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Camp Substack

Plus, NPR gets its transcripts in order and HBO Max is trying to make companion pods happen

Happy Friday! Got lots of little podcast nuggets for you, so let’s get into it.

Substack launches podcast boot camp for creators

In Substack’s latest push to make the platform a podcast destination, the company will host a month-long podcasting intensive for 10 participants this summer. The course, which is intended to help creators turn podcasts into a sustainable part of their businesses, will run for a month from late July to August. By the time applications open on June 9th, creators must have at least five Substack posts in order to apply. 

There are definitely worse ways to spend a summer, but this is not just an academic exercise for the love of audio. “We are looking for writers and creators with a substantial audience, growth potential, and a strong desire to grow an independent media business on Substack,” the announcement said. The more effective users are at making and monetizing podcasts, the better it is for Substack’s bottom line — the company gets a 10 percent cut. 

Substack is best known for its newsletters, but the podcast intensive is the latest sign that Substack is trying to compete with Patreon in the audio space. Last month, it announced that hit shows like The Fifth Column and American Prestige made the switch from Patreon and posted blogs encouraging podcasters to come to the platform. It may not be an easy task, though. Patreon has been operating in the audio space for much longer and takes a lower cut of subscription revenue on its standard plan (8 percent versus Substack’s 10 percent).

It’s good to be the king

We all know that Joe Rogan has the No. 1 podcast on the planet, but it’s not just that he is No. 1. According to new data from Edison, he has nearly twice the listenership of the No. 2 podcast, Crime Junkie. That gap is made even more remarkable by the fact that Rogan’s show is exclusive to Spotify, while Crime Junkie is distributed broadly. His show absolutely dwarfs even reasonably successful ones. It has 18 times the audience of the 100th ranked podcast, Phil in the Blanks by Dr. Phil McGraw.

The stat underscores one of the main challenges for new podcasts entering the space: podcast listening is really, really concentrated at the top. More time was spent listening to the top 100 podcasts than the next 900, according to Edison president Larry Rosin. Even after the top 10 podcasts, listening falls off dramatically. It makes sense, then, why the very top podcasters are getting nine-figure deals while those striving to chart struggle to make a sustainable living.

NPR inks new transcription deal

NPR has signed a three-year contract with UK-based transcription firm Take 1 to transcribe 30 of its radio shows and podcasts, switching from its previous partner, Verb8tm. The transcripts, which Take 1 claims can be turned around in as little as a few hours, are intended to help with internal workflow and listener accessibility. The transcripts will be available both to member stations and the public and could be especially key for NPR fans who are deaf and hard of hearing. The deal took effect at the beginning of this year.

NPR has made transcripts of its show available on its website since 2009, according to spokesperson Isabel Lara, and the same group of show transcriptions that were available before the transition will continue to be. Many of the outlet’s most popular podcasts are transcribed for the public, including Pop Culture Happy Hour, Planet Money, and NPR Politics.

It’s a practice that puts NPR ahead of the curve as demands for accessibility escalate. As Inside Radio noted in its reporting, the National Association of the Deaf and Disability Rights Advocates sued SiriusXM late last year on behalf of five members who claim that the company does not do enough to provide listening alternatives. 

New pods:

  • The New York Times announced it is launching a new opinion podcast called First Person with former Weekend Edition and Up First host Lulu Garcia-Navarro attached as host. Garcia-Navarro joined the Times last year after 17 years at NPR. The show will focus on personal stories that inform how people think about the world around them, under the premise that “every opinion starts with a story.” Having spent more than five seconds on Twitter, I’m not so sure I buy that assumption, but it should be a good listen anyway. The show will launch June 9th.
  • Spotify’s newest audio star is… Ford’s CEO? The streamer will debut a new podcast hosted by Jim Farley, a longtime Ford executive who became CEO in 2020 and who also apparently goes by “Jimmy Car Car.” Drive will focus on car culture and feature guests like Dax Shepard and racing enthusiast the Duke of Richmond. This could not be less “for me,” personally, but if it’s your thing, you can check out the trailer here. The show will launch on May 25th.
  • If your big-budget TV show doesn’t have a companion podcast, did it even happen? (Well… yeah.) Still, studios are turning to podcasts to market some of their splashiest shows. HBO Max has two new pods for Hacks, which recently returned for its second season, and the new miniseries The Staircase. Meanwhile, MTV and iHeartMedia are launching Squirrel Friends: The Official RuPaul’s Drag Race Podcast to accompany the long-running reality competition. 

I’m tapped out. Have a great weekend, and stay cool, East Coasters