This post is by Nicholas Quah from Nieman Lab
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To absolutely no one’s surprise, I agree with this. Kafka articulated something I’ve been trying to say whenever I’ve written about the related issue of programmatic podcast advertising — but obviously, a whole lot better than I ever could — which is to essentially point out that rapid growth, as well as the implementation of technology and practices that push hard for rapid growth, often come at the expense of quality and general thoughtfulness of a space. I’ve come to feel about podcasting the way I’ve long felt about a certain up-and-coming city in the American inter-mountain west (which will remain nameless for reasons that will become clear): I love it a whole ton, and I love that loads more people are beginning to love it too, but maybe we should start shit-talking the place before the tourists get here and drive the market out of whack. Anyway, Kafka also a parallel point about how it’s not hard to make a podcast, which (rightfully) sparked some grumbles in my inbox. Obviously, that’s not true — I see you, ESJ — but I think the more important point is how podcasting remains significantly cheaper to produce compared to movies, television shows, and even good chunks of commercial talk radio programming. At this point in time, anyway. Given the influx of celebrities into the space and the way talent contract sizes are going, we might have to adjust that analytical position in the not-so distant future. Some other odds and ends:
- Just a reminder that the study’s methodology relies on self-reported revenues from a collection of the bigger podcast companies in the space — referred to in the report as “largest podcast advertising revenue generators which are believed to make up a significant portion of the overall market,” emphasis believed — including Gimlet Media, Midroll Media, National Public Media, Panoply, HowStuffWorks, and WNYC Studios, among others.
- Those companies also underwrote the study, which is a point that led the framing for some writeups the last time around but is, I’m told, a fairly normal arrangement for industry revenue studies like these.
- Anyway, because the methodology relies on self-reported revenues from a collection of companies, it should be noted that the $314 million estimate is an extrapolation from the aggregate self-reported data. You can actually find the total self-reported revenue in the study document on page 6: $257.4 million in 2017.
- One interesting thing that falls from the methodology is the extent to which the participating publishers are positioned as the majority of the industry — roughly 80 percent. Another interesting thing to note the significance of the remaining 20 percent: Can we perhaps read that as the rough sum value of independents?
- Pre-produced ads make up a third of all ad types among the self-reporting companies. Host-read ads making up the dominant remainder.
- Branded podcasts grew from 1.5 percent to 6.5 percent of all ad revenue between 2016 and 2017, displaying an increasing industry reliance on the hefty ad product.
- Weirdly, the share of automatically inserted ads — i.e. dynamically inserted ads — as a delivery mechanism dropped from 56.4 percent to 41.7 percent between 2016 and 2017. I’m personally surprised by this, and will do some digging around on the issue.
- Finally, 56 percent of captured advertising revenue was driven by three content genres: Arts & Entertainment (16.8 percent), Technology (14.6 percent), and News, Politics & Current Events (13.3 percent). Notably, True Crime comes in at 7.2 percent and Scripted Fiction at less than 1 percent. One way to read this is to see it as the spread of where advertisers are allocating their dollars by genre. The other way is to see it as the spread of genres present within the portfolios of those participating podcast publishers.
- This MediaPost writeup might be framed around NPR podcast’s smart speaker futures, but I’m more interested in this finding: “According to [NPM president Gina] Garrubbo, few of NPR’s podcast listeners skip sponsored messaging. In fact, 85% of listeners would prefer to listen to sponsored content rather than pay for a commercial-free version. She also noted that NPR listeners will listen to a podcast for at least an hour, or even binge listen.”
- “WBUR Announces Retirement Of ‘Only A Game’ Host Bill Littlefield.” (WBUR)
- Leonard Lopate returns to public radio after WNYC firing. (Current)
We can see that the Play Store listing of this app will likely act a bit like the Assistant and Google Lens listings in the Play Store, simply acting as a shortcut to open the functionality. While that app is not live yet, it should appear on the Play Store at this link when it goes live.The sighting comes barely a month after Google discussed its efforts to increase podcast functionality on Android through a series of interviews on the branded podcast studio Pacific Content’s corporate blog, and a few weeks after the tech giant began pushing out the feature along with subsequent minor updates. On the one hand, neat! On the other hand, it’s much ado about table stakes. Here’s how I’m reading the situation:
- That Google is beginning to invest more resources into podcast distribution should be cause for some excitement, but I’d temper expectations. As we’ve learned from the early efforts of Spotify (and, hell, even Google Play Music), simply making something more available within an actively used platform isn’t any guarantee of greater usage. Presence needs to be followed by some amount of Push.
- To that end, I believe the real question lies in whether this standalone podcast app will be bundled by default with any Android iterations moving forward. After all, a good chunk of the conventional understanding about why 2014 turned out to be a tipping point for the medium revolved around Apple’s decision to package its native Podcasts app with iOS 8. It’s the little things that mean a lot, you know?
- I also remain curious about the extent to which Google Podcasts team lead Zack Reneau-Wedeen’s strategy to bump audio up into “first-class citizenry” within Google’s mobile search universe is built on sound theoretical foundations: that you can elevate audio within Google’s search architecture in the same way you can with text and video, both being primarily visual media.
- Of course, this is the customary point in the analysis where I begin pointing towards smart speakers and voice assistants, and the broader voice-first computing future. Though I’d just say it out loud again anyway.
- As of Monday afternoon, Season 2 has been downloaded over 4 million times. At this point last season, the download number was around 2.4 million.
- I’m also told: “Season 1 just went over 12 million downloads, and it’s in the midst of a resurgence (for obvious reasons).”
- Atlanta Monster was downloaded over 20 million times across 12 episodes within its first three months of launch. Again, In The Dark S2 was downloaded almost 4 million times within its first month, and it’s currently still publishing.
- Dirty John was reportedly downloaded more than 7 million times across its full six-episode run within its first month of launch. It’s worth noting that Dirty John dropped all of its episodes within the span of a week. In The Dark adheres to a conventional weekly publishing schedule.
Hot Pod: When you started out, what did you think you wanted to do?
Kailath: Just take the cliché, bring it to life, and that’s me. I wanna work at This American Life. More concretely: The five-year goal was to become a full-time maker of high-quality ~~narrrative loongformm~~. I didn’t expect to get there overnight, so I’ve tried to chart a course that makes me better along the way. I’m almost four years on the path now and feeling good.
Hot Pod: How did you get to this point?
Kailath: With help from literally a million generous people, I caught some early breaks. My first audio story aired on The Heart, my first NPR story went (public radio) viral, I got an internship at Planet Money, a story on 99pi. After the internship, I wanted to report, to just have constant practice pitching and writing and interviewing and making tons of stuff day in and out. So I went the public radio route instead of assistant producer’s assistant somewhere in podcasting. Also I have a hangup — it tends to come with immigrant parents — about having “traditional” jobs and the attendant validation/permission and markers of success. But mainly I wanted to get radio buff. So I’ve had three jobs now: daily talk show producer at KCRW, local news reporter at WWNO (New Orleans Public Radio), and Marketplace reporter, where I just wrapped up a yearlong contract. Every job, I’ve chased good editors above all. It’s the key ingredient; I don’t know how else you get better. And when my editors are stretched thin, I’ve leaned on my peers. I have a crew of ~10 trusted radio friends who, whenever one of us needs an edit, or to talk through a pitch or we’re drowning in tape, we just throw up the bat signal and whoever’s available hops on a call to discuss. They save my life, like, once a week.
Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.
Kailath: As Marketplace wound down last month, I decided to give the dream a shot: go hard pitching longform to my favorite shows. I’ve spent three years in news mode, where the goals and milestones are pretty different from what I set out to do, and I think I’ve developed some tunnel vision. But I don’t know — opportunities have knocked, and it’s hard to sniff at a salary and benefits…we’ll see. Also, re: longform, I’m pretty scared of trying and failing, which is a distinct possibility. I have working hard on my side, but a lot of the longformers I admire are just more talented than me, I think. At some point I think I’ll have to cut bait from public radio though; no amount of 4-minute news features will prepare me to do what TAL does. To do what they do, I have to practice doing what they do, somehow.
Hot Pod: What does a career mean to you, at this point?
Kailath: I’m not sure I understand the question, but I feel incredibly lucky to have found this one. This is my second career; I was in tech (working for nonprofits and political orgs.) and switched to radio at age 31. I feel like I finally, finally found the thing I’m supposed to be doing, and I’m just so grateful. Not everyone gets to have that in life, so it’s humbling.
Hot Pod: How do you view the podcast industry at this point in time?
Kailath: I have a glib line about how I’m so f*cking sick of podcasts right now, which usually gets a laugh (occasionally a sob). But the truth is I’m still so excited by the good things. Chompers was so brilliant I’m overjoyed at the very thought of it. It’s the same feeling I got in my twenties when I’d find some band making what felt like an all-new kind of music. Sleepover and Scott Carrier and This is Love and so many others. I was giddy when they announced Wolverine. But you asked about the industry. It’s good. I’m glad it exists. I’m glad people are getting paid. I’m glad WNYC is paying interns (shout out Mickey Capper). And I’m glad for all the new shows — especially the ones that aren’t for me. Great! Let there be shows for everyone under the sun. You know, in public radio, it’s like all the young guns are waiting for the old guard to step aside, so they can finally be in charge, finally make radio they way they think it should be made. In podcasting, nobody has to wait. For better or for worse : )
Thanks, buddy. You can find Ryan on Twitter here. Bites:
- Turns out that Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant’s ZigZag isn’t the only Civil-affiliated podcast. Last week saw the introduction of FAQ NYC, a weekly podcast that will “ask and answer thoughtful questions about how — and why — New York City works.” (Civil)
- ESPN announced a partnership with the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) and the Made in NY Media Center to develop a pitch program around its 30 for 30 Podcasts. (Press release)
- WNYC’s Women’s Podcast Festival is back in New York this November. Registration is now open. (WNYC Studios)
- Very, very glad to see that Binge Mode Original Recipe is back in my feed! (The Ringer)
- “In chronicling the disintegration of his own mental faculties, Dennis Miller has created a postmodern spectacle like no other. By collapsing every pop-culture item he misremembers into one all-encompassing Reference, which somehow refers to everything and nothing at once, Miller has created the greatest podcast of all time.” (The Outline)
- “On the Radio, It’s Always Midnight.” (The Paris Review)
- I’ve updated my “Best Podcasts of 2018 (So Far)” list with May entries. (Vulture)