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Insider: January 28, 2021 — Follow-ups to Anchor Sponsorships, Tegna acquires Locked On Podcasts, NYT Audio has a new overseer

Follow-up to Anchor Sponsorships. I cut this chunk from Tuesday’s letter for space, then posted it on Twitter, and now I’m running it back here, because I’ve been told I shouldn’t spin yarn out for free.

Anyway: I’m cognizant of the counter-argument to my own take on the Anchor Sponsorships story that perhaps the right way to think about the tool is to see it as something that should be considered a small part of the overall business model for any given podcast hosted on Anchor. In other words, it’s meant to be a floor of sorts, something to keep you going while you go on to build out parallel revenue channels, like brand integration or merchandising or whatever.

Which… sure, fine, but in my estimation that’s a separate argument from the thread that Anchor house ads seem to be the primary revenue channel for the shows cited in that Verge piece, including the one offered up by Spotify itself as a counter-example to its thesis. The prevailing feeling, then, is one in which we seem to be looking at an environment where potentially hundreds (or thousands?) of shows are artificially propped up by Anchor house ad money. Which, you know, maybe one could ultimately argue could very well lead to a net positive over the long run — in addition to Anchor getting to use this army of shows are marketing vessels for itself, that house ad money could be thought as a stimulus check program of sorts to give that army of shows runway to figure themselves out.

But part of the shows figuring themselves out — part of Anchor’s value promise or proposition — is the fact that they could provide a YouTube-esque AdSense product with which those shows could scale up monetary benefit over time, proportional to their growth. And here lies the core suggestion of The Verge’s piece: is there actually a reliable supply of advertisers present on the Anchor Sponsorships platform? That’s the question, and that’s the story.

Again, please let me know if I’m full of shit, and if you’re a podcast creator using Anchor that’s making a reliable chunk of advertising change from brands on Anchor Sponsorships, and not Anchor or Spotify themselves.

On a somewhat related note… Because YouTube and The Verge were evoked: I learned a lot from Nilay Patel’s interview with the prominent YouTube personality Marques Brownlee on Decoder earlier this month. Indeed, if podcast creators are someday going to have to deal with platforms — whether it’s Spotify or someone else — trying to create a “YouTube for Audio,” it probably behooves them to get a better sense of how YouTube businesses are structured, just in case that vision ever comes to be. This interview, I think, functions as a solid contemporary primer.

No harm treating the prospect like a 50/50 chance, you know?

On a more related note… To the extent that anybody finds this important, Anchor also got a rebrand this week.While we’re on the subject of Spotify… IMHO, the key aspect to watch with the “Spotify trying out audiobooks” thread moving forward is the deal-making side of things: whether the platform will be able to secure partnerships and rights from major book publishers away from Audible… or if they’ll be able to strike direct deals with authors. Somewhere, Pushkin is rubbing their hands together.

Also, I found the notion of David Dobrik narrating Frankenstein pretty amusing. Speaking of YouTube, you know?Speaking of Audible… From the press release: “Audible and DC announce second and third installments of record-breaking audio drama The Sandman. On the heels of the first installment, the best-selling and most pre-ordered Original in Audible history, The Sandman: Act II and The Sandman: Act III will premiere exclusively on Audible.”

Is it still an Audible Original when it’s based on an existing book/graphic novel property? I guess.

I suppose this is a reminder that Spotify isn’t necessarily the exclusive home of DC audio productsMeanwhile, at the New York Times. This is technically a revolving door blurb, but we’ve been staring into the sun of the Caliphate situation for a bit now so this gets its own.

Here’s the news: some leadership shuffling at the paper of record sees Clifford Levy, formerly its Metro editor, being elevated to the role of deputy managing editor, where part of his responsibility will be to take on “an interim assignment helping to advise Sam Dolnick and Lisa Tobin, who oversee the newsroom’s Audio department,” according to an internal memo by executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn. This marks a return to a senior masthead position for Levy, who previously held a deputy managing editor role prior to 2018, when he took over the Metro desk.

Maybe this is a fun fact for only, like, five people in the Hot Pod Insider readership, but I’m mostly familiar with Levy’s work leading the creation of NYT Now, the paper’s mobile app that laid down a ton of ideas that would eventually be absorbed by the flagship Times mobile app we know today.

Anyway, the interim assignment has been interpreted — by the Times itself and outsiders, including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple — as part of the fallout from the Caliphate scandal, kind of a “let’s put an adult in the room” situation, which isn’t a phrase I like, because adults fuck up all the time. This seems to be reflected in the memo, which also notes that among Levy’s focuses on the audio front will be to develop “new procedures to vet ambitious audio series.”

The memo indicates further deep commitment to the audio team as a whole, though. “Few, if any, departments have become more quickly come to be more central to the future of The Times,” it said. Levy will also be tasked with working to “more fully integrate the audio department’s day-to-day operation into the broader newsroom.”

Whether any of this will affect Andy Mills, the Caliphate co-lead and producer on The Daily whose professional behavior came under renewed scrutiny in the fallout of the scandal, remains unclear.Tegna acquires Locked On Podcasts. Not quite sure what a Tegna is — just kidding, it’s a spawn of some Gannett corporate repositioning — but it’s buying up Locked On Podcasts, a local sports podcast network that’s been around for a bit that does that thing where it builds a different podcast for each sports team.

Here’s the Variety write-up on the move. No terms were disclosed, though it was mentioned that Tegna is paying with cash on hand at a level that won’t “materially affect its 2021 results.” I’m guessing that this means the deal was reasonably modest.

Anyway, Locked On hasn’t raised much money since its inception in 2016, but it did raise less than $1 million in a round that included Podfund. That reminds me, I should check in on those guys.

Not quite sure what this means for Blue Wire pods, but it presumably means something.Revolving Door.Got a new job? Tell me, would love to Let The People Know.Miscellaneous Notes…

  • From the press release: “Triton Digital, the global technology and services leader to the digital audio and podcast industry, and Jagran New Media, India’s fastest growing digital news platform, announced today that Jagran New Media has selected Triton Digital to power the distribution and monetization of its podcast content to more than 79.7 million users across its 10 products.”
  • Huh. Weird.
  • Here comes the “SiriusXM Original Podcasts,” post Stitcher acquisition: they’re releasing a podcast built around Kevin Hart, which will first air on the satellite radio network before being distributed as a podcast, and which was plugged on The Howard Stern Show as part of the roll-out. It’s a very SiriusXM approach to programming, distribution, and marketing, and I’m thoroughly bored.
  • Off Book is now off Earwolf… and in business with Art19. Given that Art19 CRO Lex Friedman is a Stitcher vet, this presumably isn’t all that surprising a move.
  • Reading, from Variety: “How Kids Television Became the Most Heated Front in the Streaming Wars.”
  • Strikes me as a little weird that Apple Podcasts has a whole rail on “Understanding Extremism” when there’s an increasing amount of writing about how it’s still distributing Steve Bannon. That said, I do have some empathy for the platform on this issue — content moderation is a supremely difficult issue.
  • They’re calling Welcome to Your Fantasy a true crime podcast? I don’t know about that…
  • Speaking of which… it occurs to me that maybe I’m holding true crime podcasts to some dumb double standard in the sense that I groan whenever I see a new one pop into my inbox but go apeshit when watching this trailer for an upcoming Netflix joint.