Slumber Studios never sleeps on big moments for growth.
The road to podcasting for the Slumber Group started with a mission: Improve the health of every single person worldwide through sleep.
What started out as a company creating sleep solutions in the app space soon expanded into podcasts to help bring that mission to a wider audience. The company’s first title was Get Sleepy, and since its launch in 2019, they’ve grown their portfolio of shows to include The Sleepy Bookshelf and Deep Sleep Sounds. In 2021, the company launched premium offerings for their podcasts under the Slumber Studios channel.
By developing a smart subscription strategy and capitalizing on tentpole cultural moments, they’ve grown their audience and earned millions of monthly plays from sleepy fans around the world who turn to them when it’s time to drift off.
Apple Podcasts checked in with Tyler Brown, head of content at Slumber Group, to learn how the company developed a subscription strategy for the Slumber Studios channel, and to get advice and tactics that can help any podcaster grow their paying audience.
“Our goal has always been to help people sleep above all,” Tyler explained. “We felt that the podcast space might be more available to people than apps. So we thought podcasts would be a really good way to not only expand our reach, but also just help people get better sleep. We started with just one show, Get Sleepy. We were blown away at how well podcasting did for us right off the bat.”
Requests from their fan base started coming in, which ultimately led Slumber Studios to create a premium offering with more content for their most enthusiastic fans.
“We had a lot of listeners who wanted more content. We would get messages from people saying they’d be willing to pay for it. So it wasn’t rocket science: If this is what people want, we should give it to them,” Tyler recalled. “The messages we get from people are really just so sweet. All they want to do is sleep, and just listening helps them do that. It makes it all worth it.”
For Slumber Studios, finding the right mix of premium offerings was a combination of responding to what listeners were asking for while figuring out what made sense from a content and production standpoint.
“You have to keep in mind what makes sense for your show and what’s sustainable for you as the creator, but also what’s a compelling offer for your listeners. For us, people just want more of our shows. So with our narrated shows Get Sleepy and The Sleepy Bookshelf, we offered more episodes.”
“Another option is ad-free listening,” said Tyler. “That’s really easy. With Deep Sleep Sounds, an ambient program, users would say that they want to be able to listen all night long. So we offer premium, ad-free, eight-hour episodes. As with most things in podcasting, it’s about really understanding your listeners.”
Moments for growth
Slumber Studios planned the launch of their subscription close to the holiday season, with content and messaging geared to what listeners were looking for at that specific moment. “I think because the holidays are always crazy and everyone’s lives are hectic, it’s a popular time of year for people looking to chill and relax — and that’s our space,” Tyler explained.
That strategy generated impressive numbers. Tyler said that not only did they offer the right content at the right time, but their promotional efforts were on point. “A lot of the success was just about thorough messaging across all platforms like ‘This is available now’ and ‘We have great holiday episodes, cozy winter stuff for you to relax to.’”
With the success of their holiday push, Slumber Studios looked to build around other tentpole moments, like World Sleep Day this past March.
“It’s really helpful to look for moments in the cultural conversation where you can naturally place your show,” Tyler advised. “World Sleep Day is a day where people might already be thinking, ‘Maybe I don’t sleep as well as I want to. What can I do about that?’”
“So having pinpointed those moments, we tried to create pillar content moments in our shows. We picked stories that we thought were going to perform really well for the whole week. We did an extra bonus episode.”
“Then, we doubled down on our messaging around premium content because we had an influx of new listeners. We really put that message out to the forefront for people who are brand new. They may have never listened to a sleep podcast before and not even understand what this is. So we just gave them the whole lay of the land of what they can get if they try it out,” Tyler explained. “We saw roughly 30% growth in the month.”
Staying top of mind
Slumber Studios made sure to consistently release premium content, promote their shows, and pay attention to their channel aesthetic and platform rating. That way, when new audiences discovered the channel, they would see that the subscription is worth the price.
“The reason that we have successful pillar moments like World Sleep Day is because we consistently message throughout the year. We have people leaving reviews saying, ‘I’m a premium subscriber, and it’s great.’ And those have been there for months before that.”
“When new listeners come to a channel during a moment like World Sleep Day, they see all of the good reviews and all of the premium episodes we’ve been putting out for months and months and months. They think, ‘Oh, this is legit. I should try this.’ And here’s a seven-day free trial. There you go.”
“The free trial is just a really good tool,” Tyler said. “Think about yourself as a shopper. You’re so much more willing to buy something if you know that ‘I can try this, and if I hate it, I’m not committed.’ That’s one of the more compelling points.”
Listening and learning
With all that new growth, Slumber Studios had to make sure they had a plan to retain subscribers. “Any kind of subscription is about the long game,” Tyler observed. “There’s always some churn. That’s expected in any kind of subscription model. But I think it’s really just about making sure people are happy.”
To keep that audience happy, listening is key. “People write to us a lot, which I love, and I know our hosts love it,” said Tyler. “We get a lot of useful feedback that way. But we also try to keep putting surveys out.”
“The surveys cover a broad range of things: What stories do you like? What stories do you not like? What other shows do you listen to? All kinds of things. We think of our listeners as friends we want to take care of. So the better we know our audience, the better we can give them what they want. That’s really what we’re there for.”
Slumber Studios saw a robust increase in subscriptions during the month of World Sleep Day, showing that their strategy worked. The channel increased their total paid subscribers by 47% from February through April 2022. They’ve also shown impressive numbers of plays since then.
“We launched the first of our three shows in November 2019 and since have accumulated over 150 million plays, over 60 million of which have come from Apple Podcasts,” said Tyler. “And since launching the Slumber Studios channel on Apple Podcasts, the network averages about 2.5 million plays a month on Apple Podcasts alone.”
For podcasters looking to start offering premium content, Tyler emphasized the ideas of being prepared and executing over time. “I would say have a plan and be executing on the plan before you actually launch premium subscriptions. It’s about the long game, any kind of subscription is about the long game.”
“It’s about capitalizing on those pillar moments, but it’s also about being in place when those moments happen,” he added. “When those moments come, you may not always be in control of them, but you’ll have everything ready.”