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Insider December 1, 2022 — I spent 17,284 minutes this year writing Hot Pod

Spotify Wrapped gives us a look at which Spotify podcasts are working for Spotify

Nearly every other day of the year, I am happy with my choice to be an Apple Music subscriber. (The audio quality is better! I have my priorities.) But Wrapped day really does make constant data collection fun, and I feel left out! Nobody wants to see my Apple Replay, including me.  

Today, new podcast data from Spotify Wrapped, a hiring freeze at NPR, and a list of the most-downloaded new shows of 2022.

Wrapped 2022: Spotify’s top podcasts are… Spotify’s

Yesterday was Spotify Wrapped day, and while most of the campaign was dedicated to listeners sharing their top songs and artists (or memes), Spotify also provided data on top podcasts across the entire platform. Notably, four of the five top shows of the year are Spotify’s.

The top five podcasts globally this year were (in order): The Joe Rogan Experience; Call Her Daddy; Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain; Caso 63 (in all languages); and Crime Junkie. Crime Junkie is the only non-Spotify show to make the list. (And Chamberlain’s show will start being exclusively licensed by Spotify early next year.) This is a pretty big shift from last year’s top five, in which only two were Spotify properties and shows like The Daily and Ted Talks Daily were able to crack the list.

While Spotify’s list of top music artists — Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift, BTS — is reflective of wider music consumption, the podcast list is less so thanks to market fragmentation (caused in part by Spotify’s own choices). JRE and CHD are top performers, no doubt, and that is why Spotify went after those shows in the first place. But they overperform on Spotify because it is the only place to hear them, whereas The Daily‘s listenership is split across every podcast platform on earth. Crime Junkie, which Edison reported is the No. 2 podcast in the country after JRE, is big enough that, even while being fractured among multiple platforms, it outperforms many of Spotify’s exclusives.

The oddballs on the list are Caso 63 and Anything Goes. Caso 63 and its English adaptation, Case 63, were scripted hits for Spotify — and not without a major promotional push from the company. The platform smartly leveraged its global audience to make the show a global event, but only on platform. Would it have the same impact if it were spread across multiple platforms? I doubt it. And Anything Goes may be a regular on Spotify’s trend chart, but it did not crack the top 50 shows in the US in the second quarter of this year, according to Edison. It does tend to chart higher on Spotify than on Apple Podcasts, so perhaps the show has found an audience among Spotify’s young-skewing user base. 

The list, therefore, tells us more about Spotify’s strategy than it does about the overall market. The company has smartly gone after splashy hosts Joe Rogan and Alexandra Cooper and consolidated their massive audiences, put marketing might behind its originals (Caso 63), and has an eye for shows that may uniquely cater to its users (Anything Goes). As for Crime Junkie, it’s just too big to ignore.

NPR institutes hiring freeze as corporate sponsors tighten their belts

The economy has not been kind to media businesses, and NPR will not be spared. In a letter to staffers, NPR CEO John Lansing said that the network needs to cut its budget by $10 million, or 3 percent of the annual budget. While layoffs are not yet part of the plan, network leaders are imposing “close to a total hiring freeze.”

The budget crunch is being caused by a projected $20 million decline in sponsorships. Companies have less money sloshing around, and sponsorships will be among the first expenses to go. NPR brought in about $277 million in revenue in the 2020 fiscal year, according to financial filings, so that $20 million represents a significant chunk of income. 

Even if NPR can avoid layoffs for now, employees are going to bear the burden of the shortfall. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports that about 11 percent of positions at the network are vacant — including the chief content officer role (kind of an important job!) — and will remain so for the time being. “For those working long and stressful hours, that is not good news. But it is a reality we can’t avoid if we are to save jobs,” Lansing told employees.

Happy holidays, you get to work two jobs for the same salary! If you are at NPR and are feeling the squeeze from the hiring freeze, feel free to hit me up.

The Trojan Horse Affair and Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra are the top new shows of 2022

Podtrac has issued a list of top shows that debuted in 2022, and I am very into this chart. New blood!

The New York Times and Serial took the top spot with The Trojan Horse Affair, and Rachel Maddow’s new podcast for MSNBC, Ultra, came in second. (My father-in-law flagged me about Maddow’s new show making waves the other day. Steven keeps me hip!) Wondery has seven shows on the list, including Twin Flames and Will Be Wild.

While the list is mostly, to my chagrin, true crime, there are a few exceptions. All There Is with Anderson Cooper, an extremely personal show about grief, took the ninth spot. The Official Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon is No. 19, which is pretty great for a companion podcast that is, at its heart, a piece of marketing. And Sold a Story, an investigation from American Public Media about how schools fail to teach kids how to read, came in at No. 24.

That’s all for today. See you tomorrow!