Jason Hoch leaves Stuff Media

Jason Hoch, the head of new initiatives at Stuff Media, is leaving the organization (and parent company iHeartMedia) to join Imperative Entertainment, where he will lead the expansion of its new podcast division. Part of the Friedkin Group, Imperative is a Santa Monica-based entertainment studio that’s produced Ridley Scott’s All The Money In the World and Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. Hoch had been with Stuff Media for over four years, and was part of the acquisition by iHeartMedia that took place last fall.

This is the second notable departure in iHeartMedia’s podcast division this month. Chris Peterson, the company’s EVP of Podcasting, announced a few weeks ago that he was joining Liontree in New York as the new President of Kindred Media.

The Funding Gap: A Primer on the UK’s New Audio Content Fund

A new Audio Content Fund has been announced for the UK, which takes the form of a non-profit backed by a three-year £3m government grant from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It’s apparently designed to primarily fund public service material from production companies — especially independent ones — that would likely otherwise slip through the cracks of larger commissioning processes at the BBC and elsewhere.

It’s pretty cool, in theory, and I think the fund could be the beginning of a bigger and longer-lasting change to publicly-funded journalism here in the UK. (For a recap on how the licence fee is collected and currently supports the BBC and other public broadcasters, see this primer I wrote last year.) And since what happens at the BBC has a powerful ripple effect through the whole media industry in the UK, this fund is worth paying close attention to right off the bat.

Here’s some background on the fund, for those curious: its origins can found in a white paper published by DCMS in May 2016, during the consultation process before the new BBC charter was renewed at the start of the following year. (The Royal Charter is the constitutional document that created the BBC in 1927, and it is updated every 10 years to reflect the changing broadcasting landscape and the aims of the incumbent government; it has a big red wax seal and everything.)

The report contained some musings on how to “enhance plurality in the provision of public sector content,” which is government-speak for “spread the wealth around a bit beyond just the BBC and its typical providers.” This was part of a wider approach from then-Culture Secretary John Whittingdale — who would lose his job just a few months after this document was published, post-Brexit referendum — to insist on greater transparency about how public money was used by the BBC and to require more competition in commissioning processes.

More specifically, the 2016 report recommended that a new contestable public service content fund be created for television commissions, with the aim of boosting productions in genres that commercial broadcasters traditionally find hard to fund. Children’s television was singled out as a good example of this, since that’s an area of output that’s almost entirely dominated by the BBC, and DCMS clearly felt that it was worth giving a leg up to the competition in the hope it would result in “new, fresh content.”

The TV Fund was created using £57m of unused government money that had been earmarked to support broadband internet infrastructure, and it is now administered by the British Film Institute specifically for new shows aimed at young audiences. After lobbying by bodies like RadioCentre (which represents UK commercial radio) and AudioUK (the trade body for independent audio producers), a further £3m was found for a separate fund to support audio that also meets the requirements set out by the government report, in recognition of the fact that radio commissioning faces many of the same challenges as TV and that even this relatively small investment could deliver a lot of new public service radio content.

The similarly-spirited Audio Content Fund was formerly announced in October 2018 and began operations last week. It’s chaired by Helen Boaden, a former director of BBC Radio, who is also joined by a panel of experts including the consultant Kate Cocker, the independent producer Mukti Jain Campion, and former commercial radio executive John Myers. The day-to-day process will be run by a managing director who takes up office in April.

The two funds — that is, the TV and the Audio ones — are pilot schemes, to be run for three years as the government measures how effectively they deliver content that is currently struggling to get funded by the existing licence fee and commercial models. I’ve already mentioned that children’s broadcasts have been singled out as an example of where the funds might be applied, so I fully expect to see plenty of successful bids from that side of things, as well as current affairs and entertainment ideas.

But there’s an opportunity of scale as well as genre here, with one criteria in the bidding guidelines emphasising the fund’s intention to bring new voices to the industry. As well as other nodes of diversity — it names gender, disability, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation as focus points — ideas are sought which will be produced by “staff who are relatively new to the industry, or from a smaller company.” As a potentially complicating note, it is necessary for groups to be incorporated as a production company to be able to bid, but beyond that the application process for the fund looks much more streamlined than a conventional commissioning round.

There are a few different ways that this new scheme hopes to shake things up, then: greater diversity of content, greater diversity of providers, an alternative route to national broadcast. Another fascinating aspect is what impact this new funding pot could have on commercial radio, which has traditionally avoided resource-intensive formats like audio drama or comedy in favour of more cost-effective music programming. We’ve already seen commercial radio companies, like Global, experiment with podcasts aimed at children, such as the new David Walliams show made via their ClassicFM music station, and the fund could result in more of this sort of thing.

Let’s be clear: if the Audio Content Fund can deliver on any of its aims around diversity, inclusion and accessibility, it will only be a good thing for UK audio. If it can fill in some of the gaps caused by the BBC’s scale and inertia, that could be very positive, as could any less tangible but no less important consequences it could have in opening up ideas about what constitutes “public service” audio.

But there are aspects to the fund worth being cautious about, and in my mind, the biggest one has to do with political context. It’s worth noting that the BBC often comes under pressure from centre-right and right-wing politicians in Britain — i.e. those who are especially fond of free markets and don’t love closed, state-funded systems — to deliver more for its chunk of public money, and it’s a common move in the playbook to politicize different aspects of the state broadcaster. Speaking personally, I tend to think the BBC does a pretty good job delivering public service content for the UK, and though I don’t tend to hold back on criticism of the BBC when it’s merited, it’s because I personally believe in its importance and would like it to continually improve.

However, over the past decade, there has been a rising undercurrent in British politics that needles this point about “competition” as a way of making the argument for a smaller or even subscription-supported (i.e. limited) BBC, and I’d hate to see this new fund become ammunition in that fight. If all goes well, the Audio Content Fund will be a superb addition to how broadcasting works in the UK, not a replacement for the system we already have. But only if it’s allowed to do what it’s supposed to do on its own terms.

Reader Mailbag (Sort of): Spotify Edition

It’s Spotify Day +13. My inbox has pretty much started to chill after all the news, which has given me some time to sift through and check out what’s been occupying the Hot Pod hive mind. And from where I sit, there were two threads that stood out.

The first thread is the prevalence of an understandable, but imprecise, assumption: that, by virtue of its spendy acquisitions, we’re looking at an inevitable future in which Spotify is the new dominant — or even monopoly — power over the whole podcast industry. Which is to say, it is only a matter of time before the Swedish platform usurps Apple’s position as the steward of podcasting, eschews Cupertino’s traditionally hands-off approach that’s allowed the medium to flourish on its own terms, and reshapes the industry on the basis of its own corporate needs.

But that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, I think. To become Nü-Apple, Spotify must first cultivate a meaningful share of podcast listening on its platform, either by converting its non-podcast listening users or by drawing in substantial numbers of podcast listeners that don’t use Spotify as their primary listening option, and then they have to figure out to monetize podcast listening properly on their platform, and then they have to figure out how to create an environment where third-party publishers will keep wanting to play with them over the long-run. (Or, in the failure of that, creating a supply chain themselves that’s robust enough such that they don’t have to worry about what third-party publishers want in general.)

All of those things are difficult to do, to be sure, and we are perhaps especially familiar with the difficult of that first one: growing a meaningful non-Apple podcast listening user base is a task that’s often been evoked, but rarely realized with any confidence to date. Spotify’s money-slosh suggests greater drive and incentive to figure this one out, but the fact of the matter is, they’re still a non-Apple insurgent that needs to figure out broadly unprecedented user conversions. Which isn’t to say that it won’t happen in some form or another, of course. I’m just saying one should dispel with any assumption of inevitability. Like all other major things, a lot of it comes down to execution, and a lot of execution comes down to luck.

Until then, the immediate legacy of Spotify’s Big Podcast Adventure isn’t presumed dominance, but a dominant signal. Consider the following thread: Spotify has committed a substantial portion of its future narrative to podcasting, which is consequently a signal to — or creating a permission structure for — competitors and other well-resourced players to pay close attention and commit more money to the space, which in turn would lead to exacerbation the podcast gold rush that was only moderately scaled before. Indeed, Spotify doesn’t even have to eat its way through podcast listening in order to reconstitute the ecosystem. In all likelihood, it’s already triggered an environment where that reconstitution could happen in many other ways. This, by the way, was what I was trying to say when I wrote, in the February 5 issue, that the ripple effects of this move is going to be wild.

The second notable discussion trend appears to revolves around a hope for some greater balance of power. Several readers — mostly from bigger publishers — expressed optimism that, assuming Spotify does become significant, other distribution platforms will probably move to similarly match Spotify’s activity in the space, ultimately creating a more competitive environment where publishers are able to exercise options and build leverage to create better marketplaces for themselves.

Off the top of their heads, that matching could take the shape of:

  • Pandora actually following through on its Podcast Genome Project ambitions — though, in my opinion, this now oddly feels like a “necessary but insufficient” condition in the wake of the Spotify news;
  • A paid podcast platform actually breaking through and reliably offering publishers alternative business model options (Luminary was the one on most people’s minds, of course, but for what it’s worth, I’m still convinced that Audible should still be in play as a vendor you could potentially sell goods to);
  • Apple getting more involved one way or another (the term “sleeping giant” was evoked several times, as some folks are wont to do), whether that means actually stepping in as an active middleman in the vein of its App store and Apple News machinations (minus the troublesome rev share problem, hopefully), or replicating whatever it’s trying to build on television side (the efficacy of which remains up in the air), or even, as one source dared to dream, doubling-down on its position as the steward of open podcast publishing by pushing for more podcast listening on the Apple Podcast app without fundamentally changing the nature of how it treats the supply-side (though it’s hard to see what’s in it for Apple should it pursue this route);
  • A left-field idea offered up by some readers: the public radio system itself could properly step up as an alternative podcast platform, both as a distribution point and a business model to publishers up and down the sizing scale. (There’s a nice line that you can draw between this idea and the story Caroline has put together for this issue, on the UK’s new Audio Content Fund.)

The general feeling from this crowd, it seems, is that there is little to be gained from being anxious about whatever change Spotify will bring to podcasting. For them it’s more of a matter of whether there will be enough of it. “Change is good,” one source said to me, in a tone that I couldn’t help but recall “chaos is a ladder.

Anyway, just some snapshots of what I’ve been seeing.

Tracking: February 19, 2019

  • Shouts to former Nieman fellow Katherine Goldstein for launching The Double Shift, a new independently-produced narrative podcast that will produce reported stories on the contemporary generation of working mothers. It’s being distributed as part of the Critical Frequency podcast network — one of the two Supporting Cast launch partners, by the way — and it’s directly funded in large part by foundations, counting The Ford Foundation as its major patron.
  • Heads up: the Winter Podcast Upfront, which is being held in decidedly not-wintery Los Angeles, takes place tomorrow.
  • Last week, RadioPublic launched a new feature called PodSites, described as a “custom website builder” for podcast publishers.
  • Vox Media launched a new site for its podcast network this morning. Spiffy.
  • Looks like the trend of podcasting politicians won’t fade away. Almost three years after Newt Gingrich gave Michael Barbaro “more than enough to start your blog” (see here, start at 29:41), Gingrich has launched his own audio blog, Newt’s World, courtesy of Westwood One.
  • Another Panoply show finds a home, post-divestment: Sam Dingman’s Family Ghosts gets picked up by Spoke Media.

This time last year. To refresh: I’m copping this new feature from the very smart Ali Griswold, who writes a damn good newsletter on the sharing economy called Oversharing, where we go over the headlines from this point last year.

In the February 20, 2018 issue, The Daily invades public radio stations courtesy of American Public Media — and I was meh about the move, still am — KQED puts out its own local daily podcast called The Bay, Audioboom pursues an ultimately ill-fated deal with Triton Digital, and “Amazon launches a Polly WordPress plugin that turns blog posts into audio, including podcasts.”

Supporting Cast: Slate’s bid to help publishers build membership programs

As the Swedish dust from last week’s Spotify acquisition-palooza continues to settle, there’s no time to wait. Slate, the veteran digital media company and purveyor of fine podcasts, announced this morning that it’s beginning to roll out something called Supporting Cast, a new technology service meant to help podcast publishers set up paid subscription layers or membership programs.

For some Slate superfans, what Supporting Cast aims to provide should sound familiar. The service was built off Slate’s experience creating and managing Slate Plus, its long-running membership program that provides paid users with additional content. (Which, by the way, has now grown to about 50,000 members.) That extra material includes exclusive podcast episodes, which has turned out to be a potent offering — former editor-in-chief Julia Turner once told me that there is “a ton of overlap” between Slate podcast listeners and Slate Plus members — but it is something that they have traditionally distributed with some difficulty.

“It is a pain in the ass for us, and more importantly, it’s a pain in the ass for users,” Gabriel Roth, Slate’s editorial director, told Digiday in a piece last summer on those complexities (complexifier?) of distributing exclusive audio. “What we have, essentially, is a customer service challenge.”

That customer service challenge, it should be noted, primarily revolves around the awkward requirements of jerry-rigged paid podcast distribution solutions, which generally demands users to consume episodes through a whole other podcast app, as a downloaded mp3 file for consumption off iTunes, or even as a desktop-listening experience. “We think people want to continue using their existing podcast players,” David Stern, Slate’s VP of Product and Business Development, tells me. “Listeners develop strong habits around their podcast apps, and are unlikely to use a second or third app just to get access to bonus content or ad free versions of one or two shows.”

To that end, Slate designed Supporting Cast to provide an on-boarding experience that lets audiences listen to exclusive content on their preferred app. It does so by automatically facilitating the insertion of premium feeds into a number of widely-used podcast apps: Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Downcast, Pocket Casts, and Podcast Addict. (Stern estimates that this specific collection of apps covers a majority of the market.) Users of more obscure apps can manually upload feeds themselves. Notable exclusions, however, include Stitcher and Google Podcasts, though that may change over time. Also: Spotify, which is a closed platform.

Supporting Cast steps into the open with two launch partners in tow: Critical Frequency, the podcast network founded by journalist Amy Westervelt, and 5by5, the nine-year-old technology-oriented podcast network started by Dan Benjamin. Slate expects to announce more partners soon, and they’re hoping to use this launch press push to stoke interest among potential clients. I’m told that they’re eyeing two target demographics in particular: (1) existing podcast networks that don’t have an existing registration system at this point in time — “We love Patreon, but they don’t support multiple shows, and they’re really trying to own the relationship with fans,” said Stern — and (2) independent podcasters who are looking for another stream of meaningful revenue and aren’t happy with any alternatives at the moment.

Interested publishers should note a few things:

  • The service allows publishers to build scenarios where multiple premium-tiered shows can be accessed by listeners with a single account, which is a pretty important user experience cornerstone.
  • Supporting Cast isn’t a self-serve platform at the moment, meaning that you’d have to request a demo, fill out a form, and manually work with the team to set up an account for now. Stern notes that Supporting Cast will become a self-serve solution soon enough.
  • Publishers using Supporting Cast will get a dashboard that displays all the usual dashboard things: subscribers, downloads, sign-ups, revenues, and so on. If you know how to use Stripe, Patreon, or Memberful, you’d probably know how to use this.
  • Speaking of Stripe: I’m told that Supporting Cast will support Mailchimp and Stripe integration, which is nice. More integrations to come.
  • Supporting Cast being a technology service and all, Slate will take a cut of the revenue. The company has worked out individual arrangements with its two launch partners, and I’m told that they’re still figuring out precise rev share splits. However, Stern did say that the cut will likely be “more than Patreon, certainly, but less than Apple Store.”
  • Slate was empathic in emphasizing that Supporting Cast is purely a white-label service. “Podcasters can customize the signup flow to match their brands. We don’t stick a Supporting Cast logo at the top of every page. Perhaps most importantly, we don’t treat these members as our users. They belong to the podcasters whose shows they support,” the press release noted.

The introduction of Supporting Cast couldn’t have been better timed. Spotify’s acquisition bonanza last week signaled the Swedish music streaming platform’s intent to become an all-consuming audio distributor, with podcasting being its primary vessel to take on the entrenched but valuable talk radio world. If the bet pays off, Spotify may well accumulate a considerable amount of power over the podcast ecosystem — a fact that worries more than a few publishers, big and small. (For what it’s worth, and I’ll explore this further in a later column, I feel like we need to explore these anxieties more specifically before we can properly assess the pros-cons of Spotify’s gambit. This take needs more time in the oven, though.)

Anyway, these worries appear to be at the very front of Slate’s mind. Here’s Stern in the press release:

This might seem like a strange moment to be launching a product that targets and depends on an open podcasting ecosystem. Spotify and Pandora have entered the podcasting market in force, with well funded new entrants close on their heels. Slate partners with some of these companies to offer our shows on their platforms, as we do with Apple Podcasts, Overcast, and Pocket Casts, in pursuit of the widest possible audience. But if one of these walled gardens comes to dominate the market, it’s likely to share a small fraction of its revenue with podcast creators, just as Facebook and Google share a very small proportion of the revenue they generate from content sites back to publishers.

We think that scenario would be bad for podcasters and bad for listeners. As an early podcast producer — we released our first show in 2005! — we believe a thriving ecosystem depends on openness, diversity, low barriers to entry, and lack of concentration. If podcasters can’t monetize their work adequately in the open market, they’ll have no choice but to offer their shows to one of these closed platforms—on terms that will worsen significantly if a platform achieves monopoly status. It’s clearly possible to produce great shows, sometimes quite profitably, in the current market, but as Slate Plus has shown us, podcasters need multiple sources of revenue. We hope Supporting Cast will enable more podcasters to build sustainable businesses that let them keep doing what they do best: making great, entertaining, informative shows.

Slate isn’t the only shop that’s working to seize an opportunity out of this environment, by the way. Just last week, my pals at Nieman Lab wrote a piece covering an attempt by Substack, the paid newsletter provider, to claim similar territory, and I’m fairly certain we’ll see more efforts at building tools to help publishers to find or scale up levers of direct power to serve as a check against the potentially distortive impacts of platform influence.

Now, it should be noted that direct support, whether as a subscription or membership or patronage model, isn’t anything particularly new in podcasting. After all, Radiotopia was launched on the strength of successful crowdfunding campaigns, and a number of noteworthy publishers currently rely on Patreon-facilitated support models to drive their businesses. (Though, recent reports suggest that storm-clouds are beginning to loom over Patreon, which, you know, yikes.)

But the problem is that, despite all those experiments (some of which are quite successful), the podcast industry, as a whole, remains overwhelmingly advertising-driven, and it’s always seemed like most publishers have tended to prioritize ad revenue over all alternatives. We don’t quite know what Spotify will do to the ad market just yet, but at the very least, it should drive more publishers to diversify and scale up other revenue streams. And initiatives like Supporting Cast is a reflection of just that.

Tracking: February 12, 2019

Quick Flashback. From the May 10, 2016 issue:

… the tension between the two communities with very separate needs and beliefs that share the same infrastructure is very real. It’s podcasts-as-blogs versus podcasts-as-future of radio, it’s the independents versus the corporate. But whatever happens with Apple, we’re going to have to confront this question. The push toward professionalization is fully underway. As [the New York Times’ John] Herrman put it succinctly in a series of tweets: “Whether or not Apple encourages it, online audio will develop beyond current infrastructure… Anyway, I understand horror at the industrialization of a creative medium. Participants I talked to think it’s coming one way or another. So the question *right now* is: by apple’s hand, or someone else’s. These conversations should sound familiar!”

The question is, then: Can we cultivate a media universe that can effectively and simultaneously support two very, very different kinds of communities without compromising the integrity and efforts of each?

I suspect I was smarter two years ago than I am these days.

Tracking

  • WNYC announced a new Chief Content Officer last week: Andrew Golis, formerly the general manager of Vox Media.
  • From Variety: “San Francisco-based podcasting startup Himalaya Media has raised $100 million in funding to establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space… Himalaya’s main investor is Ximalaya, China’s biggest spoken word audio platform.” Seems China wants a piece of This American Pie (see also: Castbox), and their sloshing silly money around to get it. We’ll be watching this broader trend.
  • Slate’s Slow Burn is heading to television, via Epix. Despite having left Slate to start their own podcast studio, Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons will be executive producers, alongside Julia Turner (who is now at the LA Times), Slate CEO Dan Check, and editorial director Gabriel Roth. Might be strange timing, though. Didn’t we already have a TV documentary series on the Clinton impeachment? Relatedly, here’s The Verge: “MGM-owned Epix jumps into the streaming service arena with EpixNow.”
  • From Bloomberg: “In the four years since it first started buying podcast slots, MeUndies has sold almost 9 million pairs of skivvies and hasn’t had to raise any capital. It now has 144 employees and expects to post $75 million in sales this year. Podcasts remain one of its biggest expenses and comprise one-third of its marketing budget.” Podcast advertising works… at least, in the way that it works right now, which may not be the way it works in the future.
  • For the first time in a very long time, NPR is updating Morning Edition theme to appeal to “new listeners,” i.e. the youths. Shouts to that one time NPR asked its audience to remix its theme in 2016. Personally, I stan for the Breakmaster Cylinder take.
  • Might want to keep an eye on this one. From The Verge: “Spotify is now explicitly banning ad blockers, as stated in an updated Terms of Service policy sent out today.”
  • If you miss Another Round’s Tracy Clayton, you can now hear her hosting a new podcast that Pineapple is making with Netflix, called Strong Black Legends.
  • On the smart speaker beat: “Apple’s smart speaker is struggling to grab market share from the Amazon Echo and Google Home” (CNBC) “Google Home can now translate conversations on-the-fly.” (TechCrunch)
  • From The Daily Beast: “Steve Schmidt Storms Off Own Podcast When Asked About Advising Howard Schultz.” Awkward. That podcast, by the way, is called Words Matter.

This time last year. To refresh: I’m copping this new feature from the very smart Ali Griswold, who writes a damn good newsletter on the sharing economy called Oversharing, where we go over the headlines from this point last year.

In the February 13, 2018 issue, Vox Media launched Today, Explained, its bid to take on the daily news podcast genre (then-Vox GM Andrew Golis told me: ““It gives us an opportunity to have an audio daily presence in our audience’s life in the way our website does in text and our YouTube channel does in video”); The Onion released its true crime podcast spoof, A Very Fatal Murder; Crooked Media announced that Pod Save America was heading to HBO; we talked about spray-and-pray tactics and what comes after; and we Call(ed) Your Girlfriend to see what’s up.

The Anfield Wrap does it themselves

Hot Pod readers probably know that I’m based in the UK by now, but I’m not sure that it’s entirely clear that I don’t live in London. I moved away in the summer of 2017 after nearly a decade in the English capital, and nowadays I’m based in north west England, near Liverpool. That decision had nothing to do with podcasting, but since I moved here, I’ve become aware that one of the most interesting independent podcast companies happens to work out of central Liverpool — and that its success is intimately connected to its location.

That company is The Anfield Wrap, which publishes a collection of mostly football (or soccer, if you must) podcasts. It employs 11 people, has around 80,000 listeners for its weekly free shows, and has sold out live tours all over the world. Its revenues are partly ad-driven with the help of Audioboom, but the bulk of it is driven by listener subscriptions. They have over 10,000 people paying £5 a month (about $6.50) for access to extra podcast content beyond the twice-weekly ad-supported shows, and have plans to expand their subscriber-only offering further in the near future with extra video and written content.

In my mind, The Anfield Wrap has some distinctions from other direct-support podcast operations that take contributions through Patreon. Part of this has to do with scale — deriving so much of their revenue from subscribers for paying for content in a niche feels more consistent with that Chinese educational model I wrote about a few months ago — and part of this has to do with the tech, because this show runs their own back-end and delivers the subscriber-only shows via an Amazon server rather than relying on any third party service (which generally takes a cut of revenues).

I visited The Anfield Wrap’s dockside offices in central Liverpool recently to find out more. Their studio, offices and meeting rooms are all based in the corner of a new glass building in the downtown Mann Island area, a location that Neil Atkinson, who co-founded the show and heads up the day to day operation, says is absolutely crucial to how they work.

“We see ourselves as telling the story of supporting Liverpool football club from the heart of city,” he said. “If you want to find out what’s happening at Liverpool football club then you’re better off going to [the club]. They’ll do that for you. What we’re about is linking that into the city.  What we want is the idea that wherever you are in the world, you feel as though you’re present in the room where the recording is taking place.”

The Anfield Wrap was founded in August 2011, when fans Gareth Roberts and Andy Heaton decided to start a Liverpool FC fan website with its own podcast, and asked Atkinson to host. There were already fan podcasts during this time, he says, but they were often recorded later on in the week or over Skype. The TAW crew decided to work differently: “The key thing about the podcast was that it would be recorded in Liverpool city centre, in person, on Monday morning,” Atkinson said. The show soon tapped into the existing sense of fan collectivism that had grown up in the years directly preceding the launch, when there were legal issues surrounding the club’s ownership. “One of the things that came out of the issue of the ownership was that fan groups were formed and fan friendships across spectrums sort of developed as part of that,” he added.

They quickly increased their roster of contributors, often having up to ten people recording a round-table on Monday mornings. The following year, Atkinson and fellow TAW regular John Gibbons were asked to host a live weekly show on local Liverpool radio station CityTalk, which they are still doing seven years on. Live tours to Ireland, Scotland, the US and elsewhere followed. The podcast grew steadily, but other ventures like an online fan magazine didn’t fare quite so well. In the meantime, Atkinson had been made redundant from his day job as a journalist and and also done some work in film. Eventually, by early 2015, the founding shareholders decided to run The Anfield Wrap as a podcast business and see what happened.

“I just sort of thought, why don’t we give [the listeners] more podcasts? That’s what they want, that’s what they like,” Atkinson said. “On 1 March 2015 we started to do effectively a variation on where the model is now, doing about an additional 10-12 podcasts a week [for subscribers] as well as the two free ones.” Everything was free for the first two months, and then the paywall came in.

They reached 5,000 subscribers in the first three or four months, Atkinson said, which was “encouraging,” especially since not all of the paid-for content was football related — they also produce comedy, politics, music and history shows, with occasional high production value documentary series mixed in. “We don’t just do stuff about Liverpool football club: we do stuff which is done by Liverpool supporters from Liverpool.” The core schedule follows the football season — “what people want is coverage of the games” — but they like to experiment on the side too. The team has now grown to 11 people, with full time staff covering ads, marketing, social media, scheduling, production and so on.

The next step for The Anfield Wrap is their own app, which will house all of their paywalled audio content plus extra videos and articles. It’s in development at the moment, and is due to launch in the next few months. “I want it to be the primary place you come to get all of our content,” Atkinson said, although he confirmed that they won’t be pulling their feeds from other platforms, so subscribers will still be able to get the show in their app of choice if they so desire. “We just want them to listen, to enjoy, to feel that they’re part of something. We’re not in this to try to manage people’s activity or behaviour.”

The app will just provide them with a convenient hub for everything they put out, where they can interact directly with their customers (support can be tricky when it’s an issue with a third party app, Atkinson said). It will also allow them to try out physical advertising, such as billboards and posters on match days, where they can appeal to new listeners with a direct call to action. “We literally know where 55,000 possible consumers are — when you think about that from a marketing point of view, how many people have the luxury of that?”

Football shows are a big part of UK podcast culture, and there are other independent production teams making them. But I don’t know of anything else like The Anfield Wrap, where they focus on the culture surrounding one particular place and team, and where listeners provide the primary revenue stream. The team has expanded just to keep making the core product — they aren’t taking in production work for other places or making branded content. Having started in 2011, they got into podcasting relatively early, and they’ve quietly kept building their business while trends have waxed and waned elsewhere. If there are to be turbulent times ahead, theirs could be a model to emulate.

PodUK: Podcast Fans Unite

At the top of February, I headed off to Birmingham to attend the first PodUK convention. There have been a few different podcast events debuting in the UK in the last few months, with new festivals in Brighton and Manchester and workshops in London, and I consider the viability of these things as a good test for the health of the industry here as a whole. Live shows and associated events have proved to be good revenue streams for podcasts elsewhere; if the UK can now support more of them, it’s a decent sign that the audience and awareness here is growing.

Consistent with its positioning as a convention, the day’s programming saw a mix of live performances, talks, meet and greets and signings, mostly dominated by independent fiction shows, but with a few appearances by other kinds of podcasts such as the BBC World Service’s historical true crime series Death in Ice Valley and Ewan Spence’s Eurovision Song Contest Insight.

The day took a hit from adverse weather conditions, with snow preventing some ticketholders travelling to the event, but there were still plenty of attendees at the Millennium Point venue. The programming was interesting, but what really stood out to me was the atmosphere: it was one of the kindest, most supportive podcast things I’ve ever been to, with strangers striking up conversations in the halls and plenty of listener-talent mingling. I would guess that this relaxed vibe partly stemmed from the fact that most of the shows in attendance were smaller and independent, so there was a feeling of easygoing equity around and none of the uneasy tension that I’ve experienced at other events where you can have hobbyist, semi-pro and superstar podcasters all sharing a bill.

Jess Anson, the woman behind Rocksalt Events, the company that organized the convention, told me that the whole thing grew out of her participation in fandom culture elsewhere — and her own growing love for podcasts. “I used to make events for the TV show Supernatural… like little fan events,” she said. “And then I found these guys the McElroy brothers, who make The Adventure Zone, My Brother My Brother and Me and so on. I realised that there were a lot of fans in the UK, but there was no one getting together and meeting up. So I started making fan events for that, and that kind of spiralled into ‘hey, there’s not really a fandom hub for for podcast fans in the UK’, and I’m looking for a new event to do so why not make one?”

The aim of the day was so simple” for people to have fun and enjoy their favourite shows. “We’ve tried to keep [the line up] kind of lighthearted, let’s say. So we wouldn’t want to bring any business podcasts, or serious podcasts, let’s put it that way,” said Anson.

The decision to hold the event outside London was partly cost-driven — “it’s a lot cheaper to do an event in Birmingham!” — and partly because it gave PodUK a unique selling proposition, since so many other British podcasting events take place in the capital. Even then, they had people travel from all over Europe to attend, with fans, performers and sponsors coming from Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Sponsors, such as Hindenburg, also started getting in touch as news of the event spread, enabling Ansom to up her offering for attendees and get some help with merch.

PodUK definitely had the feeling of a passion project rather than a commercial one. But the goodwill towards it both from podcasters and listeners was really striking, especially as the UK audio space has become more profit-aware over the past few years. Ansom feels like she’s found “a gap in the market” — and I’m tempted to agree. It’s good to see that fan-driven enterprises like this can still thrive in an increasingly professionalised industry.

Breaking: Spotify closes Gimlet deal, also acquires Anchor

Told you Spotify wasn’t done shopping.

This morning, the Swedish streaming company announced that it has closed the Gimlet acquisition, and that it had additionally acquired another podcast company: Anchor, the podcast hosting-and-monetization platform founded by Michael Mignano and Nir Zicherman.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed

Here’s the press release, and here’s the particularly relevant chunk:

With these acquisitions, Spotify is positioned to become both the premier producer of podcasts and the leading platform for podcast creators. Gimlet will bring to Spotify its best-in-class podcast studio with dedicated IP development, production and advertising capabilities. Anchor will bring its platform of tools for podcast creators and its established and rapidly growing creator base.

To quickly repeat myself from yesterday’s newsletter on the subject of Spotify’s podcast angle:

  • Spotify is looking to diversify away from purely focusing on music, where it’s been long locked into bruising rivalries with other streaming platforms (Pandora, Apple Music) and traditional music industry Powers That Be (labels). Podcasts, or talk content more broadly, offers the Swedish tech giant two things: first, a completely new growth channel for investors to get excited about, and second, the opportunity to differentiate its product, deepen its value to the user, and increase the friction of shifting away to another service.
  • As I also mentioned: we should relatedly pay close attention to Spotify’s adventures in building direct relationships with musicians — first by striking deals with independent artists and then by rolling out a feature that allows artists to upload music directly and automatically receive royalty payouts. In other words, they’ve been trying to become the monetization layer for musicians straight-up. I imagine they would want to do the same for podcasts.

These two acquisitions directly speak to these pieces: Gimlet for the first strategic target, and Anchor for the second.

Founded in 2015, Anchor initially started life as a social audio app — think Twitter, but for audio, which is kind of a throwback to Twitter’s original incarnation, Odeo — that caught some buzz at SXSW the following year. It received venture backing from a pool of investors that includes Betaworks (which also backed Gimlet), Homebrew, GV, The Chernin Group, and Accel, among others. The social audio thesis didn’t quite go anywhere, and the company eventually pivoted towards what would eventually turn out to be some sort of end-to-end podcasting platform, encouraging new podcast creators to host on their platform (thus functioning as a competitor to Libsyn and Art19) and later launching something called Anchor Sponsorships, an in-platform advertising marketplace for shows hosted on the platform.

With the acquisition of both Gimlet and Anchor, Spotify appears to be angling towards a situation in which it can both function as a publisher and a platform. (Add your Medium/platisher jokes here.) All the questions I raised in my Spotify analysis column still very much applies, perhaps even more so now. But the biggest one now, in my mind, is: can you effectively be both at the same time? Can you have your cake and eat it too? As always, it will come down to the execution.

Also: I’d like to double down on my tin foil hat Gimlet Creative theory. Only, slap Anchor’s Sponsorship marketplace to the mix too.

Spotify has made a huge statement about its intentions with podcasts. They had my interest. But now they have my attention. (Not that I matter in this situation, of course.)

Few closing thoughts:

  • Again, for those keeping track: I reported that the Gimlet acquisition went for around $230 million. The press release didn’t confirm it, and who knows what the final number turned out to be by the end of the negotiations.
  • As for Anchor’s deal, I don’t have any information on that, but let me know if you do.
  • Honestly, I thought I’d be spending the first quarter of 2019 talking about Luminary. Guess, uh, that’s going to be tough now.
  • Since yesterday’s newsletter, several readers pointed two personnel related matters to me: (1) Spotify’s CFO is Barry McCarthy, the former CFO of Netflix, and (2) Spotify has a Chief Content Officer, Dawn Ostroff, who used to be the president of The CW (and hence, was/is a Hollywood insider). Those pieces might be relevant for your own analyses.

Okay, more soon.

Gimlet/Spotify, or The End (of an Era)

Quiet weekend, huh? In case you missed it, Spotify is reported to be in “advanced talks” to acquire Gimlet Media. Recode and the Wall Street Journal both broke the news late Friday. And let me tell ya: my inbox hasn’t seen as much action as it did over the past seventy-two hours or so than it has in a long time.

If you didn’t catch the emergency newsletter I sent out on Friday, here are the beats:

  • A source familiar with the matter told me that the specific price was $230 million. If the deal goes through, it would mark the biggest podcast industry acquisition to date by a long mile.
  • Only two deals can serve as comparable markers: Scripps’ 2015 acquisition of Midroll Media for $50 million plus another $10 million based on milestone achievements, and iHeartMedia’s 2018 acquisition of Stuff Media for $55 million.
  • Gimlet Media would be Spotify’s first content company acquisition. Also, unless I’m mistaken, this would also be Spotify’s largest acquisition ever. The largest prior was the 2014 acquisition of Echo Nest, the music intelligence technology company, for around $66 million.
  • When the news broke on Friday, the deal was thought to be in its final stages, though not officially completed. However, for the purposes of grammar, we’ll proceed with today’s newsletter expecting it to close.
  • Since launching in 2014, Gimlet has raised around $28.5 million in total funding from an eclectic pool of investors. The pool includes: the advertising giant WPP; Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective; the New York City “startup studio” Betaworks; Panoply parent company Graham Holdings; Troy Carter’s Cross Culture Ventures; the Chris Sacca-founded Lowercase Capital; the private equity and venture capital firm Stripes Group; and Marco Arment. The latest raise took place the fall of 2017, on a speculated $70 million valuation, according to a Recode report from that time.

I laid out some initial analysis in Friday’s newsletter, and today, we’re going to dive deeper into a bunch of things. Given the constraints of a newsletter, I won’t be able to tackle everything in this issue, but I assure you, we’re going to talking about every implication of this for a long time.

***

In Friday’s emergency missive, I noted that there was a certain inevitability to Gimlet’s exit. By that I meant, having taken substantial amounts of venture capital, the company was always going to have to operate under the assumption that its investors would want an exit in some form or another. Going public was probably never a realistic option, given that content-oriented companies aren’t exactly the most listable entities in public markets, and founders Blumberg and Lieber generally opted to eschew any kind of technology play fairly early on (as documented in Startup’s first season).

One could argue that Gimlet had long set itself down this road after committing to a growth plan that required what must be a blinding burn rate. The company’s headcount now numbers at around 120 people, and it had also committed to a ten-year lease in downtown Brooklyn in 2017, where it proceeded to invest heavily in building out studio infrastructure.

All this, it should be noted, off the strength of a three-pronged revenue stream: podcast advertising sold on its slate of 24 owned and operated shows; branded podcast campaign revenues through Gimlet Creative; and IP-slingin’ through Gimlet Pictures (which I’m guessing doesn’t produce that much up-front money and may well be a comparatively unreliable revenue stream at the moment, but is growing nonetheless). Gimlet doesn’t make its revenues public, but there are enough clues scattered about. We know that they made at least $7 million in 2016, back when they were more outwardly transparent about its inner workings. In mid-2017, a Recode piece reported that the company was on track to bring in $15 million that year. (The same number, by the way, that The Ringer hit in 2018.)

We can probably assume that its revenue levels have grown since. Maybe the company had figured out a growth rate that would justify its burn rate, enough that, in another universe, it could have led them to feel confident about raising another round. Or maybe they didn’t. In any case, they’re selling, and here we are.

In Spotify, Gimlet has found an attractive suitor. The Swedish music streaming platform, which has been itching to do something with podcasting for a while, isn’t just any potential buyer of a podcast company. Indeed, the company is a particularly sexy suitor that would validate the brand that Gimlet had clearly labored to build and whose disruption narrative vibes with the worldview of Gimlet’s tech-centric investors. (A thought experiment I’ve been playing with: at this point in time, how long is the list of possible suitors in which an acquisition would still feel like an actual achievement?)

Gimlet’s exit might also be well-timed, given the probability of future turbulence. As I brought up last week, some smart folks argue that there’s a good chance of a recession in the coming years. That would bring significant uncertainty to podcast-land as we know it. Such an event may impose considerable pressure on podcast advertising rates, challenge optimism and confidence around the industry, and truly force the question on whether there is a podcast bubble. Faced with the opportunity to cash out now… feels like an understandable choice.

***

This newsletter has already spent quite a bit of digital ink thinking through Spotify’s angle with podcasting, most recently in an issue that came out just last month.

But to quickly recap: Spotify is looking to diversify away from purely focusing on music, where it has long been locked into bruising rivalries with other music streaming platforms (Pandora, Apple Music) and traditional music industry Powers That Be (music labels). Podcasts, or talk content more broadly, offers the Swedish tech giant two things: firstly, a completely new growth channel for its investors to get excited about, and secondly, the opportunity to differentiate its product, deepen its value to the user, and increase the friction of shifting away to another service. (Until competing services ramp up their own respective podcast plays, of course.)

So, I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear that Spotify was acquiring Gimlet. First of all, there had been rumors floating around for a while. But mostly, because there’s apparent superficial logic behind such an acquisition: Gimlet would give Spotify a buzzy portfolio of shows with which the platform can use to focus attention on and build a narrative around its podcast offerings.

What did surprise me, however, was the $230 million price tag, which was significantly higher than I was expecting. For what it’s worth, I figured a sale to be worth around the $70-$100 million range, if only because of Recode’s original reporting on the company’s $70 million valuation after its most recent fundraise. Maybe I’m just a naive small business owner who knows nothing about scale or corporate development, but holy shit does $230 million feel like a stretch. Especially when contextualized against iHeartMedia’s $55 million acquisition of Stuff Media, a pure podcast content company, last fall. And your suspicion lies somewhere along the lines of differences in infrastructure, a data point to note: Stuff Media had around 50 employees powering production slate of around 25 shows at the time of acquisition; as mentioned previously, Gimlet has over 100 staffers powering 24 shows.

Which prompts the question: what, exactly, is the specific nature of value that Spotify sees in picking up Gimlet? (An alternative theory is, of course, a simple bidding war. But I haven’t picked up on any traces of such a thing, and until we see reliable reporting on the matter, let’s proceed with the assumption of Spotify as the sole suitor.)

So, the major assumption I’ve been seeing around this deal is that, in Gimlet, Spotify would primarily be getting a show portfolio that they could use as the major cornerstone to their “original podcast programming,” with which they could push more of its users towards consuming podcasts on its platform. That push may or may not take the form of Gimlet’s shows becoming Spotify exclusives, but I’m pretty comfortable betting it will.

But I also think Gimlet Creative, the company’s advertising division, is another key piece to appraise here. Consider that Spotify’s core competency isn’t content, but distribution, engagement, and monetization — and that monetization, in particular, is both a podcast problem that a good deal of people are fixated on and the one that established media platforms (like Spotify, but also Pandora) fancy themselves well-positioned to solve with their existing assets.

We know that Spotify has been tinkering pretty hard with podcast monetization: a recent press push noted that the company was already experimenting with selling ads on its own original podcasts since 2018, and that it is currently exploring the possibility of building out its own ad insertion tech. And I continue to be convinced that all of this is going to link back to, or draw lessons from, Spotify’s adventures in directly building relationships with musicians; initially by directly striking deals with independent artists, and then rolling out a feature that allows artists to upload music directly onto the platform and automatically receiving royalty payouts. In other words, they have been trying to become the monetization layer for musicians straight-up. I imagine they would want to do the same for podcasts.

But of course, podcast advertising is a completely different animal from digital audio advertising as they would know it. (For now, anyway.) Which brings me to my tin foil hat theory: a possible future is one that sees the Gimlet Creative team being diverted to focus on developing new-age advertising experiences for Spotify to inject into its original programs and to supply its future podcast monetization tools.

To put it another way, instead of seeing Spotify picking up one end-to-end podcast company, you could also perhaps see it as picking two different (albeit conjoined) assets that can each be applied to different aspects of its business: a publisher and a creative agency.

And what an agency. One can debate Gimlet being a category leader in original podcast content — and it’s a debate worth having, competition’s mad fierce — but the way I see it, Gimlet Creative is the company’s most notable creation that’s still quite far ahead in its peer group. This is a creative agency that has developed relationships with, built advertising experiences for (both branded podcasts and in-episode spots), and extracted a ton of money from an array of attractive advertisers that includes Ford, Gatorade, Virgin Atlantic, Mastercard, Google, Microsoft, eBay, and Reebok. I imagine that all makes for a pretty attractive asset to somebody. (Not unrelated: Spotify itself has been experimenting with branded podcast production.)

Or maybe it’s all not that complicated. Maybe it really is the simplest version of the situation: a big entity acquires a smaller entity, provides it with resources and support but generally leaves it alone, and reaps whatever benefits that can be generated. Disney-Pixar, essentially.

Maybe. But I never really liked Occam or his razor anyway.

(One more thing: I wouldn’t be surprised if Spotify isn’t done shopping for podcast stuff, by the way.)

***

Miscellaneous Notes:

(1) The ripple effects of this deal is going to be wild. What might come next, I suspect, is a minor arms race that sees other companies — from direct Spotify competitors like Pandora to media companies more broadly — feel the sweaty heat of FOMO and begin exploring the possibility of bringing in their own podcast asset… regardless of whether they have an actual, informed strategy around such an acquisition. It would be, in some ways, a more extreme version of what we’ve already been seeing for a while now: various media companies rapidly assembling podcast operations without quite knowing how podcasting works, except with added pressure to buy their way into expertise than develop it on their own.

The next few months will prove to be interesting, as an array of podcast companies may see this period as a strong opportunity to cash out. (I’d keep an eye on other venture capital-backed content companies, if I were you.) And given the high $230 million watermark that was just set, those companies could be emboldened to ask for high prices. What I can’t tell, though, is the actual extent to which it’s a seller’s market. On the one hand, FOMO is a powerful force. On the other hand, as established earlier, the future is more uncertain than it ever was, and it’s quite possible both sides of the table will know it.

(2) Count me as someone who doesn’t think there’ll be any layoffs or trims as Spotify brings Gimlet into the fold. In the immediate future, anyway. For one thing, this doesn’t strike me as a straightforward “Team A absorbing Team B” sort of acquisition, where audio producers will now be made to sit next to its content partnerships team and work together or whatever, thus resulting in some cuts due to redundancies. And for another, Spotify isn’t exactly a struggling media conglomerate fighting against the march of technological apocalypse — quite the opposite. I imagine they have the money and patience l to spend on the whole cloth for now.

Something to consider, though: unless I’m overlooking some obscure part of its history, Spotify hasn’t governed over a big editorial staff before. (They have, however, governed a small staff: that of Dissect, the music podcast that it acquired last year.) That could lead to complications. Anyway, keep an eye on how that shakes out. In any case, I’m crossing my fingers that Gimlet and its new Swedish overlords will do good by its producer workforce, and I hope that everybody gets to keep doing what they signed up to do. Unless, of course, they came in for the money, in which case, good for you.

(3) I wonder if Gimlet will be made to considerably expand its publishing portfolio and volume. Such an imperative might prove challenging, given that the company has generally tended to favor seasonal or limited-run productions that tend to cost a lot of time and money to make. The task of either scaling up that process, or expanding into higher-volume shows that’s not its core competency, is a tricky one, though any success in such a move would hopefully be captured in a business school case study. (Also: if Spotify puts them down this course, there would be some interesting poetry here. Gimlet once sought to brand itself as the “HBO of Audio,” and as fate would have it, HBO, that premium cable darling, is being made to greatly expand its publishing volume by its new corporate overlords, AT&T.)

(4) Here’s a commentary thread that I’ve been seeing around the news: what an oasis of good news in a desert of shitty media stories, with companies laying off staffers left and right! I share the thirst-quenching, but only to an extent. To be honest, I just don’t see Podcast Company stories as being completely in the same universe as Digital Media Company stories. (Unless, of course, it’s a Digital Media Company Making Podcast story, which is a different kind of story altogether.) Also, personally speaking, I don’t see acquisition-exits as an automatically good thing, but that’s just me speaking as a person who sees independence as an ultimate value. For Gimlet, though, it’s probably definitely a good thing, and as previously discussed, perhaps the only possible end.

(5) I’ve seen some Twitter chatter — suddenly everybody’s a podcast expert? — debating the tenability of Spotify pulling off an exclusives-driven strategy. I don’t have much to say on that other than, as always, it depends on the execution, which itself depends on a string of a hundred different design choices. Refer back to my January column for a spread of questions thinking through those.

(6) Let’s do some reader mail. A long-time reader, first-time writer wrote me: “What’s going to be the deal with Gimlet Pictures?” The specific curiosity being, it’s one thing for Chris Giliberti to be slingin’ IP on behalf of a ~quirky content studio~, but another thing altogether when it’s behalf of a giant music platform. Somehow I don’t think IP-buyers will get too hung up on the differences. But if you’re a talent agent reading this who disagrees, @ me.

(7) Got more than a few questions around this idea: “Will Spotify usher in a world of closed podcast platforms? Is this the end of open podcasting?” Probably, and who knows. A while back — and, my apologies, I can’t find the exact column to link — I wrote a long, rambly newsletter (much like this one) arguing my suspicion that the long-arc of open podcasting is one where it ends up not being the default definition of the term, but a genre of it. (Don’t tell me that the word “podcasting” would lose all meaning in that scenario; the iPod is literally dead, for goodness sakes.)  I think I stand by that assessment. In any case, you can bet that we’ll be revisiting this topic over and over again in the coming months, as we are most certainly, barring ecological catastrophe, drifting deeper into a world of fragmented walled gardens.

(8) On that note, a reader raised a good question in my Twitter DMs: “Does podcast industry growth depend on a revamp of the distribution model, and/or walled gardens, and/or fragmentation, etc? Or can the status quo be highly profitable?” I’m sure other people have their own takes on this, but my own amateur-expert opinion is: I don’t think the answer is structural. By which I mean, if a status quo is allowed to grow on its own terms on a long enough time scale without existentially-threatening competition or external expectations, that status quo can grow to become at least comfortable. That was the story of podcasting, more or less, immediately after the ‘08 recession, where the ecosystem as we knew it started to develop. But people got employees to feed, managers, investors, quarterly earning expectations, burn rates. So I can see how the Original Condition might not work for everybody, hence the push to reject and impact the status quo to briskly pursue profitability.

(9) A text message from an independent producer: “I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing.” Like much of modernity, it’s almost certainly both. More to the point, it’s change — in this specific instance, the neck-aching kind that only a sudden insane burst of money can bring.

(10) Finally, an aside: I spent some of the weekend re-listening to Alex Blumberg’s old stories from This American Life, Planet Money, and Startup’s first season. And man, I wonder if that dude is going to be able to keep making the stuff that he was so good at making before. They feel so different now.

Make no mistake: should the acquisition close, this deal would be an unambiguously important moment in the young history of podcasting, even if it doesn’t work out. Gimlet-Spotify would be podcasting’s first true blockbuster acquisition, a potential major turning point for the ecosystem (for better or worse), and the beginning of something… else. But as the poets of Semisonic once observed, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end; in this case, this is the end of an era, the one that was kicked off in 2014 with the Serial Boom. I’ll miss it.

Wow that was melodramatic. Sorry about that.