Pandora wants to map the “podcast genome” so it can recommend your next favorite show

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 185, published November 13, 2018. Pandora’s Podcast Genome Project enters the wild. Sydney Pollack had a great line in Michael Clayton where he wags his finger at George Clooney’s down-in-the-dumps fixer protagonist saying: “Fer chrissakes, Michael, you’ve got something everybody wants! You have a niche!” That line popped into my head when I first heard that Pandora was planning to graft its famed Music Genome Project onto the podcast universe. I mean…it makes sense. If the company was going to start properly distributing podcasts, this would be the way in. It’s great to have a niche, a thing only you have in the world. If you were born with a hammer for an arm, why wouldn’t you smash everything? This morning, Pandora’s podcast offering, powered by the “Podcast Genome Project,” begins rolling out beta access to select Continue reading "Pandora wants to map the “podcast genome” so it can recommend your next favorite show"

All Chapo, no Trap House: Vice News’ bilingual podcast offers extra content for Spanish-speaking listeners

For Front Burner, which has an open lane to claim the “new front page” of Canada, and Today in Focus, which holds a purely international gaze, the lane is open to make their choices completely on their own terms. There have been some headline overlaps, particularly when it comes to Front Burner, but I’ve found the overarching choices of both productions quite encouraging — and refreshing. (2) Speaking of being defined by The Daily: the influence and shadow of that production seems to loom quite heavily over Front Burner and Today in Focus. I can’t speak to the extent to which The Daily’s design elements affected choices made by both production teams, but you can definitely hear some familiar moves in the toolkit. It’s quite fascinating. (3) Something I particularly liked: Today in Focus’s choice to attach an Opinion section to the end of each episode. I’m not Continue reading "All Chapo, no Trap House: Vice News’ bilingual podcast offers extra content for Spanish-speaking listeners"

Sorry, New York: Los Angeles is making a play for the Podcast Capital of the World title

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 183, published October 30, 2018. The new independence of Los Angeles. Here’s a refrain I’ve encountered with some regularity: “New York is the heart of the podcast industry.” I’ve been hearing this for years and I hear it still from producers, podcast execs, would-be producers, would-be execs, and even New York City itself. And it’s almost certainly true, given that New York is home to many of the big companies we tend to talk about here at Hot Pod along with a staggering proportion of working freelancers. One can properly contest that claim, however, and note that Los Angeles is increasingly giving the empire city a run for its money. Long the heart of the comedy podcast world (and the birthplace of Earwolf and Midroll Media, pre-merger), the Southern California mega-city has been rapidly expanding its influence Continue reading "Sorry, New York: Los Angeles is making a play for the Podcast Capital of the World title"

How I cheated the Apple Podcast charts for $5

After writing about the Apple Podcast charts two weeks ago, during which I briefly mentioned the Fiverr scam, I heard from some readers who argued:
  • That the charts don’t matter to most people, and
  • That the only thing the column achieved was to publicize the scam to more would-be chart manipulators.
I’ve heard the latter argument before, and though I am somewhat sympathetic — it’s partly why I haven’t written extensively about chart dysfunction until now — my sense is that we’ve hit a tipping point with the charts in recent months where the problem is now past the point of being just an innocuous quirk. To return to a question I raised in that column: What does it mean when the top of the Apple podcast charts, one of the first touchpoints for many newcomers, features more scams than authentic entries? I still think the former point is unnecessarily Continue reading "How I cheated the Apple Podcast charts for $5"

“Yelling at her family in public, in your headphones”: Reality TV comes to podcasts

All this comes on top of the executive-level departure that was announced last month in tandem with the news that Panoply was laying off its editorial team: Jacob Weisberg, chairman of the Slate Group, was leaving to form a new audio company with Malcolm Gladwell, taking the audience-driving Revisionist History with them. That these leadership exits are clustered is certainly eyebrow-raising, but any overtly glum narrative should be checked against the state of site’s actual podcast portfolio. And on that front, things seem to be quite good. Consider that Slate has just wrapped up a very successful second season of its narrative documentary podcast, Slow Burn. Not only would I argue that it’s the best nonfiction narrative podcast of the year so far — yes, that includes Serial, In The Dark, and Caliphate, and yes, I’m aware it’s almost certainly recency bias — the sophomore season put up significant numbers. Continue reading "“Yelling at her family in public, in your headphones”: Reality TV comes to podcasts"

What is up with Apple’s screwy (and seemingly scammy) podcast charts?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 180, published October 9, 2018. Have the Apple podcast charts felt weirder lately? Here’s a familiar scene: I’m trying to pass the time, so I pull up the Apple podcast charts to see what the youths are up to. (Ha.) This was my Sunday afternoon, and by that point, I hadn’t looked at the charts in a good few weeks. Part of this has to do with the way I learn about new projects these days: press releases, emails, text messages, phone calls, even a postcard once. But it mostly has to do with the fact that I haven’t found the Apple Podcast charts particularly useful in quite some time. Not for my purposes, anyway. On Sunday afternoon, this is what I saw: There’s a scene in The Matrix where that one creepy white dude looks at Continue reading "What is up with Apple’s screwy (and seemingly scammy) podcast charts?"

Can a new slate of shows bring back the buzz for Gimlet, the aspirational “HBO for audio”?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 179, published October 2, 2018. Gimlet’s fall slate. Did you know it’s been slightly over four years since Alex Blumberg launched the StartUp podcast and founded Gimlet Media, which went on to pitch itself as the “HBO of audio” and serve, more or less, as a crucial poster-company for the podcast industry? Four years — the length of a presidential term, both an eternity and a blink of an eye. As the company heads into its fifth year, it’s preparing for a heavy fall season. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s writeup of the announcement, Gimlet is adding three new shows to its lineup: a horror fiction project called The Horror of Dolores Roach; a collaboration with New York Magazine’s The Cut called The Cut on Tuesdays; and Without Fail: Conversations With Alex Blumberg. Let’s break those out a Continue reading "Can a new slate of shows bring back the buzz for Gimlet, the aspirational “HBO for audio”?"