Issue 268,  published July 28, 2020

Follow-up to NYT-Serial Productions

ICYMI: Serial Productions is now a New York Times company.

Also, the Times forged a “strategic alliance” with This American Life, in which the famed public radio and podcast operation will continue editorially collaborating with Serial Productions, while also receiving co-marketing and advertising sales support from the Times.

Aside from the general head-turning nature of the acquisition, this story is really about the Times. Here we have an already powerful audio publisher — one of the very few that’s broadly insulated from the vicissitudes of the podcast “platform wars” — further deepening its strength in the space. As Sam Dolnick, the Times’ assistant managing editor, phrased things to me, the overarching goal is to “establish the Times as a real center of gravity for audio journalism, news, and storytelling.”

One detail that didn’t get rolled into the initial write-up: the deal size. The Times is said to have paid $25 million for Serial Productions, according to the Times reporting on itself. (Ha.) Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Mullin spun that yarn out a little further, reporting that the deal could ultimately be valued up to $50 million, based on performance.

In case it wasn’t already clear: 2020 is the year of podcast consolidation… in addition to, you know, being the year of the pandemic, economic calamity, social unrest, and what will almost certainly be the most volatile American presidential elections in a lifetime.  (Then again, who knows what comes next?)
Public education. One last thing on the Serial Productions-NYT story: you might’ve heard that the first show to launch under the new arrangement is Chana Joffe-Walt’s Nice White Parents, a five-part series that features Joffe-Walt examining the role that white parents play in the shaping of public education. That drops on July 30.

But Nice White Parents won’t be the only podcast this season taking up the subject of public education. The latest season of Fiasco, Leon Neyfakh’s doc series distributed through Luminary, will focus on what happened when Black civil rights activists in Boston demanded their children be given access to the same level of education as their white counterparts in the 1960s and 70s. That launches on August 13.

There’s one more project to note: Nashville Public Radio’s The Promise is returning for its second season on August 31, and I’m told that this new set of stories will contain a two-parter on Nashville’s 43-year court battle following Brown v. Board.

Always interesting to see a cluster. Something’s in the air.

 

I run this thing.