December 22, 2015 at 4:52 pm #2453
By Julian Mitchell <span class=”author-comma ng-scope”>, </span><span class=”ng-binding ng-scope”>CONTRIBUTOR</span>
Aw<span style=”line-height: 1.5;”>ard-winning writer, producer and </span>New York Times<span style=”line-height: 1.5;”> Best-Selling author Issa Rae recently revealed her plans to enter the podcast space, striking a landmark deal with industry leader </span>Midroll<span style=”line-height: 1.5;”> for the production of </span><em style=”line-height: 1.5;”>Fruit<span style=”line-height: 1.5;”>, a scripted audio drama that tells the story of a professional football player struggling with the residual effects of revealing his identity as a gay man. The central character, a star player referred to as “X”, delivers a first-person account of his experiences, welcoming listeners into the mind of an African American male fighting against a plethora of internal and external conflicts. Episodes offer a serious examination of the surprisingly adverse lives of homosexual sports figures.</span>
Set to release just before the Super Bowl in February of 2016, distributed through Midroll’s Howl Premium subscription service, Fruit stands as the first piece of original fiction created specifically for a podcast audience by a high-profile figure such as Rae. Additionally, the podcast will include the first-ever naturally integrated product placement by MailChimp, one of the company’s consistent brand partners, who will contribute native content that exists inside of the storyline. This form of partnership enables Midroll to instantly recuperate the majority of its production costs, allowing greater freedom and flexibility to push the envelope creatively.
The concept for Fruit was initially introduced through Midroll’s advertising division. Rae’s producing partner, Benoni Tagoe, originally pitched the idea in search of developing a new approach to branded content that capitalized on the current podcasting gold rush. After striking interest, the idea then circulated to Chris Bannon, Midroll’s Chief Content Officer, who immediately saw a great opportunity to impact the industry. “They had a really good and original idea at the same time we were looking for great original content,” Bannon told Forbes. <span class=”tweet_quote”>“We wanted something fresh, character-driven, and serialized that will bring a new audience to podcasting</span> – we were two organizations heading in the same direction and finding each other.”
Widely considered the “<span class=”quotecard ng-isolate-scope” data-ticker=”NFLX” data-exchange=”NASDAQ” data-type=”organization” data-naturalid=”fred/company/6132″ data-quotes-closing=”116.632″ data-quotes-now=”116.24″ data-link=”/companies/netflix” data-name=”Netflix”>Netflix <span class=”card-preview ng-scope”>NFLX +0.00%</span></span> of Podcasts”, Howl is a premium subscription service available as a mobile app for iOS and Android, along with Howl.fm. The Howl model allows creators to be paid upfront for their content, generating revenue by way of monthly subscribers, while also providing promotional codes for creators to share with their audiences to access episodes for free. <span class=”tweet_quote”>“Part of the incredible growth of podcasting is that there is now a lot more room for this kind of audio,”</span> Bannon stated. “The remarkable success of Serial built everyone’s expectations around this type of scripted storytelling.”
Since embarking on a sensational run with her acclaimed YouTube series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Rae has steadily rose to prominence as a multifaceted creator with a proven vision for crafting original content that taps into the complex nuances that define not only the African American experience, but the diverse realities of a multicultural generation. <span class=”tweet_quote”>“Issa brings a reputation of quality, connectedness, and spontaneity that will engage people with the show,”</span> stated Bannon. <span class=”tweet_quote”>“Fruit presents an honest storyline that fearless explores African American culture and the relationship between race, sexuality and sports business</span> – <span class=”tweet_quote”>if it makes people talk, then we’ve accomplished a really serious mission.”</span>
While the existing formula for launching a podcast has commonly followed the template of popular personalities using the platform as an extension to their already established brands, Midroll hopes the impact of Fruit shifts the paradigm. <span class=”tweet_quote”>“If Fruit becomes a success with audiences, it could naturally become a movie or TV show,”</span> says Bannon. “If this is successful, people will want to listen and share with their friends and respond to it, which will open up endless opportunities for the franchise to evolve and create even more opportunities for everyone involved.”
Expanding beyond the digital space, Issa Rae is set to premiere her anticipated HBO series Insecure in 2016, and will be rolling out a slate of digital projects through her independent imprint. Bannon expressed his enthusiasm for collaborating with the trailblazer at this stage in her career. “We’re excited to work with Issa and add another element to the impressive movement she’s already established.”
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