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Insider February 18, 2022 — More Spotify secrets

And dating show secrets, too

Here in Philly, the birds are chirping, the wind is blowing way too hard, and The Roots are officially reviving their Roots Picnic festival, complete with its podcast stage! Back in 2019 (the last time it was held), they featured The Joe Budden Podcast; this year, they’ll feature Rory & Mal. Spicy.

Also spicy: Insider just published a piece that cites interviews and leaked documents from Spotify, detailing the company’s recent deals with “marquee talent partners” and what hasn’t been working about the shows those partners signed on to launch. Ashley will likely have more on this on Tuesday — for now, let’s start with that other Spotify news.

Rogan’s Spotify deal reportedly worth $200M+

Oof. Yesterday afternoon, The New York Times dropped a bomb: Joe Rogan’s Spotify deal was at least double what had been reported. 

Basically every publication to ever publish has been circulating the figure of $100M, and Spotify never disputed it. Now, several anonymous sources have confirmed otherwise. And man, what was already unprecedented has really blown other podcast deals out of the water, even Exactly Right Media’s recent $100M+ ad sales deal with Amazon. Actually, it hasn’t just blown other podcast deals out of the water, but other dollar amounts, broadly speaking.

Here are a few other data points to contextualize: “Spotify had purchased entire content companies, Gimlet Media and The Ringer, for slightly less than $200 million each,” as the Times notes. And friend of the pod(cast newsletter) Casey Newton tweeted this shortly after the piece dropped: “Last week Spotify promised to spend $100 million on work by creators from historically marginalized groups. Would it have been $200 million if we knew this at the time?”

Within the Times piece was another big update: that Ava DuVernay’s production company Array cut ties with Spotify, which an Array spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. Array had signed on to make exclusive podcasts for Gimlet in early 2021.

The piece also quotes a number of other anonymous sources, including one who said that inside Spotify, discontent is reaching as high as its board of directors, “where some members have been disappointed by the company’s halting response.” Wow. Bad Times at the Ek Royale.

This is Dating, and this is how you market it

Last week, I wrote about LoveSick and This is Dating, two podcasts with similar conceits but very different trajectories: while LoveSick ended after six episodes, the newer This is Dating has received a lot of listener and media engagement, and its team continues to dream up new content.

I mapped out four reasons why the shows resonated so differently, from marketing support to production challenges. But the team behind This is Dating thought we missed something big: I’d focused on the most recent and most visible steps they’d taken to promote the show, when those steps only happened thanks to a lot of behind-the-scenes planning. So, today, we’re pulling back the curtain even more.

Let’s go back to the spring of 2020, when the teams behind both shows started brainstorming. House of Pod released LoveSick in April, and the show found success as a beacon of connection in the early COVID days: hundreds of people applied to be set up on dates, and thousands tuned in to hear it happen. It then ended its run early due to high cost and production effort, and the team focused on other efforts.

Within the company Magnificent Noise, the idea for what would eventually become This is Dating quickly showed that it would take a comparable amount of work, and the team decided to play the long game. To make sure they would be able to fully support the show, the team tells Hot Pod they reinvested profits from other projects and slowly built out a concept, staff, and arsenal of tape over the nearly two years that followed.

“We didn’t just spend a year and a half planning how to make a bunch of episodes,” says Eric Nuzum, co-founder of Magnificent Noise. “We spent a year and a half planning how to be a company, and have relationships, and be in the position to give this the best chance in the world.” (This, Nuzum says, wasn’t in response to LoveSick’s approach; he says he hadn’t heard about that show until last week.)

Part of what spurred Magnificent Noise to take it slow was that it had “never really built the infrastructure to distribute things directly,” says Nuzum, since the company has historically produced podcasts for other companies and didn’t have a designated audience for original content. Starting from scratch on audience growth and distribution, the Magnificent Noise team workshopped a tight elevator pitch and a crystal clear vision of the listener they were trying to reach in hopes that they could solicit participants and intrigue audiences before they had anything tangible to show them. They also had to DIY the recruitment of those participants, asking, say, people’s cousins if they’d be interested, rather than putting out a call on a public-facing platform because they didn’t have one.

Part of the prolonged marketing of the project involved reaching out to reporters ahead of its launch. “It was like putting it out with a whisper, just hoping that people would pick up on it, listen to it, and want to cover it,” says Jesse Baker, Magnificent Noise’s other co-founder and the executive producer of This is Dating. This inevitably included contacting a lot of people who never responded or maybe never listened, but all in all, Baker says, the approach “really, really paid off.”

This is where the strategy began to shift. As reporters listened to previews, and, eventually, audiences began to hear the product, they had reactions. They had requests. A publication wanted to send a photographer? Yes, Baker and Nuzum would deep clean the office on a Sunday! Listeners demanded a follow-up to one of the episodes? The team would make one!

By the time their show launched last month, they’d amassed not only a strong team and compelling daters but a willingness to pivot if it would make what they’d assembled even better. At the suggestion of others in the industry, they’re currently trialing an Apple subscription channel that offers early access to episodes, and as Baker told me, a listener in her 60s recently reached out to ask that the show focus more on older daters, a request Baker says they’re taking to heart.

So is it true that The Podglomerate worked its marketing magic? That PRX signed on to distribute the show through its publishing platform and added its logo to the corner of the cover art? Yes indeed. Those relationships are actually how This is Dating got onto my radar. But those relationships happened thanks to some careful planning, and Magnificent Noise also continues to do everything it can to grow the show: not only who it reaches, but the scope of what it can be.

More listeners try to avoid ads — but are still receptive to them

Podcast “super listeners,” defined as people who listen to podcasts for five or more hours a week, continue to feel pretty positively about podcast ads, even as they report trying to limit exposure to ads in general. That’s according to the newest Super Listeners study from Edison Research and Ad Results Media, which debuted on Wednesday.

Super listeners are increasingly likely to consume non-podcast media that has the ads stripped out (e.g., Netflix, Spotify Premium for music streaming). And that may be a deliberate choice, with the percentage of super listeners who say they want to limit their exposure to advertising increasing a lot over just one year, from 2020 to 2021. That metric jumped by 18 percent.

However! From 2019 to 2021, the amount of super listeners who said that podcasts are the best way for brands to reach them also increased a lot, from 37 to 50 percent — and you should really check out how many of these folks reported acting on ads because it’s actually massive. So, these consumers might be “falling off the grid” of traditional advertising streams like TV or radio, but “they’re actually more and more receptive to podcast ads,” said Tom Webster, Edison’s senior vice president, during the webinar presenting this data.

Additionally, when given the prompt, “Relative to other types of media, there are way too many advertisements on ______,” respondents who said “podcasts” were so few and far between that it resulted in the medium ranking last among all the choices (e.g., social media, TV, magazines, websites). But while “we’ve not ruined it yet,” said Webster, “this number does grow year over year.” Advertisers, be warned.

And since you know I love this shit…

… I present to you: two more instances of podcasts now being such a part of the public sphere that they can be mocked. Here’s a funny, fictionalized — and very, very long — set of podcast credits, delivered deadpan in a front-facing video, and here are two TikTok creators who’ve made a name for themselves parodying bro-casts that disparage women for doing normal things, like aging.

MOVES

James Finn, building on a career of Hollywood publicity and PR, was just announced as Audible’s new head of content marketing, a role that includes promoting the company’s originals and beyond. And PRX has two new members of its board of directors: Rishi Jaitly, CEO of the investments and partnerships firm Times Bridge, and Kyle Reis, who, among other things, serves as senior director of the nonprofit TechSoup.

Let’s not pretend that I’m the only one who Googled “what is presidents day” because really… what is it.