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Insider April 29, 2022 — SiriusXM hunts for the next ‘Crime Junkie’

Plus, NYT launches a new election podcast, and Apple prepares an update for podcasters

Happy Friday! I am writing from Vox Media’s glorious FiDi office and feel like I am in a 1980s Wall Street rom-com. With the addition of pandemic-abandoned desks, it’s like Working Girl meets 28 Days Later.

On with the news! SiriusXM details its podcast strategy, NYT prepares a new election podcast to bum you out, and Apple makes selling annual subscriptions a little easier. 

SiriusXM turns its sights to smaller podcast deals

The time of blockbuster podcast deals may have passed, according to executives at SiriusXM. “A lot of the big podcasts in the top 10, top 15, have already traded,” CEO Jennifer Witz said on a Thursday call with investors. “The inventory we have is largely set, I’d say, for this year.”

With its acquisition of Stitcher in 2020 and distribution agreements with Crooked Media and Critical Role, SiriusXM has established itself as one of the major players in podcasting as a way to be less reliant on its subscription business. Even if the big fish are already snapped up, the company can’t completely stall its podcast dealmaking, though. The company reported in its quarterly earnings that it lost another 79,000 SiriusXM and 65,000 Pandora subs in the first three months of the year and indicated that SiriusXM is increasingly leaning on podcasts to generate ad revenue and lure listeners. 

The next step, according to chief content officer Scott Greenstein, is to snap up smaller shows that could hit it big. “Having anchors like Crime Junkie, Crooked, and Coco allow us to be in a position where we’ll be able to grow brands underneath that, that hopefully will be the next group that hits the top 10 or 20,” he said. 

For a fledgling podcast, getting snapped up by a giant like SiriusXM may seem like a dream, but the company has an uneven history in terms of how it deals with its smaller shows. The Verge reported last month how a number of creators left Stitcher after the SiriusXM acquisition, citing lack of marketing and ad sales support. If nurturing smaller shows is SiriusXM’s next step, it could be a tougher sell to podcasters than they expect.

NYT politics reporter Astead Herndon will helm new election podcast

Hoping to ride the election-season podcast wave, The New York Times is launching a yet-untitled podcast to cover the midterms with national politics reporter Astead Herndon attached to host. Herndon has been a frequent guest on The Daily and was the lead reporter for the outlet’s 2020 election podcast, The Field. In his new role, Herndon will be moving to the Times’ audio team. 

“I want this show to be a hub of nuance,” Herndon said in a statement. “A show that is not afraid to wrestle with hard truths, but is not cruel.”

The new podcast will be the Times’ third election-specific show after The Field and The Run-Up, which tracked the 2016 presidential election and the first dedicated to a midterm election. More details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. 

Apple retools annual subscription display for podcasts

This week, Apple announced it will improve the way podcasters can offer annual subscriptions in an upcoming software update. The updated plan picker will display how much subscribers can save on an annual subscription versus a monthly one, something that was not readily apparent before. Annual subscriptions are a boon for podcast creators, locking in subscribers for a year at a time, even when offering listeners a discount. 

Is everything, in fact, Emo?

Hayley Williams would appear to think so (then again, she has a monetary interest in that being the case). This week, the Paramore frontwoman launched Everything is Emo, a 20-part series with BBC Sounds that will track the history of the genre from its inception to the present, reported Pitchfork. It also comes with a companion playlist featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Postal Service, and I feel personally attacked!

In other content news, Lemonada is pushing into audio reality™ (they ™’ed it, not me) with BEING Trans, an unscripted audio doc that follows four trans people in LA. Lemonada tapped Keeping Up With the Kardashians producer Kasey Barrett last year to lead its reality efforts, and BEING Trans is Barrett’s first project for the network.

That’s it for me! Let the river run, Hot Poders.