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Insider August 12, 2022 — The secret behind Apple’s podcast plans

Plus the first time I’ve ever had to write about Rick and Morty.

Happy Friday, everyone. New York City has cooled off (a bit, temporarily), I’ve got my windows open, and I’m listening to the beautiful sounds of whirring sirens and apartment construction. We’ve got some interesting news today, though. Below: details on Apple’s original podcast plans, Sinclair gets into podcasting, and collaborative editing on Soundtrap. Plus, somehow, I write about Rick and Morty.

So that’s why Apple keeps making podcasts

Over at Bloomberg, Ashley Carman and Lucas Shaw seem to have gotten to the bottom of what Apple’s podcast productions are all about: making TV shows.

This is what we’ve been guessing for a while, but without full-on confirmation. At some point in the last year or so, Apple shifted its podcast strategy from making companion podcasts that promote its existing TV series to creating largely standalone podcasts without any TV tie-ins. The assumption was that those podcasts were being developed as IP or test beds for story concepts. After all, Apple already has some titles — WeCrashed and The Shrink Next Door — based off another company’s podcast IP (Wondery, in this case). It may as well develop that pipeline itself.

Now Bloomberg reports that Apple’s deals are, in fact, all about TV. They’re reportedly being signed by the company’s TV studio — not its podcast unit — and include rights to have the first chance to adapt podcasts into movies or TV shows. Apple recently signed a deal with Futuro Studios that included first option rights, and it’s reportedly discussed “similar arrangements” with other studios, with $10 million spent on the effort so far.

This certainly explains why Apple is ordering so many shows: Project Unabom from Pineapple Street Studios, which looks at serial bomber Ted Kaczynski; Run, Bambi, Run from Campside Media, about a police officer and former Playboy Club waitress convicted of murder; Hooked, which is also from Campside Media, about a serial bank robber — to name just a few. These all sound like stories that could play well as TV series. (I’ll also add they seem distinctly un-Apple-like to me, diverging from its usual fare of completely inoffensive titles; I guess even Apple can’t withstand the draw of true crime.) 

What we haven’t seen yet is Apple turning its own podcasts into shows, so this whole thing is still a bit hypothetical for now. But I think the amount of money Apple is pouring into these productions, and the existence of terms that give Apple the ability to turn them into shows, is even more proof that podcasts will continue to be a valuable proving ground for ideas and stories.

Sinclair is picking up podcasting

Something Ariel has touched on a lot recently is the outsized success of some conservative podcasters, in part because the landscape of big names is so small. Well, enter a new player. As spotted by Inside Radio, Sinclair Broadcast Group has hired a new VP of audio programming — Rich Cooke, who was formerly a VP at Cadence13 — and his job is to build out a podcast unit.

Cooke is being tasked with “growing the company’s news and sports business in podcasts, audio device platforms and other areas of audio distribution,” according to a press release.

Sinclair is known for its conservative TV broadcasts — it was a whole thing a few years ago when Sinclair started bumping up against the Federal Communications Commission’s limit on local broadcast consolidation, sparking fears about the network creating a homogenous, pro-Trump propaganda machine. It got a John Oliver segment and everything.

All of which is to say, I’m guessing they’ll have a lot of content to pull from as they shift into podcasts. And it certainly seems like there’s a big market for them to tap into.

Spotify’s Soundtrap is testing collaborative editing

I’ll just be honest and admit I’m out of my depth when it comes to audio-editing software, but this sounds like a big upgrade to me. Soundtrap, the Spotify-owned audio editor, has been quietly testing online collaborative editing, allowing multiple people to work on an audio project at once and have their changes automatically synced to other members. Soundtrap has been adding in podcasting features to beef up its editing capabilities, and this could be another reason to give it a try.

The feature is still in beta for now, but it seems to be open to anyone who starts a new project. It looks like Soundtrap may have been testing this for a few months now, but the beta is only getting attention after Bryan Johnson, international head of artist and industry partnerships at Spotify, spoke to Music Ally this week. The discussion was, naturally, more focused on music, but Johnson gives a good explanation for why Spotify thinks building out Soundtrap is important.

“We’re focused on being with those creators each step of the way — including when they’re at the beginnings of their output,” Johnson told Music Ally. “We’re seeing more people creating songs, and wanting to create on the go, and with people around the world. Providing intuitive and accessible tools is important.”

That’s it for this week! You’ve got at least one more day of me next week, so look forward to it.

P.S. I’ve never watched Rick and Morty, but my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore points out that the two show up as podcasters in the show’s season 6 trailer (it’s right at the end). Their setup probably needs some better sound absorption.