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Insider: August 15, 2019

A New Protocol for Podcasts, Spotify vs. Pandora re: Creators

The Identity Layer. Jake Shapiro, CEO of RadioPublic, has published a piece over at Nieman Lab about a proposed new protocol for podcasts seeking to monetise directly with their listeners. The core idea, Shapiro says, comes from Chris Quamme Rhoden, RadioPublic’s cofounder and CTO, and it’s all about finding a way to introduce a reliable identity and authorisation layer into podcasting without tying it to any one app or platform. At the moment, they’re calling this idea PodPass —  should it come to fruition, it would essentially be an open, cross-platform way for podcasters to deliver premium, bonus or adfree content to paying listeners.

Part of the reason for proposing this now is because of the rapid growth in direct monetisation through crowdfunding, live events, and similar efforts. There’s a danger, Shapiro says, that particular apps or platforms that provide the ability to offer these functions become the default, meaning that both podcasters and listeners are limited in their choice of hosting/listening. Here’s the key section:

“There’s a risk that podcast listening apps become the default brokers of identity verification and authenticated access in podcasting. In other words, as a listener you may find yourself having to install five different apps to get all your favorite shows exclusive to a platform, and copying/pasting private feed URLs to access others.”

In the piece, Shapiro is very clear that neither PodPass nor RadioPublic are seeking to be one of those apps; rather what they’re proposing is an open protocol that would work in any participating app. Instinctively, I feel like this is a utopian idea that my cynical heart can’t quite believe can take off, because a few years ago a magazine I worked at was part of a slightly similar trial of a protocol that would have allowed readers to manage a single credit account and then spend it on micropayments when they read an article on any participating publication that had a paywall — the idea being to spread revenue around and allow readers to avoid having to have multiple apps/subscriptions (it died a death, I’m afraid).

But, anyway, I’m going to dig into PodPass further in Tuesday’s newsletter once I’ve had a chance to chat to those behind it, and in the meantime you can check out the tech spec for it here.

Analytics for Days. Spotify has brought its analytics dashboard, Spotify for Podcasters, out of beta. Around 100,000 shows have signed up since the initial rollout in October 2018, and now it is open to global applications (although currently it only appears in English). The dashboard offers comparable data to what is already available on Apple Podcasts, ie a podcaster can see listener age, gender, location, and how long they listened to a particular episode. There’s also an intriguing feature that shows the most popular music among a podcast’s listeners; I’m not quite sure what the practical application for that might be, but it’s certainly fun to check.

The podcasters dashboard is intended as a mirror to the Spotify for Artists portal for musicians, although at the moment the podcast version has fewer features. However, it’s not hard to imagine the ability to publicise tour dates and merch being added, since musicians already have those facilities, as well as perhaps the facility to submit for possible inclusion in feature spots or playlists. Worth noting: Anchor and SoundTrap, both podcast creation tools, remain completely separate from this dashboard, although both are now of course owned by Spotify.

Pandora Jumps in. This is the week for dashboard unveilings, because Pandora is getting in the game too. The company has launched a self service hub for podcasters, via which they can submit their shows for inclusion in Pandora’s catalogue and the Podcast Genome Project, which recommends listeners specific podcast episodes based on over 1,500 attributes, the company says.

Pandora started offering podcasts in December 2018, and now claims to have 500,000 episodes indexed. Opening up for podcasters to submit their own shows seems like a very similar strategy to the one pursued by Spotify — it improves the app’s offering by widening the selection, but avoids a Luminary-style backlash by including shows without the podcaster’s involvement.

Also, a small thing, but I found myself slightly narked reading headlines for this story like “Pandora opens up podcast submissions to all creators” when European podcasters are not in fact able to access or use the service. For “all” read “all Americans”.