Happy Thursday, everyone. Whenever I think I’ll write a relatively chill end-of-week issue, Spotify goes ahead and buys more things. We have the big news to cover in podcast acquisitions this week, and then we’ll move into all the other bits the week has wrought.
Spotify buys Podsights and Chartable — fortifying a wall against YouTube
Spotify announced yesterday its acquisition of Podsights and Chartable, two companies known for tracking pixels that allow marketers, advertisers, and podcasters to measure the success of their shows. This is a big deal, to state the obvious, if for no other reason than if you’ve avoided Spotify’s podcast world up until now, well, you’re probably going to have to start engaging. Both these platforms are critical to the space to show advertisers that their marketing is being heard and acted upon and that podcast ads are effective and worthy of a budget.
As for its plans, Spotify says it’ll bring Podsights’ tech to its “audio ads within music, video ads, and display ads.” In both a post on its website and an interview with Podsights CEO Sean Creely, the team emphasizes that nothing is changing in the immediate future, and Spotify will only enhance its tech. Chartable’s fate seems less clear. Its tech will be integrated into Megaphone, specifically its marketing tech like SmartPromos and SmartLinks. The company’s blog post doesn’t mention what will happen to the full team.
I know you all know about these companies, so I won’t bore you with an explanation about why attribution is important in podcasting and why these companies exist in the first place, but I do want to note a couple things. One is that this puts Spotify in a powerful position to know exactly how shows perform, even those not hosted on its own platform or consumed on its app, and that’s going to likely present a dilemma for big networks. Do they build their own trackers? Do they trust Spotify to protect their data from Spotify’s own publishing teams as Podsights says it will? Then there’s the open question of how much Spotify will lock this tech down to its own platform. For what it’s worth — and a pain point I’ve heard from various folks in the industry — Anchor, Spotify’s other hosting and creation platform, has never allowed for tracking pixels. I imagine that might change.
Now, in a worst-case scenario, Spotify could require podcasters to host on its platforms in order to attribute ads — not ideal for someone like Amazon, which owns a hosting platform. Spotify spokeswoman Erin Styles tells me Chartable’s tools will only be available to people who have a Megaphone account, but they do not need to be paying customers, so we can see a slight hint of this already. On the flip side, there’s also the possibility Spotify sees opportunity — and money — in catering to advertisers widely, regardless of where listens come from or where shows are hosted. I’m not sure how this pans out!
But I also read this news in a different way — these purchases set Spotify up to better compete with YouTube, specifically YouTube’s analytics. I’m thinking a lot about YouTube lately because we’ll have a panel on it at Hot Pod Summit, and one thing video publishers enjoy about YouTube — and wish would apply to solely audio on the platform — is AdSense, as well as the comprehensive analytics the platform provides. (There’s an entire 5-minute video dedicated to just navigating its analytics dashboard!) These analytics mean someone uploading a video gets broader data about who watched it, including their age and gender, as well as granular info like what exact moments best held the audience’s attention.
YouTube, I believe, is Spotify’s primary competitor. We can see this in Spotify’s product priorities — it built video podcasts into its platform, courted YouTube podcasters (i.e., Rogan and others), and launched Anchor in an attempt to bring creators to its app. CEO Daniel Ek says the company’s mission is to have 50 million creators on Spotify. To accomplish that goal, it needs not only a way for them to make money (quality, dependable programmatic ads) but also robust analytics, which Podsights and Chartable can help provide.
Yesterday, I logged onto Spotify and saw this promoted on my homepage:
Pure video content that, when I click through, shows me a description in which Rowena literally says she makes videos on “personal development and productivity on YouTube.” (Emphasis my own.) The move to sync audio and video together on one app is already happening, and it’s on Spotify, not YouTube.
Now, I’ve wondered in this newsletter what YouTube could do in the podcast space. YouTube already has programmatic ads for anyone who wants them (something Spotify is trying to make happen); YouTube already, without even really trying, is a popular place for people to consume podcasts (a space Spotify is trying to dominate); and YouTube offers robust analytics about who is watching and how (again, an area Spotify wants to own). Critically, YouTube also has loads of data on users’ behavior because of Google essentially being synonymous with everything we do online, like emailing and browsing. It doesn’t have to worry about Apple not allowing cross-app tracking, like Facebook or Spotify might.
The company hired Kai Chuk last year to oversee podcasts on the platform — the first person to take on that role — and also made background listening free for Canadian YouTube Music users. Both of these could arguably been seen as indicators of Google’s growing interest in the space, though I should caveat and say it doesn’t ensure any meaningful changes will result, in which case, all the better for Spotify.
So yes, this purchase, as always, is about giving Spotify a larger piece of the podcasting world. It wants to be the biggest and best place to buy and distribute audio ads, and this acquisition helps it get there. The question is whether it can become that place before YouTube lets people upload solely audio to its platform and, because of its size, clouds out Spotify’s ambitions.
Let’s move on to the ongoing Rogan / Spotify news…
The Rogan fallout continues
Things keep happening around the Spotify / Rogan saga. This week, the creator of Here Be Monsters announced he would be pulling his show from the platform, and last week, Scott Galloway pulled The Prof G Pod, as well. He notably didn’t pull his other program, Pivot. (Both Pivot and Prof G are part of the Vox Media Podcast Network, and Vox Media also owns Hot Pod.)
Then, The Washington Post published a story looking at the music side of things and why musicians have no loyalty to Spotify. I’d encourage you to read the piece, but what I liked is how simply it laid out music streaming economics. Sorry for the long pull quote, but:
“For each dollar of revenue Spotify earns, 58.5 cents go to the owner of a song’s sound recording (usually a record label), Spotify keeps 29.38 cents, 6.12 cents go to whoever owns publishing rights (usually the songwriter) and 6 cents goes to mechanical rights (often, but not always, owned by the songwriter), according to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a financial consulting firm.
It takes a while, though, to reach a dollar of revenue. Artists are paid between $0.0033 and $0.0054 every time their song is played on Spotify. The average per-play rate on Apple Music is a higher $0.01.”
A good one to keep handy!
And finally, over at Bloomberg, Lucas Shaw profiles the man making a living off recapping Rogan episodes. Adam Thorne, host of Joe Rogan Experience Review, says his audience grew after Rogan went to Spotify, presumably to include people who didn’t want to follow him over, and that his show averages more than a million downloads per month. This show, which is distributed over RSS, is now his full-time job. Wild!
Now, let’s end with some ~fun~
“Uncut Jams” takes over TikTok
Gosh, I hope I don’t have to tell y’all that Julia Fox is having a moment, and yes, I’ve been enjoying it all on The Daily Mail’s Snapchat stories. And finally, after weeks of caring about Juliye, I got a podcast angle :’)
Fox went on Call Her Daddy last week, and Spotify shared an official marketing clip on its TikTok. Fox talks about being a muse to Josh Safdie when he wrote Uncut Gems, which features Fox. But she says the phrase “Uncut Gems” oddly, almost like Uncut Jams? Or Uncut Jahhhms. So, naturally, TikTok responded. You can see here, here, here, and here.
The internet is strange! But we’ve talked about the idea of viral podcast audio for a long time, and now we have it. A certifiable podcast viral moment. Cue a Spotify-colored rainbow.
The vibes are shifting, and podcasts are it
This is another one for the Twitter fam who already saw everyone talking about The Cut’s “vibe shift” article in which we’re warned the cultural vibe is changing. We’ve survived the indie era, normcore, and the “hypebeast / woke” phase, and now, something new is afoot. We never actually learn what the new vibe is, but we get one key clue from trend forecaster Sean Monahan.
“He sees Substacks and podcasts as the new blogs and a move away from Silicon Valley’s interest in optimizing workflow, ‘which is just so anti-decadence.’ Most promisingly, he predicts a return of irony.”
Podcasts! You heard it in The Cut first — the new blogs.
That’s it, y’all. Aria is with you tomorrow, and I’m back Tuesday! Ta-ta!