At last Friday’s podcast recording session for the weekly episode of Politics: Meet Me in the Middle, one of six new podcast shows at CurtCo Media, participants were readying for a discussion on the Senate impeachment trial. Sitting at the studio table with headphones on and mics ready were the show’s co-hosts—Bill Curtis and Ed Larson—along with guest Jane Albrecht.
The trio at the table all have impressive backgrounds and live in Malibu: a CEO, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian with Pepperdine Law School, and an international trade attorney with presidential campaign experience who’s currently president of the Malibu Democratic Club. The podcast discussion was lively, sometimes funny and always fascinating.
CEO Curtis explained to TMT that they’re striving for a compelling show, regardless of the listener’s political affiliation.
And it’s just this kind of local talent that Curtis has been drawing on to make his new podcasting venture a success. He’s brought in local editors, producers and even music composers (Eric Dick and Celeste), as well as a number of well-known podcast hosts and guests.
General Manager Stuart Halperin explained that, although the hosts and guests might spend up to two hours recording a podcast, the editors and sound engineer tighten up the final product by cutting it down to about 40 minutes. They eliminate flubs and pauses before the final version is uploaded and available to listeners, and may also insert sound bites.
“Our official launch was in December, but we started recording last summer,” Curtis said. “It took all summer to build the studio, and it’s comfortable and cutting-edge. It’s higher-end than necessary so we don’t get echoes or outside noise on the recordings.”
CurtCo Media has a long history in Malibu, operating for decades from offices on Heathercliff Road. Few residents seemed to be aware of the company’s existence, but, according to Curtis, they published more than 74 niche magazines over the years including “Home Office Computing” and “Home Theater Technology.” Its most famous publication was the “Robb Report,” which was distributed in 18 countries.
“Magazines went the way of the buggy whip,” Curtis said. “And it’s difficult for an advertiser to get their message across on radio or TV.” So, he sold off his magazine assets and took two years off to plan his next move.
He discovered that, “Podcasting is on fire, and it has a unique set of characteristics. It’s enticing to young people and succeeding with an engagement level so far beyond all other media.”
“What’s unique about digital ads is that you can track the time of engagement. With podcast listeners, the average time of engagement is 48 minutes, which includes one or two (maybe three) commercials from logical sponsors and delivered by the podcast hosts. The listener response is way more than with other media; most online ads are bounced off by users in about three seconds.”
In addition, Curtis explained, podcasts are growing 40 to 50 percent a year and 90 million people listen to an average of four shows a week.
He’s very gung-ho about his new enterprise.
“We get to be creative and have a lot of fun with the podcasts,” Curtis said. “Our offices are opposite Nobu and SoHo [House], we can see the ocean and we’ve been fortunate enough to attract a solid group of people. We’re now pitching to investors and need to raise money to build the company, hire sales people and market to millions of listeners.”
CurtCo’s other current podcasts, all produced in Malibu, include Cars that Matter, Medicine—We’re still Practicing, Hollywood Unscripted, The Malibu Effect and When Last I Left, an improv comedy show.
Hollywood Unscripted, hosted by Scott Tallal, executive director of the Malibu Film Society, interviews those making an impact in the film business. Recent shows include the directors and screenwriters of “Avengers: Endgame,” which raked in $2.8 billion in box office; the producer of “The Irishman,” nominated for 10 Oscars; and actress Alfre Woodard, star of the current film “Clemency.”
Cars that Matter focuses on important cars, luxury cars and collectibles and is hosted by internationally recognized expert Robert Ross from the Robb Report.
Medicine—We’re still Practicing, hosted by Dr. Steven Taback, features researchers, practitioners and administrators all over the world and the passion they bring to their fields—the professionals that deliver cutting edge technology,” Curtis explained. “Dr. Suzanne Donovan in Malibu is a true American hero in her work with Ebola patients in Africa.”
The When Last I Left improv comedy show features four or five “talented, amazing, funny, brilliant comedians sitting at the table” following story lines and rules submitted by listeners. “It’s an absolute hoot—40 minutes of craziness,” Curtis added.
Four more podcast shows are in the works, including a scripted tech sci-fi thriller called “Solar.”
CurtCo’s podcasts are available on all major platforms, including Apple, Google Play, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher, as well as on CurtCo.com, and are distributed by Simplecast.