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Insider: August 23, 2019

State of the Year So Far. Techcrunch has published a reflection on podcasting in 2019 thus far that contains a few interesting nuggets, mostly reported off the back of Podcast Movement, I believe. Here’s three points that I’ll be testing out in the months to come:

“Famous podcasters are good for the industry as a whole” — this piece argues that the boom in celebrity talk shows helps to convert more non-podcast listeners to the medium, and attracts brands to the space that weren’t previously doing audio ads. I’ll be keen to see if this effect shows up in future research like Edison’s Infinite Dial.

“[There is] tension between maintaining the quality of ads while scaling quantity” — this is something I’m especially taking note of from a UK perspective, where I’ve been seeing an increasing appetite from commercial radio advertisers to start running their spots on podcasts as well, without any alteration. In a market that isn’t yet awash with bigger value sponsorships, these ex-radio spots are often presented to podcasters as a viable means of monetisation, although even at volume they tend to bring in very small amounts of money, as well as being more intrusive to the listener than a host read. But then, host reads are time and resource intensive to make, and therefore cost more. Is there a balance to be struck, or will more advertisers eventually switch to bespoke sponsorships in search of better returns?

“Many fans abroad have resorted to listening in their non-native language” — we’ve already seen a major publisher begin to address this opportunity in the last month, with Wondery publishing versions of Dr Death in seven other languages. This piece mentions that CEO Hernan has called this “an expensive process”, so it seems more like a loss leading attempt to be early into non-US markets than a source of revenue at the moment. The bet is, presumably, that other publishers will start following suit soon, creating enough international inventory to start attracting proper deals.

Podcast Throw Down. Endeavor Audio and WWE have announced that they’re teaming up to create a new WWE podcast network “with several Superstar-focused series” in the works. It’s not a completely new departure for Endeavor Audio, though, which has been making The Bellas Podcast — a weekly conversational podcast built around WWE Superstars The Bella Twins — since March of this year. Presumably it’s this show that has served as a test run for what will now be a bigger venture, with other WWE personalities getting behind the mic. The world of wrestling is arguably already well represented in podcasting with shows like The Steve Austin Show and E&C’s Pod of Awesomeness already well established.

I remain constantly intrigued about Endeavor Audio’s content strategy, since when the studio first launched, they looked like they were backing true crime and similar genres as the mainstay of their business (read Nick’s original write up of that here). However, the three shows they have in distribution at the moment contradict this early suggestion. Alongside The Bellas, there’s the critically acclaimed drama Blackout starring Rami Malek, and Freaknik, a partnership with Mass Appeal that covers the cultural phenomenon that is Atlanta’s spring break celebrations. Since Parcast went to Spotify back in March, it’s starting to look like Endeavor is spreading its wings a little, genre-wise.

Make It Fashion. The UK fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing has a mission with their branded podcast that stands out to me — they see it as the first step towards pivoting into an entertainment brand. They want to become the “Disneyland for teenagers” according to head of marketing Nicki Capstick, with hotels, drinks and streaming video on offer as well as clothes. Audio is a relatively cheap way of testing the water for such a major change, I suppose. Apparently, their interview podcast Behind Closed Doors has had 700,000 downloads so far off 31 episodes.