Lance Podell ’86 leads the way for online media networks
When Lance Podell ’86 started selling irreverent T-shirts on campus with classmate Doug Godshall, he had no idea it was a big step toward his career.
His profits financed a safari to Africa between semesters of his senior year, but more importantly, the experience spurred his entrepreneurial spirit. Today, the English and government & law graduate is CEO of Next New Networks, an Internet media company that touts itself as television for the Internet—not to be confused with television on the Internet.
Some of Podell’s most popular networks include Indy Mogul, which discusses independent films; ThreadBanger, a do-it-yourself show for clothes makers; and Barely Political, which created the Obama Girl sensation that led to TV comedy appearances and interviews on shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The O’Reilly Factor” for actress Amber Lee Ettinger.
As on television, these networks produce regularly scheduled episodes. But each episode can stand on its own, with its length not locked into traditional time slots. Indeed, the sites are Internet channels—there are even Next New Networks channels on iTunes and YouTube, where it is a premier partner.
What sets the sites apart is that the programmers and producers help create highly specialized, vocal, and loyal communities online. Viewers share their thoughts and look forward to each new episode, whether they watch it through the branded sites or find it through other distribution partners.
“TV demands that you come to a particular channel,” Podell says. “We assume you’ll watch video where you want to.”
One of his primary goals is to position advertising partners that fit the community, and with some 10 million unique site views on partner sites each month, such alignment can be significant.
“We believe the secret sauce is audience development,” he explains. “Our approach is to find underserved niches and provide quality programming at a low cost.”
That distinction, of course, is crucial. Because content is still king on the Internet and what matters to advertisers is the audience.
“They go where the content is good,” says Podell, whose company received six Webby Awards this year from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. “If it’s original and it hits where it matters, advertisers want them as soon as you get lots of them.”
More about Podell
He has hosted internships and externships for Lafayette students in New York City and served the College as an alumni admissions representative, class representative on the Alumni Council, career-advising volunteer, and phonathon caller.
Podell spent five years as CEO of Seevast Corp., which offers search engine marketing, content-targeted sponsored links for top web sites, and vertical ad networks for CBS and MSNBC. He developed it into a $100 million-plus business and is responsible for innovations such as the first sponsored-links ad network to run on content pages and in email, RSS, and video. Previously, he launched and led the Sprinks unit of About.com, which was sold to Google under his leadership. He also was chief marketing officer at DealTime (Shopping.com). Podell began his career working in advertising and publishing at Chiat Day, Time Inc., and Ogilvy and Mather.