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Insider January 21st, 2022 — A podcast prediction check-in

Plus, far-right podcasts by the numbers

Hey, folks! It’s Friday time. Category is: how people interact with / perceive audio. That includes a recent analysis of the effect of far-right podcasts, as well as some lighter hits about audio showing up all over the place, particularly in the media we watch and the products we buy. 

Of course, audio being able to resonate so widely relies on people having access to it in the first place, which is complicated by a couple recent moves made by Audible and Spotify. I shall explain!

Hot Pod Summit is almost here! We’re hosting the invite-only event on February 24th in Brooklyn, New York, as part of On Air Fest. You can see this year’s On Air Fest lineup and buy tickets here. We’ll have more to share on programming and ticketing for Hot Pod Summit in the coming weeks.

On Point analyzes impact of far-right podcasts and radio

This Tuesday’s episode of the NPR show On Point offered some startling stats about how many people are being reached by far-right podcasts and talk shows, particularly by way of broadcast radio. Clips from these shows were played throughout, rounding out a pretty sobering picture. 

The conservative commentator Dan Bongino “has over-the-air radio, which is six times bigger than podcasts,” writer Tim Miller says (at minute 19:25 in the episode), and he is the “fourth-most-listened-to [radio] host in the country” (3:20), adds On Point host Meghna Chakrabarti, who tells me this stat was measured and published by the magazine Talkers.

That leads to programs like Bongino’s and Steve Bannon’s being broadcast for upwards of 10 hours a day in certain parts of the country (45:08), and during those hours, listeners are routinely told they’re at “war” with the left or, in the words of Bongino, that “[people on the left] don’t care what your ideas are! They see you as bad people” (24:08). To be frank, it’s heartbreaking to hear. These hosts belittle and mislead their listeners, and that’s it; that’s the whole schtick.

Based on the research of guest and professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the radicalization that these listeners might undergo, particularly toward distrust and violence, might take years to undo — but it also might not (43:42). Radicalization is happening much more quickly than it has historically, given the wells of audio that exist online and on-air, which listeners can steep themselves in all day. We don’t yet know if contemporary deradicalization will take less time, too, but it seems possible.

You know what’s wild? This is kind of related to a prediction I made in December, and it serves as a transition to the funner stuff I told you we’d get to.

Podcast predictions coming true

In December, I predicted that more high-profile figures would get real comfortable on podcasts and start, shall we say, acting out, which would create “headline-making podcast appearances.” While any interview with Donald Trump is bound to make headlines, the one he gave to NPR last week made quite a few — and it seems like it was facilitated by the interview’s audio-only format.

In an appearance on Morning Edition (host Steve Inskeep said he first extended the invitation back in 2015), Trump was challenged on his false claims of election fraud. The former president promptly started talking over the questions and then… hung up the phone. Can’t exactly do that on camera.

Another thing I was looking out for this year: references to podcasting in media getting more common but less detailed since people would eventually understand enough about podcasting to not need it explained every time it appeared. And just this week, I caught a glimpse of that, too. In its pilot episode, the new series How I Met Your Father gives us the throwaway line of: “We can just be two single New York ladies doing it for ourselves. We can start a podcast called Who Needs Men?” Sure! And who needs super in-depth podcasting plots, either?

Art school launches podcast network

Speaking of integrating into the mainstream, the Tyler School of Art is taking a noteworthy branding approach to a collection of podcasts they’re working to produce and distribute.

Lots of universities have what they refer to as podcast “networks,” but they seem to always be called “[insert school name] Podcast Network,” and in my experience working at a university that attempted this exact thing, the reality is that the audience is mostly alumni and current students. It might be limited marketing; it might be clunky visuals. Either way, these shows just don’t spread widely.

With STELLA RADIO, Tyler appears to be attempting a slick standalone product, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Even if Tyler doesn’t end up adding more shows than the one it just debuted, or if the topics (e.g., historical sites and architecture) turn out to be too dry or niche for some listeners, it sets a neat example of thinking beyond a school’s official branding and traditional communication channels.

I see you, audio marketing

Since I seem to have made myself The One Who Talks About Marketing, I’m going to mention Riverside.fm, not for anything having to do with its audio- and video-recording product, which I’ve never used, but because of one of its commercials that I recently saw on YouTube. The ad could have just said that its software captures high-quality audio. Instead, the ad’s initially smooth voiceover makes a jarring pivot to choppy, garbled audio, then returns to higher-quality (aka Riverside.fm-quality) audio. If you’re advertising audio, you play with audio. Pretty clever.

On the more tangible side of things, we’ve also got flesh-colored headphones? JLab just released earbuds that attempt to match different skin shades, pigmented to blend into your ear. But should earbuds blend into your ear? You can’t see your own ears, so the gaze of other people is really the only thing that’d necessitate making earbuds less visible, but a lot of people find it rude for someone to wear earbuds while conversing, so… LMK, readers. My take is that this is probably better for something like wrist-worn fitness trackers.

Some Audible and Spotify listeners to be rerouted 

Lastly, we’ve got a bite each from Audible and Spotify, both having to do with limiting access to certain audio products.

On January 13th, Audible discontinued its desktop listening app for Windows; users are reportedly being encouraged to try out the company’s mobile app or online player, but people who already had the desktop app installed will continue to have access until the end of July.

Relatedly, Spotify is launching new kids’ podcasts, including one through a partnership with the “YouTube children’s content powerhouse” CoComelon, but only for listeners paying for the company’s family plan ($15.99 / month). In the Spotify write-up on the announcement, Spotify’s head of kids audio content says that “CoComelon is one of the most recognizable IPs on earth.” Is it?? I have absolutely no contact with children. But if this is as major as it sounds, it could be a real strong way to pull more customers toward Spotify’s catalog, then right into its most expensive paid plan.

It was such a blast to be here with you all this week. Is this how many emails y’all normally send Ashley? A flurry. An outright flurry.