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Insider: May 1, 2020

Ad Spend Projections suggest positive growth for Pods SiriusXM earnings Money Corner... and more!

The Myers Report. Spotted this off RAIN News — call me ignorant, about this or many other things, but I’m personally unfamiliar with the report and its significance — but it’s nonetheless interesting to clock.

The report, which projects ad spends across a bunch of different media categories, issued an update on its 2020 economic forecast to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, and generally speaking, it looks real bad, with near universal drops across categories.

A few lone growth spots, though: Podcasting (+8%), which is why we’re talking about this, but also “Online Originated Video Advertising” (+26%) and “Video Game Advertising/Virtual Gaming Currency” (+4%).

Brace yourselves. Here’s the relevant Mediavillage post containing the breakouts.From The Guardian: “BBC likely to make cuts to output with 125 million pounds in income forecast.”As the piece notes, the income forecast drop comes from the expectation that a significant number of people will stop paying the license fee due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. And as a reminder, the BBC had paused plans to cut about 450 journalism jobs due to the pandemic — a move that’s been causing some confusion. Here’s The Guardian on that development too.From Bloomberg: “Howard Stern is open to ideas regarding his contract.” Though not directly podcast-related, it’s certainly germane to the “all audio competes with each other” framework, but in any case, I’ll always be interested in intrigue surrounding the contract of Howard Stern — one of the most valuable assets around.

Bloomberg wrote up this curiosity. Essentially, Stern’s contract with SiriusXM is up in December, and earlier this week, the legendary host mentioned on his radio show that he hasn’t had any “real serious” conversations with SiriusXM’s upper since the pandemic re-wrote the entire audio industry’s script.

Bit of power playing here, I reckon, given that everyone’s a little nervous, and at the same time, anyone with even the tiniest bit of leverage probably sees opportunity to strengthen their position one way or another.

SiriusXM, by the way, had its earnings call earlier this week as well. The company beat expectations for the first quarter of 2020, but they’re signalling for investors to prepare for the worst. Of particular note is the meaningful relationship between SiriusXM and the auto industry; the latter is going through some real shit under pandemic conditions, and it’s only logical to expect the satellite radio company to go through interconnected bumpiness.

There is always, of course, Pandora, which SiriusXM formally acquired in early 2019, though that division — which, to my mind, isn’t super auto-sales dependent — is more advertising-dependent than paid subscription-dependent. (Spotify, it should be noted, is the inverse.) Given the general volatility of advertising revenue under these conditions, things might end up looking pretty rough for SiriusXM/Pandora… which might add more power to Stern’s negotiating position.

On a related note…

  • Entercom will report first quarter earnings on May 5

  • iHeartMedia goes next on May 7

  • EW Scripps rounds it out on May 8

Money Corner. Three news bites here:

(1) From the Hollywood Reporter: “Sister, the global media company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone, has invested in newly launched nonfiction podcast studio Campside… Campside was founded by journalists Josh Dean, Vanessa Grigoriadis and Matthew Shaer alongside screenwriter and producer Adam Hoff.

That’s Josh Dean of The Clearing, Vanessa Grigoriadis of Tabloid, and Matt Shaer of Over My Dead Body. More on this in Tuesday’s newsletter.

(2) Player FM, the third-party podcast app, has been acquired by Maple Media — which, contrary to my initial assumption, isn’t a Canadian company, but is instead something that the Los Angeles Times calls “basically a private equity firm that only buys apps.”

Anyway, as this 9 to 5 Mac write-up rightly notes, podcast app acquisitions have quietly become a trend of sorts lately, between the acquisition of Castro by Tiny and Pocket Casts’ acquisition by a consortium of public radio organizations.

For what it’s worth, I’m intrigued, though slightly mystified, by this app acquisitions. The long-term future of third-party podcast apps — particularly newer ones, and ones that isn’t led by a brand name figure of sorts (see: Overcast) — seem to me as a little up in the air, given the increasingly strong Apple vs. Spotify dynamic that’s been solidifying over the past few years.

(2) A podcast network called Dear Media has raised $8 million in Series A funding from Magnet Companies, a private-equity backed investment firm led by Betsy Morgan, Jeff Berman, and former AwesomenessTV president Brett Bouttier.

From the circulated press release: “Dear Media’s network was formed in 2018 as a joint venture between CEO and co-founder Michael Bosstick and Raina Penchansky of Digital Brand Architects (DBA), the top independent influencer management company, that was acquired by United Talent Agency (UTA) in 2019. The company, which operates as an independent entity, has built a social following of more than 25 million across platforms and has exceeded 150 million episode downloads.”Meanwhile… This is my coastal elite tastes or whatever, but I’m pretty psyched for Jill Lepore’s upcoming podcast, “The Last Archive,” through Pushkin Industries. The show description, as listed on its website:

From archives and libraries to interrogation rooms and evidence vaults, Lepore takes listeners around the country–and across the passage of time–in search of an answer to the question: Who killed truth? Season One begins with a murder in northern Vermont in 1919, and ends in Silicon Valley in 2020. Produced in the style of classic 1930s radio drama, The Last Archive is a show about how we know what we know and why it seems, lately, as if we don’t know anything at all.

Very my jam. Speaking of which…Podcast learnings to newsletters? Fun blog post from Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton, who links a recent move by the New York Times to reorient its popular morning newsletter around a “host” (longtime Opinion columnist David Leonhardt) to the lessons learned from the success of The Daily.

The relationship between podcasts and newsletters are, obviously, uniquely my jam. In my mind, the two media formats have more product similarities than differences, and more importantly, the good ones all hit the same emotional beats: a sense of community, a strong presence of voice, a capacity to make an infinite world feel more manageable, comprehensible, and internalizable.

Anyway, I’ll always have time for Times-enology. Benton also touches on this, but I’m intensely interested in the extent to which the news organization seems to be ceding the old “The Institution is Bigger Than The Individual” framework in favor of elevating individual talents to rep the institution. What does it mean to be a respectable institution these days? And what is the right balance to strike such that an institution is still able to outlive the human fallibility of its people? I have so much time for this specific lane of navel-gazing; my neck hurts really badly as a result.The Midnight Gospel. First of all, I’m enjoying Brian Feldman’s new newsletter, and second of all, I recommend hitting up his second issue, which contains a lovely write-up about Netflix’s “The Midnight Gospel,” which, as Feldman contends, is sort of an adaptation of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast.

The bigger idea in Feldman’s write-up of the show is basically and “animated podcast” — a formal version phenomenon that’s existed for quite a bit on YouTube — though amped up in its aesthetic and creative expression.

Feldman writes:

For a substantial number of people, I’d bet the experience of watching animated podcast audio is not a novel concept. Just search YouTube! Animated podcast audio is a thriving genre of internet video, often undertaken by fans who particularly liked a given clip. For amateur or hobbyist animators, podcast audio is a prompt to work off of, a challenge in which the visuals have to be molded around a conversation that is already locked in. It also serves as good advertising, in contrast to millions of boring videos of a waveform set against a logo…

… The Midnight Gospel does more to elevate this form than practically anything else, by sheer scope and ambition and attention to detail. It still feels like an animated YouTube clip in certain ways (the animation style has a low frame rate that might be intentional or a result of budget constraints — either way, the effect is the same) but in other ways it’s a departure. Most YouTube podcast animations are literal depictions of what people are saying, but in The Midnight Gospel, where the discussion is about abstract concepts, a literal depiction would not be compelling.

Fascinating shit. And you should subscribe to Feldman’s letter.Other things I’m reading… 

From Publishers Daily: “McClatchy, Trinity Audio Team On Text-to-Speech Feature”

From PRX: “How PRX’s news programs are handling production during the coronavirus pandemic”