Apple might be getting into the podcast-making business. Is its reign as the industry’s benevolent overlord coming to an end?


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There had been rumors, and there had been increasing reason to believe them. Spotify’s buzzy start to the year, in which the Swedish platform spent hundreds of millions of dollars acquiring its way into the podcast business, had begun to inspire questions about the future of Apple’s position as the dominant podcast distributor. Those questions got even louder as it became apparent Spotify was quickly becoming a strong second-place podcast distributor. Surely such an ascendance would prompt Apple to mount some sort of response. Indeed, maybe the rising competition would be so alarming that Cupertino might even begin reconsidering its longtime position as the impartial steward (and enforcer) of the open podcast ecosystem. Well, from the sounds of a report that dropped this afternoon, the company might indeed be doing just that. Earlier today, Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman broke the news that Apple is planning to “fund Continue reading "Apple might be getting into the podcast-making business. Is its reign as the industry’s benevolent overlord coming to an end?"

West Coast offense: Los Angeles gets a new hub for podcasting to match WNYC Studios out east


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 218, dated July 16, 2019. California dreamin’. This morning, Southern California Public Radio of supposedly sleepy Pasadena — one of the two major public radio stations serving Los Angeles (excluding KUSC), the other being Santa Monica’s KCRW — announced the launch of a new podcast division called LAist Studios, which the organization bills as “a new podcast development and production studio dedicated to expanding upon the storytelling capabilities of SCPR.” I suppose you could describe the division as, roughly speaking, the West Coast equivalent of WNYC Studios…or more precisely, an evolution of whatever WNYC Studios is supposed to be at this point in time. The association between those two public radio podcast businesses isn’t only superficial; there’s connective tissue between the two institutions. LAist Studios is the first major initiative rolled out by Herb Scannell, Continue reading "West Coast offense: Los Angeles gets a new hub for podcasting to match WNYC Studios out east"

Six months into 2019, what new do we know about the state of podcasting?


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 217, dated July 9, 2019. A midyear check-in. I feel like I’ve been somnambulant. How is it already July? The past half-year slipped by like a breeze, and I’m still processing the two big news events that have defined the year in podcasting so far: Spotify’s massive buys into podcasting and Luminary’s bungled rollout, the latter of which has begun to carry the weight of a parable. Both are complicated stories with endless implications, but they also happen to be the kinds of stories with consequences that will only become truly apparent in the slow, trickling aggregate — bit by bit and then all at once, like tankers in the ocean. Or climate change, I suppose. Which is why, at this point into the year, I continue to fixate on anything and everything related to those two tentpole
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With a new round of funding, Wondery is ready to push podcasts overseas


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 216, dated July 2, 2019. The clampdown has, in a way, been foreshadowed by a recent attack of user-generated audio content. Last month, Apple restricted Chinese users from accessing podcasts that aren’t hosted by its local partners, effectively preventing those with a Chinese Apple account from consuming content unchecked by Chinese censors. Re-upping my column from May, if you need background context on the podcast portion of that ecosystem.
Reality binds [by Caroline Crampton]. It’s safe to say that major broadcasters in Britain were pretty slow to get involved with podcasting. I’ve written about this a fair bit before, mostly in relation to the BBC, but it’s easily applicable to the U.K.’s major private media entities, like ITV and Channel 4. The former, though, appears to have broken through on the audio front over Continue reading "With a new round of funding, Wondery is ready to push podcasts overseas"

Could technology built for advertising make public radio less top-down and more bottom-up?


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 215, published June 25, 2019. This piece’s roots can be traced back to summer 2016, when the Indiana public radio station WBAA announced that, as a response to the show’s exclusive then-new streaming partnership with Pandora, it would no longer carry This American Life on its airwaves. The station argued that TAL’s distribution partnership threatened to undermine public radio’s broadcast model. That threat was driven by Pandora’s profit-seeking disposition, its scale, and most importantly, its disruptive structure as a digital distributor that goes around terrestrial stations like WBAA and directly to audiences. WBAA would later reverse its decision, citing “considerable listener feedback,” and TAL continues to stream exclusively over Pandora to this day. (Which also means, by the way, that you can’t listen to the show on podcast-expansionary Spotify. Though, interestingly, you can find a genre in
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Audiobooks are no longer exempt from the broader shifts in the podcast world


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 214, published June 18, 2019. Mary Meeker presented the 2019 edition of her Internet Trends report at the Code Conference last week, and podcasting pops up for a slide, grouped together with smart speakers as part of the broader voice trend. You can find the whole deck here. I’d recommend checking out the Nieman Lab and Recode writeups. Turns out American adults spend a daily average of around six hours on digital media these days. My burnt-out eyes, I would never have known.
Speaking of Vox: Vox Media has ratified its first collective bargaining agreement with the Writer’s Guild of America, East. You can view the (rather impressive!) terms here. I imagine this development has some ramifications for the process at Gimlet Media (brought to you by Spotify), which is also organizing through WGA East.
Audiobooks are
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Can Quake Media shake up the paid-podcast marketplace? (Or maybe SiriusXM?)


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 213, published June 11, 2019. Walls, walls, walls. It’s been a little over month since Luminary, the aspiring “Netflix for podcasts,” stumbled out into daylight, and it’ll be a little while longer before we can figure out if the deep-pocketed upstart will actually tell us anything about the viability of a subscription-based business model for podcast-style programming. (It’s also worth noting that Luminary may well end up telling us not much at all outside of its own story.) That said, whatever Luminary becomes, it won’t serve as a “pure” test of the subscription model, given the relatively late-stage revelation that it was going to also distribute the rest of the open podcast ecosystem. The choice essentially rendered the whole thing into a sparklier version of something we’ve seen before — a luxuriously resourced Stitcher Premium. Plus, Luminary Continue reading "Can Quake Media shake up the paid-podcast marketplace? (Or maybe SiriusXM?)"

Can Spotify and Apple put a dent in podcasting’s discovery problem?


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 212, published June 4, 2019. Spotify begins tests on podcast playlists feature. This came in overnight: Fresh off its run of podcast company acquisitions, Spotify is now taking a crack at the problem that’s perhaps most groaned about in the community: discoverability. Starting this morning, the platform is kicking off what is being described as “a very small test” around a discoverability feature in the form of podcast playlists. If you’re familiar with Spotify’s normal music playlist products at all, then you already broadly know what’s up: Each playlist will give users a collection of episodes constructed around a specific genre or theme. In these early goings, only five playlist genres will be available: “Comedy,” “True Crime,” “Geek Culture,” “Walking (Motivational),” and “Relaxing (Mindfulness).” (Shout-out to Headspace.) A source at the company tells me that the feature Continue reading "Can Spotify and Apple put a dent in podcasting’s discovery problem?"

The Chinese “podcast” industry isn’t really podcasting as Americans think of it, but it is fascinating


This post is by Nicholas Quah from Nieman Lab


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 211, published May 28, 2019. We’re goin’ real deep on China this week, so the newsletter is going to be structured a little differently than usual. First, some news bites. Although there is a lot of third-party content on the app, most of the attention given by the platform will be on the exclusive content that it produces itself. The plight of Chinese podcasting is like what you might get if you’d had a successful Luminary since 2012. Which raises an interesting question: If Luminary has appeared then and Spotify has started to focus a lot on podcasting before Serial, what would the U.S. podcasting market look like today? In my opinion, many of the concerns from the U.S. podcast community on the power of the platform mentioned in Hot Pod have similarly plagued the Chinese Continue reading "The Chinese “podcast” industry isn’t really podcasting as Americans think of it, but it is fascinating"

From Walkman to podcast: Sony Music moves into the podcast business, setting the stage for other music companies


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 210, published May 21, 2019. Joint adventures. Last Thursday, Variety reported that Sony Music, the global music conglomerate ($7.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2018), has formed a joint venture with Adam Davidson, the New Yorker staff writer and co-founder of Planet Money, and Laura Mayer, the former executive producer at Stitcher. The new entity, which has yet to be named, is structured as follows: Sony Music will own 50 percent while Mayer and Davidson each hold 25 percent, with the former taking responsibility of the various business aspects (marketing, sales, distribution, business development, and so on) and the latter two focusing solely on the creative side. According to the Variety writeup, Sony Music is also investing an undisclosed sum. One significant thing to keep in mind: “This is not a music content company,” Davidson Continue reading "From Walkman to podcast: Sony Music moves into the podcast business, setting the stage for other music companies"

Podcast episodes will now show up in Google searches. Helpful discovery mechanism or a shot in the Platform Wars?


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 209, published May 14, 2019. The state of play, mid-2019. Last week, a good portion of the podcast community got glimmers of something they’ve long wanted: seemingly structural-level solutions to discovery, one in the form of playable Google search listings and one in the form of an upcoming Spotify app redesign. But you don’t get without giving, and some would argue these solutions entail the ceding of more power to the rising layer of active platformization — which brings a ton of theoretical changes to the relationship between publishers and audiences. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves — first, the details. At Google’s I/O developer conference on Tuesday, the company made a quick mention that Google Search would soon begin indexing podcasts such that playable episodes would appear as actionable entries within relevant search results. “Soon”
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What does Luminary’s very bad week tell us about podcasters’ collective power?


This post is by Nicholas Quah from Nieman Lab


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 206, published April 30, 2019. Luminary, seven days in. It’s been a full week since Luminary officially rolled out into the marketplace, and what a maelstrom it’s been. I’m sure many of you have been following the incremental updates as they spilled out into the open, but for the benefit of those who didn’t, let quickly recap to get us all of the same page. When last Tuesday’s Hot Pod went out, the big headline had been the pre-launch pullouts of The Daily and Spotify’s various podcasting assets from the platform. The Verge, which broke the story, framed the move as the first overt sparks of some budding platform war. I didn’t fully share the interpretation, believing it to be more rooted in a procedural pushback over licensing and lack thereof. Since this time last week, Luminary’s Continue reading "What does Luminary’s very bad week tell us about podcasters’ collective power?"

Luminary’s rough launch continues as another high-profile podcast asks to be removed from its app


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The Joe Rogan Experience, one of America’s most popular podcasts, has requested to be removed from Luminary, the new $8-a-month premium podcast platform, I’ve confirmed. The show explicitly cites licensing issues as the reason behind the intent to withdraw: “There was not a license agreement or permission for Luminary to have The Joe Rogan Experience on their platform,” a representative told me last night. “His reps were surprised to see the show there today and requested it be removed.” Luminary declined to comment for this story. (At publication time, Rogan’s show is still available in the app.) If the request is honored, The Joe Rogan Experience would be yet another high-profile show to actively withdraw from the free tier of the app, following The New York Times’ The Daily and Spotify’s various show assets, including programming from Gimlet Media and Parcast. (Hat tip to
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Game of Phones: Podcasts and podcast apps are now treating each other like wary rivals, protecting their turf


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 205, published April 23, 2019. Gimlet Media has officially recognized its union. The union’s organizing committee first signaled the development over Twitter on Friday. In a statement sent over to me, the committee said: “It’s been a very long road, but we’re officially a recognized union now! Twice now, our membership has affirmed that we want to organize with Writers Guild of America, East to win protections and build a stronger company. Gimlet is now legally bound to recognize us!” Next up: the bargaining process, Continue reading "Game of Phones: Podcasts and podcast apps are now treating each other like wary rivals, protecting their turf"

Pete Buttigieg is on every podcast, and 2020’s retail politics is increasingly happening in earbuds


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“Podcasts are really hot right now, and I think underappreciated,” said Lis Smith, communications adviser to the buzzy Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, on CNN’s Reliable Sources last month. Smith was answering host Brian Stelter’s question on undervalued media avenues for political candidates these days, and it was an observation from experience. These days, you can find Buttigieg up and down the Apple Podcasts charts, mostly in the corners of podcast-land that you’d pretty much expect — the New Yorker Radio Hour, Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara, The Intercept’s Deconstructed, Pod Save America, and so on — but also in some quirkier venues, like The West Wing Weekly. Buttigieg’s podcast push is so discernible that it kicked off a recent piece by Vox’s Matt Yglesias that attempted to place the candidate’s “go everywhere” media strategy within the context of 2019. (Buttigieg has also appeared on two Vox podcasts, The Continue reading "Pete Buttigieg is on every podcast, and 2020’s retail politics is increasingly happening in earbuds"

Is Mailchimp ready to dive back into podcasts in a big way?


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 204, published April 16, 2019. Vox Media acquires Epic. This one came in overnight: For the uninitiated, Epic is the…I guess they call themselves a “content studio,” but it’s more specifically a firm that sources and produces longform stories that can eventually be spun out as adapted properties for print, television, and film. (One such notable project: “Argo,” later turned into the Ben Affleck Oscar vehicle.) They also do branded content work via Epic Digital. The company was founded in 2013 by the journalists Josh Davis and Joshuah Bearman, though I feel like I’ve been following this company for much longer than that. Anyway, why is this relevant to pods? According to the press email I got: “Vox Media will now move into scripted while tapping Epic’s team to continue doing what they’re best at — hunting Continue reading "Is Mailchimp ready to dive back into podcasts in a big way?"

We’ll finally get to see what Luminary, the paywalled podcast(ish?) app, has been cooking


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 203, published April 9, 2019. Luminary to launch at the end of the month. The paid audio content app, which has raised $100 million in venture capital pre-launch, announced last week that it will officially roll out to the public on April 23. This marks a slight change to the timeline originally announced in the startup’s shiny New York Times unveiling, which noted that the platform was “set to arrive by June.” The app will be available for download in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia. At launch, paying Luminary subscribers will have access to 24 out of the 40-plus exclusive podcasts currently planned for the service. That starting slate includes a mix of new projects — from folks like Adam Davidson, Topic Studios, Lauren Shippen, Guy Raz, Karamo Brown, Pushkin Continue reading "We’ll finally get to see what Luminary, the paywalled podcast(ish?) app, has been cooking"

Can a local public radio station make a national podcast — and build a donor base off it? In New Hampshire, they have


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 202, published April 2, 2019. Public radio podcasts as direct donation vehicle: A case study. Last October, New Hampshire Public Radio released Bear Brook, a six-part investigative podcast that amounted to a big swing for the station. The project had local flavor; the case looked into a series of unidentified bodies found years earlier in the eponymous state park, But the podcast had broad potential appeal: Bear Brook, after all, had all the trappings of the true crime genre, a.k.a. the Bloody, Beating Heart of Podcasting. (As an aside, a true crime podcast narrated by Dan Carlin features heavily on the second episode of the Twilight Zone reboot, as well as in an upcoming Awkwafina project. Bloody, beating heart indeed.) And appeal Bear Brook did. By the end of March, the podcast has Continue reading "Can a local public radio station make a national podcast — and build a donor base off it? In New Hampshire, they have"

Spotify is still hungry for podcast companies, gobbling up Parcast


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 201, published March 26, 2019. Spotify to acquire Parcast, and a Gimlet union update. There are two Spotify stories worth noting: (1) Spotify announced this morning that it’s moving to acquire Parcast, the Los Angeles-based company, founded in 2016 by Max Cutler, that trades in a genre-oriented, high-volume portfolio with broad titles like Serial Killers, Cults, and Unsolved Murders. (My dude Jonah Bromwich at The New York Times has described the company’s fare as “pulp nonfiction” whose “lurid storylines play out like snackable television,” which is a fair assessment, I think.) The terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it’s expected to close in the second quarter of this year. This will be Spotify’s third podcast acquisition, having picked up Gimlet and Anchor for a combined $340 million earlier this year, and it presumably eats Continue reading "Spotify is still hungry for podcast companies, gobbling up Parcast"

Look for the union label (it’s coming to a podcast company near you)


This post is by Nicholas Quah from Nieman Lab


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Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 200, published March 19, 2019. Issue 200. Crazy, huh? Look, I’ve never held a proper job for more than nine months, and so it’s more surprising to me than to anyone else that I’ve sent out two hundred of these comically lengthy newsletters for a living. (And that doesn’t even count all the Insider and emergency issues.) Running this thing is hard, hard work — there hasn’t been a second when I’m not thinking about the newsletter since the first issue went out way back in November 2014 — but it’s been a really rewarding experience, and the fact never escapes me that it’s a privilege to serve this readership every week. So thanks for being a reader — and to the Insider subscribers, thanks for helping to keep the lights on. While we’re here: I Continue reading "Look for the union label (it’s coming to a podcast company near you)"