Growing the Podcast Market is Product Management

Zack Reneau-Wedeen, Product Manager for Google Podcasts, shares how he grew a “20% time” side project into a complete product team and the strategy behind exploring growth opportunities in the podcast market.

Zack Reneau-Wedeen is the Product Manager for Google Podcast. He began working at Google as an Associate Product Manager after graduating from Yale. Zack realized that there wasn’t an easy way to find podcasts while he was working on Google’s search engine. So he began collaborating with a team on a so-called “20% project in which he spent 20% of his work day bringing podcasts to Google Search.

Podcasting is a large and growing marketing opportunity. It’s a $500 million industry in the US and $7 billion in China. Google also has 2 billion Android users, the vast majority of whom don’t yet listen to podcasts. Zack saw this as a huge opportunity to dramatically expand the podcast ecosystem.

Moreover, it’s an opportunity that aligns with Google’s mission to make information universally accessible and useful. Zack says that framing the opportunity this way helped him get buy-in from executives to pursue the idea.

Once higher ups were on board, it was easy for Zack to find teammates within Google who were passionate about podcasting. They’re now working on several products and programs for podcast listeners and producers.

Launching a startup from within a large company has its benefits. Zack says that many things that might be your responsibility in smaller settings are already taken care of, so you can focus on the work that you really care about. In addition, unlike at a startup, there isn’t risk of needing to file for bankruptcy if the project fails.

However, Zack says that you and your team need to hold yourself to the same standard as if it were a startup. Discipline, patience, and passion are key.

Zack says his ultimate goal is for podcasts to be a first class citizen across Google. He and his team are working to provide access to podcasts in the same way Google Search allows you to access articles and videos.

Since the Google Podcasts app launched in June, it’s gained over 1 million downloads. One of the most encouraging things for Zack’s team is that people who try it are returning regularly.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about ideation, exploring new market opportunities, and launching startups from within large companies.

Here are the highlights:

  • Zack’s goals for growing the podcast market (10:00)
  • How Zack finds opportunities for innovation and prioritizes them (13:58)
  • Transitioning Google Podcasts from a part-time project to a full-fledged team (18:37)
  • How Google Podcasts employs artificial intelligence (22:51)
  • How Zack leverages the scale of Google while still innovating like a startup (25:17)

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