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Hot Pod Insider

Insider: July 2, 2020

Edison's Latino Podcast Listener Report Sony Music Entertainment-Marc Smerling Follow-up to IP and Ownership... and that's about it today

Edison Research’s Latino Podcast Listener Report. The report was dropped on Tuesday, and you can find it here.

The section that perhaps most stands out to me revolves around the “Reasons US Latino Non-Listeners Do Not Listen to Podcasts.” Here are the findings in that section:

  • Podcasts are too long (35%);

  • You have to pay to subscribe to podcasts (29%);

  • You are not sure how to listen to podcasts (28%);

  • There aren’t any podcasts that cover the topics you are interested in (28%)

Also of interest: listening behavior across time, which paints a picture of Latino audiences as a increasingly-active demographic within the podcast listenership:

  • 80% of US Latino monthly podcast listeners are listening to podcasts more compared to a year ago;

  • 52% of US Latino monthly podcast listeners are listening to podcasts more since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

There’s a bunch more data points packed into the report; I highly recommend you check the whole thing out. Again, you can find the report here.The Truest of True Crime. Yesterday, Sony Music Entertainment announced that it has signed an exclusive podcast partnership with Marc Smerling, who you might remember from such podcasts as Crimetown and the various Crimetown Presents projects. (Also, he’s one of the guys who made HBO’s The Jinx, among other things.)

Billed as a strategic partnership, the deal will see SME assist Smerling in expanding the podcast output of his production company, Truth Media, which he officially launched back in April. Truth Media has the additional curiosity of being one of the more specific articulations of the podcast-to-TV pipeline ambition. Here’s the relevant line from the press release: “Truth Media is a production company focused on creating true crime podcasts to develop into television series.” I imagine we’ll see a lot more of this kind of thing moving, as more TV pipeline-minded podcast studios jockey to find a defining quality that’ll help them stick out in the crowd.

Anyway, the partnership will kick off with “Morally (In)Defensible,” which is described as a companion podcast to Smerling’s upcoming TV docuseries, “A Wilderness of Error.” On the one hand, makes sense. On the other hand, what’s the return on companion podcasts these days?

One other thing that stood out to me: the absence of Zac Stuart-Pontier from these machinations. Smerling and Stuart-Pontier usually pop up as a pair in the podcast-world. They co-hosted Crimetown, and they served as executive producers on the two Crimetown Presents projects: the RFK Tapes and The Ballad of Billy Balls. But Stuart-Pontier doesn’t seem to figure into Truth Media at all, at least according to the press release. I don’t have any particular insight into this; just a detail that caught my interest.

Anyway, from a big picture perspective, file this one away as yet another entry in Sony Music Entertainment’s on-going attempts to deepen its position in the podcast marketplace, which now includes joint ventures with Renay Richardson via Broccoli Content as well as Laura Mayer and Adam Davidson via ThreeUncannyFour. I continue to read these moves as fueled by some sort of design to balance out Spotify’s podcast pursuits.ICYMI. At around the same time Hot Pod went out on Tuesday, friend-of-the-newsletter Ashley Carman of The Verge pubbed a piece on the intellectual property and ownership story, summing up what’s been happening with The Nod-Gimlet Media, BuzzFeed-Another Round, and so on.

Quick follow-up on this thread for now. This story has generated voluminous response among the Hot Pod readership; it’s very clear to me that lots of folks are hungry to talk about it, or at least see this narrative thread being talked about.

But I’d also like to note that there have been a good number of counter-arguments coming through to the inbox, universally delivered with the caveat of being off-the-record for fear of being publicly roasted. At this point, there appears to be two broad themes in those counter-arguments, and I think it might be useful just to flag them.

Counter-argument One. Creators have always faced the same kinds of decisions in the partnership marketplace: either move to launch your projects independently with whatever resources you have, or find a partner that’s able to give you the terms you want. This dynamic is perhaps more greatly emphasized in podcasting, which remains an environment with low barriers to entry that increases the pathways for independent pursuits.

Counter-argument Two. There’s been an over-emphasis on the role of the RSS feed in these discussions. While it is a crucial structural conduit between the talent and the audience, we currently function in a media environment where the relationship between talent and audience can additionally take place across any number of other platforms and contexts. If the company wins out in holding onto the RSS feed, just go start another and build it from scratch.

For what it’s worth, while I see where those counter-arguments come from, I guess what I’d say is that the thing I think we’re really talking about isn’t really about the realities of the framework we have, but a push to shift the framework altogether: to reckon with the fact that a purely market-driven analysis is one that historically discounts the many hidden and not-so-hidden ways in which the most vulnerable kinds of creators and workers have been historically and structurally disempowered in those markets, and that what we should be doing instead to talk about ways of doing things that starts from a position of being genuinely helpful towards the most vulnerable creators and workers.

But the counter-argument that gets thrown at that goes something along the lines of: “Why should we ever expect profit-seeking corporations to treat people better?” Which, you know, fair.One last thing. Keep your ears perked. Something’s coming.