales process. Some examples…

➡️ 2-step auction, with premium mktg materials, broad buyer outreach, and formal bid procedures

➡️ Targeted outreach to 2 to 3 most likely buyers, who may already be partners

➡️ An email drip campaign to potential buyers to drive leads for rapid owner-to-owner talks (usually distress or very subscale)

It’s a BIG decision, financially and emotionally. Upfront work is needed. Boards and CEOs must be counseled.

I’ve seen M&A from all sides – as a seller, and as a buy and sell-side advisor. Across media x commerce and creator economy.

DM me if you want to learn more. Our RockWater team likes helping leaders and owners explore strategic options!


If these insights are relevant to projects you’re working on, ping us here. We love talking all things media x commerce!

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