Happy Thursday. Caroline here, keeping the Hot Pod flame burning while Nick is travelling. There’s a tiny amount of snow at the moment in the small corner of north-west England where I hang out and my dog is on a mission to eat all of it. Who am I to keep him from what sparks joy? Anyhow, this is what’s come across my desk so far this week.
Tracking; January 31, 2019
(1) The Atlanta-based production team Tenderfoot TV, the people behind the true crime hits Atlanta Monster and Up and Vanished, have announced a deal with Cadence13 for a slate of six new shows. These will include an as-yet untitled series hosted by Tenderfoot TV co-founder Payne Lindsey and To Live and Die in L.A., a true crime series written and hosted by Rolling Stone contributing editor Neil Strauss. The latter will apparently debut next month, and will follow Strauss “as he attempts to uncover the truth of a criminal investigation in real time.” I’m intrigued to see how they get around the legal issues suggested by that format, and how they shake off the inevitable influence of the most infamous case that was ever told week by week on a podcast, Serial series one.
(2) Karina Longworth, creator and host of the Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, has announced that the show is going on indefinite hiatus. She said on Twitter:
This is the last episode of @RememberThisPod for the time being. My contract to make new episodes is up and I am busy with other projects at the moment. I hope the podcast comes back in some form at some point. That’s all I know now, but when I have more to share, I will!
The show joined Panoply in September 2015, later shifting to Slate after that company folded its content division. The show debuted as an independent production April 2014.
Listeners have been expressing their sadness on social media, but as several have pointed out you can still hear Longworth narrating her own audiobook (that was a smart call, well done her publisher).
[Nick, awaking from jet-lag: Noooooooooooooo]
(3) We like numbers here at Hot Pod, and two digits have struck me in particular in recent days.
Firstly: Berlin-based audio platform SoundCloud has just filed its 2017 accounts with UK Companies House (see the whole thing here, it’s a pdf). In that calendar year, revenue hit $102m, up 80 per cent on 2016. Within that, their subscription revenue (which covers both users that pay for a pro upload account, as well as listeners paying for Soundcloud Go) almost doubled to $82m. The year wasn’t completely plain sailing — in July 2017 the company axed 40 per cent of its global workforce, cutting 173 jobs and closing offices in London and San Francisco — but operating losses are down compared to the previous year.
Obviously SoundCloud isn’t a podcasting platform per se and has always looked both ways towards spoken word audio and music. However, when I’m at events and I meet amateur podcasters just starting their own shows, it’s by far the most popular choice I encounter for hosting (perhaps this is a uniquely UK thing? Let me know). It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles as a podcast host, but it’s quick, easy, and initially free to use. For those accessibility reasons alone, I’d like to see it stick around.
Secondly: The Economist, which just launched a daily news podcast, has revealed some audience and revenue figures in this Digiday article about its audience health and growth in podcast ad rates. Their five podcasts bring in an average of 7 million monthly listens/downloads, and the company has seen a 50 per cent increase in revenue via Acast in the last year. They didn’t go into specifics on CPMs, but said that their audio now attracts better rates than their video gets on YouTube. The piece mentions that “its podcast CPMs are higher than YouTube’s network average CPM rates of between $2 (£1.52) and $3 (£2.28),” contextualizing against the fact that “sources say that podcast ads in the U.K. fetch around $11.84 (£9) CPMs, while host-read ads can cost more than $39.45 (£30) CPMs.”
[Nick’s Note: Maybe I’m just a grump, but there a a couple of lines in the piece that kinda bugs me out. Namely, the following quote from an editor at the Reuters Institute Digital News Report: “What has held things up is that podcast advertisers have often been lower-quality brands that don’t feel right for the publisher, but this is changing” — uhhhhhh — and the following assertion made in the piece: “With fewer ads in podcasts, brands can get more cut through than video, and the podcast format is more flexible. Brands can have a hand at influencing the editorial.” Much of this has to do with the fact that podcast ad-buying culture and expectations are still young, and malleable. This will almost certainly change as advertisers brings in expectations set elsewhere.
Also: the headline framing. The Economist, a decidedly old-school publication, being quite late in developing an interest in the category does not, I think, a trend indicator make. Publishers got serious about podcast revenue in the modern phase… oh, as far back as Vox Media and the New York Times staffing up full audio teams, I suppose. Anyway, I don’t wanna be that guy nit picking over other people’s work. Sorry. Okay, I’m going back to bed.]
(4) Something that preoccupies me about the podcast space sometimes is how insular it can feel, in the sense that people who really love the form listen to lots of it but aren’t necessarily the greatest at helping new people get started. Writing about podcasts tends to mirror this: it either caters to that highly-informed niche (hi, we’re here all week) or takes the form of incredibly basic lists or guides that don’t necessarily do much more than describe which buttons to press on your phone. This is a gap I’ve long felt needed to be bridged as podcasting transitions into a mostly-professionalised activity.
Given that, I think I and plenty of others were pleasantly surprised by this guide published by the New York Times this week. It does a good job of covering the basics and recommending the right tech, but doesn’t stop there: writer Rachel Holliday Smith spoke to plenty of experts (including one Nick Quah) about the tricky matter of podcast discovery and detailed several concrete strategies for finding shows beyond the purview of big providers like NPR and even touched on matters of diversity. Great stuff.
Another podcast consumption trend that caught my eye this week came in the form of this piece from RadioPublic’s Ma’ayan Plaut over at Bello Collective. In an attempt to bust through her accumulated queue of leftover shows from 2018, she got through 57 hours of podcasts in three days. A few things she learned during this marathon: interview style matters enormously, constant listening won’t kill your curiosity but it will make you yearn to read a book, 40-70 minutes was the length of an episode that she found most offputting, and trying something new — even if she had been craving the familiarity of a regular show — was almost always more fun than she expected. Not an experiment that I’m itching to recreate, but enlightening nonetheless.