It's the stuff of business legend. In a twist not quite as bizarre as one of the episodes of his hit horror anthology podcast Lore, Aaron Mahnfke went from author to podcast host to soon-to-be executive producer of an Amazon original series, in just over a year.
And he's not alone in making the jump from iTunes to onscreen. Alex Blumberg is the host of the StartUp podcast, which during its first season chronicled Blumberg's journey of founding podcasting production company Gimlet Media. He also just landed a TV show. Starring Scrubs lead Zach Braff as Blumberg, the comedy will air on ABC under a new name.
Blumberg began StartUp to tell the story of what it's like for a 30-something dad to quit his job to launch a company. Now in its third season, the podcast has moved on to tell the stories of other companies that are at a turning point--facing a choice to pivot or fail. Gimlet Media says StartUp receives between 2 and 3 million downloads each month.
Mahnke, whose podcast Lore gets more than 3 million monthly downloads, stumbled into the podcast game. Looking for a way to promote his self-published book, he was working on an audiobook when a friend pushed him toward podcasting. Within five months Mahnke was podcasting full time, and just a month later he was in talks to create a TV show that will be available in 10 episodes to Amazon Prime users in 2017.
While the two podcasts have widely different formats, they both work for television because each has a loyal following and the subjects are ripe for compelling narratives told in episodic format. StartUp, much like the TV show Silicon Valley, resonates with a specific but dedicated niche of techies and entrepreneurs, Gimlet Media president and co-founder Matt Lieber told Adweek.
And Lore, using a mix of historical references and narrative storytelling to explain horror characters and myths, has "inspired nightmares for millions of fans while capturing our own imaginations," Howard T. Owens and Ben Silverman, who will be the executive producers of the Amazon series, said in a statement. "We couldn't be more excited to materialize these real-life horror stories in a way never seen before."
Naturally starting a podcast isn't easy--particularly for entrepreneurs who are, after all, busy running a company. And there's absolutely no guarantee you'll get a TV deal from it. But the experience shows that interest in entrepreneurship--and hearing entrepreneurial stories--may well be escalating. So the time may be ripe to get started if you don't already have your own platform. Plus, there are relatively low costs of entry into the podcast world. After that, what's to fear? You know, besides the scary monsters Mahnke talks about on Lore.