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Insider: April 8, 2021 — Gimlet and Ringer Unions Ratify Contract, Patreon raises additional funds, Feature-Length Fiction?

It’s official: Yesterday, the Writers Guild of America East announced that Gimlet Media and The Ringer unions have ratified their collective bargaining agreements with Spotify.

Also: they’ve posted the full agreements online. You can find the entire language of the Gimlet agreement here, and The Ringer agreement here.

Both contracts last for three years, and here are some things that were listed in the agreements:

  • Increased salary minimums ($57,000 plus overtime for The Ringer, $73,000 for associate producers at Gimlet);

  • Minimum of 2% guaranteed annual wage increases;

  • Limitations on use of contractors, and those brought in will be offered a full-time position after ten months or be informed 30 days in advance if they won’t get a job;

  • Minimum severance of 11 weeks for all employees if they’re laid off;

  • Elimination of non-compete clauses for employees who make less than $155,000;

  • Funding for Diversity Committees; and

  • “Language guaranteeing that 50% of candidates for open unit positions who make it to the stage after the phone interview will be from traditionally under-represented groups (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, military veterans).”

Those salary minimums are eye-catching, and I reckon they’ll serve as a strong floor marker for the rest of the podcast labor market.

Anyway, one absence stands out: there doesn’t seem to be any deal points around intellectual property — i.e. how derivative value will be distributed between the company and the employee — which was a major flashpoint in and around the union fight. Perhaps in the next agreement.

Keep in mind: there’s one more Spotify content division, Parcast, that’s still in the middle of negotiations.

Again, more detail can be found in the WGAE statement published here.Clubbing. Double Clubhouse whammy from the fine folks at Bloomberg over the past week: First, the publication reported that Clubhouse, the buzzy a16z-backed social audio app, is “in talks to raise funding from investors in a round valuing the business at about $4 billion.” Which, you know, is a stunning valuation for an app that was launched just one year ago and is still not fully open for just any user to walk into. Also: it’s still contained to iOS.

And then, yesterday, Bloomberg subsequently reported that Twitter has “held talks in recent months to acquire Clubhouse.” That deal would’ve valued Clubhouse at — wait for it — $4 billion, and talks are no longer on-going. Twitter, of course, has been working on its own social audio alternative for a while now, called Twitter Spaces. If you can’t buy, why not just build it, you know?

On a related noteFrom TechCrunch: “Facebook tests Hotline, a Q&A product that’s a mashup of Clubhouse and Instagram Live.” The fundamental question persists: is live group audio a platform, or a feature?

Speaking of $4 billion…Patreon has raised $155 million in additional funding round, the Wall Street Journal reports. With this new raise, the membership and direct revenue platform company has more than tripled its valuation to $4 billion. The round was led by a new investor, Tiger Global Management, and includes several existing investors, including New Enterprise Associates. The Journal notes that Patreon is still unprofitable.

For reference, within the podcast space, Patreon is one of the more prominent platforms supporting podcasts that rely heavily on recurring direct support dollars from listeners. (This competitive set includes folks like Supporting Cast, among others.) Notable Patreon podcast users include You’re Wrong About, Chapo Trap House, and True Crime Obsessed. For what it’s worth, I tend to lean on Graphtreon for the latest snapshot of the spread. Note how the podcast-heavy the upper end of the general chart appears to be.

Some news sources seem to be framing this new Patreon funding round as being a reflection of increasing investor interest in “creator economy companies” — I believe that’s the nomenclature Axios used — which I suppose is true, though the category continues to be really squishy in terms of what it actually means.Also raising funds… From TechCrunch: “Casted raises $7M to scale its B2B podcast platform.”

The company specializes in tools to help companies make branded video and audio podcasts for marketing purposes. This settles into the territory of advertisers having to ask the question: should I rent a podcast publishers’ audience or services to get in front of potential customers, or should I just go out and make my own thing to hit potential customers directly? The answer, as always, is “It depends.”Feature-length fiction? Two-Up Productions, the podcast publisher behind Limetown and 36 Questions that releases new stuff really infrequently, announced its latest fiction podcast project yesterday: Shipworm. The hook: they’re billing it as a “feature-length” podcast, as opposed to episodic or serialized. It’s scheduled to drop on April 26.Quick follow-up to Apple TV+ Podcasts… While The Line might represent a somewhat new approach for the original Apple podcast strategy, it’s worth noting that the company is still pursuing the original companion podcast lane.

Jon Stewart is returning to television through a new Apple TV+ deal, and this week saw the release of a few details on the production: it will be called The Problem with Jon Stewart, it’s set to debut this fall, and it will unsurprisingly be a current affairs series. Also, according to The Hollywood Reporter: “Each season of The Problem will feature a companion podcast as well.”

On a related note… A reader wrote in to claim that there’s at least one other of there being a tandem podcast-television project — Unraveled: Long Island Serial Killer, the podcast version of which came out in January, and the Discovery+ streaming service version that came out last month.

That reminds me, I should get a Discovery+ sub…Research Watch. MRC Data, the business intelligence company that’s perhaps most known for being the information source for the Billboard music charts, published its inaugural survey study on the podcast world earlier this week. The resulting report is called “Podcast 360,” and you can access the full document here (after a sign-up flow, by the way).

A few threads intrigue me. To begin with, there’s a cluster of data points that theoretically relates to Spotify’s all-in-one/exclusive-heavy strategic approach:

  • 56% of the surveyed podcast listeners — defined as people aged 13+ who have listened to a podcast over the past 12 months — say that “I prefer to listen to podcasts on the same service I use to stream music.”

  • 54% of surveyed podcast listeners say they would try a new streaming platform if it offered an exclusive podcast that interested them.

  • 52% of surveyed podcast listeners say they would follow their favorite podcasts to a different streaming platform.

  • Only 31% of surveyed podcast listeners say they would consider ‘Offers Exclusive Content’ as a key factor when choosing a podcast streaming platform.

Three out of four of these data points hover around the half-proportion mark, so a way to perhaps read the big picture is to frame the podcast universe as potentially split into half moving forward: half closed, half open ecosystem.

Moving on, here are some data points on advertising:

  • 42% of surveyed podcast listeners say they trust ads more when the podcast host(s) recommend the product or service being peddled. This is a little lower than I’ve come to expect, and perhaps suggests the longer-term value of produced creatives.

  • Only 13% of surveyed podcast listeners are said to skip ads.

  • 77% of surveyed podcast listeners say ads are acceptable as long as they’re able to listen to podcasts for free.”

And there are three non-advertising monetization data points worth clocking:

  • With respect to direct support, podcast listeners are said to be willing to pay for bonus episodes, video episodes (!), and further interactivity.

  • This is intriguing, given the pandemic: 21% of surveyed podcast listeners say they’re likely interested to attend an in-person live podcast event in the next twelve months.

  • Finally: 53% of surveyed podcast listeners say they are likely to watch if their favorite podcast is turned into a film or TV series. I reckon “favorite” is the operative concept here.

Again, you can access the full document here.Revolving Door.

  • Not strictly a podcast-related story, but the principals are all here. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Erika Clarke has joined Apple TV+ nonscripted executive team. Clarke was previously the executive producer at Spotify Studios, where she oversaw original content and podcast development.

Got a new job? Tell me — would love to Let The People Know.