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Insider: December 11, 2020 — Hollywood’s Gold Mine, This American Life at 25, Departures from Earwolf

That pipeline, eh. Deadline has published an overview of the podcast to screen adaptation situation, and it makes for some interesting reading. This bit stood out to me: “Deadline understands that the number of podcasts in various stages of development to be adapted is now well into three figures.” As you might expect from a film trade publication, the piece includes a fairly hefty list of the titles in pre production and who’s currently attached, so it’s worth scanning just for that reason alone.

I was also intrigued by the suggestion that the new hot market in podcast IP is not just in the actual shows, but in the first look deals that production companies can get right now. Pineapple Street, for instance, has been approached for such a deal “a lot” but has yet to sign one, with co-founder Max Linsky quoted saying “it feels like an early moment and the rules haven’t been figured out”. The overall message? This system is just getting started.Quarter century. It’s twenty five years since the show now known as This American Life debuted, and Ira Glass and a few other key staffers and contributors have been doing press in recognition of this anniversary. I thought this feature from the Guardian was pretty comprehensive, with quotes from stalwarts Nancy Updike, David Sedaris and Jon Ronson as well as more recent hires like Bim Adewunmi. Since the writer, Sam Wolfson, is based in the UK, he also included the observation that the TAL style and format hasn’t really been much imitated in the UK, despite the deep roots of documentary radio here, which prompted Glass to comment: “I find the British lack of shows perplexing.”

As someone who used to manage an extremely modest podcast budget for a publisher, I used to get pitches for “This American Life but about the UK” every other week, and could barely escape any commissioning meeting without someone trying to suggest it. Critic Fiona Sturges started a Twitter thread about this, and the responses were really interesting — some feeling that such intimate, deeply reported audio is happening in the UK but without a big unifying outlet to publicise it, while others think that while there are aspects of TAL worth importing, the overall tone wouldn’t work for British people.

Personally, I think the best interpretation of the intimate anthology show in the UK is Multi Story, a feed curated by BBC Local Radio in England, which highlights small and surprising stories with good sound design. (Here’s my piece on it from 2018.) But no matter what your pick is for TAL UK, I think what everyone here can agree on that budget is a major sticking point — a lot of producers who chimed in on Fiona’s thread pointed out that there’s nothing like the kind of kill fee arrangements that Glass and co enjoy in operation anywhere in the UK at the moment.Tracking this one. Earwolf seems to be experiencing a bit of a podcaster exodus. A reminder: the comedy podcast network merged with Midroll, was acquired by Scripps and then, together with the whole Stitcher brand, was bought by SiriusXM this year, and has traditionally been home to some really longrunning shows with devoted audiences like How Did This Get Made? and Comedy Bang! Bang!.

But as members of the Earwolf subreddit have been observing, a handful of creators have recently announced that they’re leaving the network in favour of independence. That includes Hollywood Handbook, which confirmed their departure on a new episode and on Reddit this week, where they also gave details of a licensing deal with Stitcher that will allow them to bring some of their archive episodes out from behind the Stitcher Premium paywall and make them available to Patreon supporters. For a network that has many venerable shows and an subscription offering that was built on a major archive, I can imagine that this kind of licensing solution will be relevant to plenty of the departees.Year’s end. I have a complicated relationship with end-of-the-year media. On the one hand, I really enjoy seeing writers’ Twitter threads of the favourite pieces they’ve published this year, but on the other it also usually makes me feel deeply inadequate and unproductive and I eventually have to stop scrolling. Best of lists and predictions, too, I both enjoy and feel frustrated with alternately.

But one aspect of this season of reflection that I look forward to without fail is when independent creators publish some kind of audit or reflection of their year in audio. One such popped up on my Twitter feed this week: a look back at the year from the creator of audio fiction series The Program. It’s a great round up of what worked (Patreon, appealing to the crowd on HackerNews) and what really didn’t (selling merch, Bitcoin donations).

Related to this, I’ve been really enjoying the pie charts of income sources that various freelance writers and creators sometimes post as well as or instead of those showcase threads. People like Ann Friedman, Ashley Ford and Alex Holder have been pioneering this kind of transparency for a while, and I think after everything that 2020 has thrown at us, I’d love to see more of it, especially if you’re not part of a marginalised group that is typically paid less for no good reason. I’ll be sharing my own before the end of the year. And if there are any pie charts forthcoming from people in audio, send them my way, I’d love to see them.In Spotify news:

(1) I missed this in the initial rollout of all the Spotify Wrapped content, but there was a Wrapped for Advertisers as well as one for Podcasters and general listeners. It takes in all aspects of content on Spotify but there is a podcasting segment, which highlights a big jump in listenership for news, health and education podcasts on the platform.

(2) If you’ve found yourself recently needing to reset your Spotify password, you’re not alone — the company recently reset credentials for an undisclosed number of accounts “blaming a software vulnerability in its systems for exposing private account information to its business partners,” according to Techcrunch.Returns policy. Authors pressure groups such as the Authors’ Guild of America and the Society of Authors in the UK have been campaigning for a while now to get Audible to change the way it handles audiobook returns and author royalties. As anyone who has ever done an Audible sponsor read will likely know, one of the stated customer benefits of the company’s audiobook membership is the very generous returns policy, which allowed a listener to return or exchange any audiobook “for any reason” for a year after initial purchase or credit redemption.

The issue with this from the author’s perspective was twofold. Firstly, indie publishers and authors without specially negotiated royalty terms received no payment for their work if an audiobook was returned (i.e. listeners could download, enjoy and return a book without the author receiving a penny). Secondly, the campaigners criticised the overall lack of transparency around the process. The overall argument was that it was authors, not Audible, who were bearing the financial burden of this generous returns policy.

As a result of this campaign, Audible has now said that as of 1 January 2021 it will pay out royalties for any book returned after seven days. Campaigners have welcomed the move, but are still pushing for greater transparency and reform, saying that a week is still plenty of time for a high volume audiobook listener to finish a title and return it without the author receiving any compensation.