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Insider: April 23, 2020

West Coast Bite Patreon Lay-offs Notable releases... and more!

West Coast Bite.Deadline has a pretty interesting though rudimentary piece out yesterday on podcast networks during the pandemic, but there are two specific things that are nonetheless worth clocking.

The first comes from Headgum, the Los Angeles-based network. Citing co-founder Marty Michael, the article notes: “Michael said that Headgum measures listenership on a monthly basis and in March it saw about a 10% decrease. He points out, however, that comedy and news podcasts seem to be holding strong.”

The second thing is the observation that the temporary shut-down of the wider entertainment industry appears to indeed be accelerating participation of bigger-name celebrity talent in podcast development — something we flagged as a probable trend to watch in our initial pandemic column. “We’re getting pitches from people…I think people that have said in the past that they’re not interested are now interested,” Colin Anderson, Stitcher’s VP of Comedy, told Deadline.

Anderson, however, went on to note that this isn’t exactly the best time to be launching a new podcast anyway. That’s been something I’ve been thinking about lately, not least because, you know, I’m working on this podcast with LAist Studios, and I’ve been weighing the strategy. Might do something on this for next week’s Tuesday newsletter — let me know if you have any thoughts.The Sunday Bump. In this week’s Hot Pod, I rounded out the Pandemic Watch column with a quick link to the latest Podtrac coronavirus analysis post, from which I pulled out three things. One of those things, you might recall, was about how Sunday, April 19, saw an unexpected 20% stream and download bump during the “peak hour.”

I continue to be intrigued about this. Since Tuesday’s post, I’ve heard from a fair few podcast makers claiming to have seen download bumps on their shows in a manner that seems to support the finding. Not sure what actually drove this occurrence, but a reader wrote in with a possible explanation: that person’s Apple Podcast app automatically downloaded a bunch of episodes without manual prompt on Sunday.

Is that the thing that explains the bump? ¯_(ツ)_/¯Patreon lays off 30 employees due to COVID-19 economic difficulties, The Verge reports. That amounts to about 13% of the company’s workforce. These layoffs are happening about a month after Patreon announced that it saw a surge in both the number of creators launching on its platform and in patronage.The first dispatch from NPR’s new public editor is out. You can find it here. As a reminder, the new public editor is Kelly McBride, an SVP at Poynter and Chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, and the position itself is carved out from a new partnership with Poynter.

Was hoping for a little more friction and spice in the debut, given the many ways that NPR as an institution is being pushed right now, economically and operationally. Anyway, crosisng my fingers that a future column will address this recent Morning Edition story, which drew interesting heat from some circles.

While we’re on the subject of public radio…Acute Pledge Maneuvers. Wanted to make sure that I linked to this piece from Nieman Lab’s Sarah Scire, about the ways in which the Boston-based WBUR adapted its fundraising efforts to meet these irregular conditions. Those methods included abbreviating the pledge drive period and paring down the experience, and they all resulted in the station raising a million dollars in thirteen hours.

We’ll likely see similar adapted efforts from many other public radio stations, as they balance keeping a heavy flow of news while mitigating the effects of coronavirus-related economic fallouts. But keep in mind: no two stations are the same in terms of their health and financial composition, and there will almost certainly be differences between bigger and smaller stations in terms of how their pledge drive efforts, adapted and otherwise, will shape out this season.Lots of new releases from the New York Times lately. Earlier this month, the organization’s audio division launched Together Apart, a feel good self care-ish show hosted by Priya Parker and produced with Magnificent Noise, and Sugar Calling, a new project that sees Cheryl Strayed reviving her advice-dispensing Sugar persona last heard on Dear Sugars, which was a co-production with WBUR.

Finally, last Thursday also saw the debut of Rabbit Hole, a new audio documentary from the Caliphate team, which features Times tech columnist Kevin Roose at the helm. Wasn’t super taken with the debut episode — among other things, I’m not sold on its handling and representation of YouTube as a culture and an ecosystem — but I’m curious either way.

Speaking of the Times… Is it just me, or is it harder than usual to locate The Daily on Spotify’s search engine, at least on the mobile app?APM’s In The Dark is releasing a COVID-19 spin-off. The six-episode run will be called “Coronavirus in the Delta,” described as a “special report telling the stories of people living in the Mississippi Delta during the COVID-19 pandemic.” As you might recall, the region was the setting for the podcast’s second season; this spin-off appears to be built off the relationships that the team had developed during the course of that season.

They had been working on a third season — about a different case in a different place — when the pandemic interrupted production. The spin-off drops on April 30, and you can find the trailer here.Quib-ble. This is a bizarre one. HuffPost published a piece yesterday about the plight of a “Quibi fan podcast” that received a cease-and-desist from the short-form video streaming service’s lawyers, apparently targeting the fact that the show was using the service’s name in its title. The podcast was called “Quibiverse”; the creators, Danielle Gibson and Rob Dezendorf, have since changed the title to “Streamiverse.”

From the piece:

Gibson and Dezendorf were 17 episodes into the podcast when Quibi threw them a curveball. “They were like, ‘Well, you can’t use the name Quibi, you can’t tell anyone that you’re about Quibi, you can talk about Quibi, but no one can know through your title and you can’t have any artwork that resembles our stuff,’” Dezendorf told HuffPost over video chat. He said they had no choice but to shut everything down and considered canceling the show.

“It just felt so surreal to get a cease-and-desist from a billion-dollar company, about our fan podcast, in the midst of a global health crisis,” Gibson added snarkily of the unfortunate timing.

Gibson and Dezendorf have also since changed the show’s “fan” disposition… into one that’s out for blood. To be fair — very, very arbitrarily “both sides-ism” fair — there had already been a fair amount of shit-talking about Quibi on the podcast from the get-go.

Then again, Quibi is a billion dollar company led by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the co-founder and former CEO of Dreamworks, and Meg Whitman, the former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Again, a bizarre story. Anyway, on a somewhat related note, this one Quibi-related Katzenberg quote (from this Verge write-up) tends to bounce around in my head everytime I read something about the service: “I’ve been doing this — I get to say this — I’ve been doing this before you all were fucking born.”Other things I’m reading…

From CNBC: “Plunge in digital ad prices opens spending opportunity for start-ups in gaming, e-commerce and online education.”

From Bloomberg: “Musicians turn to streaming concerts to pay the bills.”

From the New Yorker: “Tuning In to Instagram DJs”