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Insider: July 8, 2021 — Follow up to Rogan/Spotify, Privacy Concerns at Audacity, This Week in Studies

Follow-up to Rogan/Spotify. ‘Tis the season, it seems. In the wake of the New York Times’ feature looking into the state of Joe Rogan on Spotify, paying close attention to the podcaster’s history and the growing nature of his power, Insider published a deep dive of its own earlier this week.

The Insider piece didn’t strike me as producing much that’s new beyond what the Times put out earlier, but it does place greater emphasis on (a) the sentiment that The Joe Rogan Experience has produced a tremendous amount of value for — and therefore leverage over — Spotify, and (b) the supposed fallout of the controversies that Rogan has brought to the platform since moving over exclusively.

That said, even the latter point doesn’t appear to be built on much new information, save for maybe this chunk:

Not everyone at Spotify is a fan. One former employee told Insider the Rogan deal was the most divisive decision the company made during his tenure. Last fall, in an internal channel for Spotify employees on the professional networking app Fishbowl, one employee wrote, “I’m personally bothered by his transphobic comments and am concerned with the way he might spread misinformation,” according to a photo of the post viewed by Insider. Another stood up for Rogan saying it’s just “a loud minority of people who are outraged.”

Again, you can find the piece here.

Privacy kerfuffle at Audacity. I’m going to guess that the kinds of people who pay for a Hot Pod Insider subscription are also the kinds of people who likely use audio editing software that’s a lot more robust than Audacity, but I figure I should flag this development nevertheless, because the free open-source editing platform remains the option I’m most likely recommend to newcomers looking to figure out whether they’d like audio editing… or the life of a producer more broadly, I guess.

This particular story started on Monday, when Audacity — which was recently acquired in April by something called Muse Group, which appears to be a holding company that operates a suite of audio-related software — rolled out a new privacy policy update containing a section pertaining to its data collective practices that kicked up a fair bit of ire from some users, along with a broader debate on whether or not that specific policy update now renders the platform as a form of spyware.

The whole thing is, frankly, a bit of a saga, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around my own stance on the matter. If you’re interested in going down this rabbit hole, I’d start with this Engadget write-up and this Lifehacker article — note that both cite something called FOSS Post, a site that seems to track the goings-on in the open publishing community —  and then round it out with this Gizmodo piece and this Ars Technica piece.

In any case, whenever you land, the kerfuffle has resulted in Audacity announcing that it will be making new changes to policy, citing that they believe the concerns are due “largely to unclear phrasing.”

This Week in Studies. Firstly, there’s a new addition to the Pew Research Center’s “Audio and Podcasting Fact Sheet” that came out a few weeks back, which I always find helpful in terms of seeing all industry-level data points — spanning both the radio and podcast mediums — consolidated into one place.

You’ll probably be familiar with the podcast stuff, which largely cites Edison Research numbers, but I found the radio data points useful to grok. Two in particular that stood out to me:

  • “The audience for terrestrial radio remains high, though there was a slight drop in 2020: In 2020, 83% of Americans ages 12 or older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week, a figure that dropped slightly from 89% in 2019 according to Nielsen Media Research data published by the Radio Advertising Bureau.”
  • “Average radio revenue dropped fairly sharply in 2020 – by 24% – for stations in the all-news format, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. Average station revenue for stations in the all-news format dropped from $18.1 million in 2019 to $13.9 million in 2020.” 

Elsewhere, Stitcher has published its second annual Podcasting Report, which is premised on delivering insight into listener behavior and content trends based on a combination of listener surveys and data points from the Stitcher app over the past two years. You can find the whole report here, and here are a few things that caught my eye:

  • “Gen Z (age 13-24) and Boomers (65+)… are twice as likely to listen to podcasts because a celebrity, influencer, or other public figure they follow hosts one than other age groups.”
  • The five most searched genres on the Stitcher app, in descending order: True Crime, Comedy, Sleep, History, and News. Against the context of the past year, Sleep makes sense, though the continued dominance of True Crime is interesting, given the genre’s initial drop in interest at the outset of the pandemic.
  • Many of the data points pertaining to listener behavior largely tracks with what we’ve previously understood about the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns, like the shifts in when podcasts are generally consumed — away from the commute time, more every other time period — as well as an increase in binge-listening behavior more broadly.

Again, you can find the report here, and again, keep in mind: the study is largely premised on listeners who affiliate with Stitcher’s app and the Stitcher brand. It’s a little like… gauging the preferences of a person who shops at Whole Foods. There’s only so much you can generalize about the Broader American Grocery Shopping experience out of that demographic, both in who they tend to be and how they’re shaped by what Whole Foods presents them.

Miscellaneous Notes.

  • Lemonada Media has launched a new division called BEING Studios, which purports a focus on something they’re calling the “audio reality” podcast genre. Basically, reality television, but for audio. To that end, they’ve hired Kasey Barrett, a veteran reality television producer, to serve as executive producer of the division.
  • Because I’ve been asked about this topic a bunch lately, here are two data points indicating that the live podcast circuit is gearing back up from the pandemic: Welcome to Night Vale recently announced 2022 tour dates, and The Last Podcast on the Left is staging shows again starting this August. Would be interested to learn of more shows doing this. Hit me up.