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Insider: December 13, 2019

- Sony Music invests in Neon Hum Media - Fee change at NPR - PRX launches a network for tweens - Holiday numbers.. and more!

Sony Music’s next move. Following other podcast investments — such as joint ventures with Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer, The Onion, and the UK-based Broccoli Content — Sony Music has unveiled another partnership. This time, it’s with podcast production company Neon Hum, with the aim being to “expand its development of original non-music programming”.

Neon Hum was founded by Jonathan Hirsch in April 2018 in Los Angeles and has worked on shows like Dr Death with Wondery, Halloween Unmasked with The Ringer and Rachel Maddow’s Bag Man with MSNBC. In October last year, Nick featured the shop as one of four LA based studios making moves as new independent outfits on the West Coast, making the comparison to East Coast independents like Pineapple Media.

The trend in 2018 seemed to be towards greater independence and flexibility; now at the close of 2019, given that Pineapple’s been acquired by Entercom and now Neon Hum is teaming up with Sony, that seems to have shifted towards consolidation and growth. Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s full write up of the deal.

Fee change at NPR. NPR’s board of directors has announced a change to its fee model. The new system, which kicks in for the 2021 fiscal year, will see fees calculated based on station donor revenue, rather than audience. NPR president Loren Mayor indicated that in part the decision was prompted by the change in the way people listen — basing fees on broadcast audience figures doesn’t “fully reflect a multiplatform world,” she said.

Under the new arrangement, some stations will end up paying less while others will be charged more, according to average donor revenue figures for the past two years. So far, opinion seems to be divided on whether this is a good move or not — there’s a real range of views in this piece from Current breaking down the change in detail.

Audible in India. A new service called Audible Suno has been launched in India, offering “hundreds of hours of audio entertainment, enlightenment and learning” for listeners there. Audible launched its audiobook (and podcast, I guess?) subscription service there in 2018 and has now created this India-exclusive vertical in order to expand its reach there. Suno is accessible for free via the iOS Audible app and in its own standalone app on Android.

Audible Suno is betting heavily on Indian celebrities and influencers to bring in audiences. It features around 60 podcast episodes in different genres and styles, made in different languages and including both fiction and non-fiction shows. It looks to me like a similar play to the one made by Spotify recently, which launched an original content slate in India earlier this month with some buzzy names.

Targeting tweens. PRX has announced the launch of TRAX, a new podcast network aimed at young people aged between 9 and 13. It’s funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and will launch in 2020. No full slate announcement yet, but there will apparently be shows from Gen-Z Media, the CBC, and Night Vale Presents team members. Michelle Smawley, executive producer at PRX and former reporter for KBIA in Missouri, will head up the network. More info here.

Spotify discovery disco, cont. A small update in Spotify’s ongoing experiments with pushing podcasts towards more of their users, following their foray into personalised podcast playlists last month. In certain markets — the US, Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Mexico, Ireland and New Zealand — free users will start seeing a “get podcasts for you” card on their homescreen. They will then be prompted to choose topics that interest them, before they start getting personalised podcast recommendations. The main difference with the previous features, as far as I can see, is that this one doesn’t require previous podcast listening to work (the Your Daily Podcasts playlist only appears if the user has listened to four podcasts in the past 90 days).