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Insider March 10, 2022 — The French come for Apple

And Facebook for the Greek

Well, howdy, everyone. Didn’t Jake do such a stellar job? I might’ve been reading more than I should’ve while I was out, but it was just so good. Also, I have anxiety.

P.S. Reply All just released its first episode since December. It’s a Super Tech Support, about Spotify’s emphasis on playlists and the people who try to game the system. Go listen. 

Speaking of Spotify…

Rogan controversy a nonissue for Spotify, financially speaking

Spotify has been exceeding its growth targets, meaning that there hasn’t been a noticeable impact from the backlash against Joe Rogan through canceled or slowed subscriptions, as Todd Spangler wrote in Variety. Until a few weeks ago, Spotify was trending ahead of its Q1 guidance, according to statements made by Spotify CFO Paul Vogel at this week’s Technology, Media and Telecom Conference by Morgan Stanley.

Where the company did see a drop was in Russia since it will lose around 1.5 million paying subscribers after suspending premium service in the country in response to the invasion of Ukraine. That may impede Spotify’s Q1 goal of adding 3 million paying customers, but even then, it isn’t that financially consequential — according to Spangler, “the loss of its business in Russia is not material: The country represents less than 1% of total revenue.”

Podcast budgets go mainstream

If you didn’t catch Reggie Ugwu’s piece on small-ish audio shops, you didn’t catch that various producers are aligning on what it costs to produce narrated, reported series. (And it’s likely that you also didn’t catch the Twitter snark that popped up in response to those dollar amounts.)

Ugwu’s sourcing shows producers and analysts agreeing that the price tag of a narrated documentary-style podcast can easily be in the low- to mid-six figures. The first original series that the production company Rococo Punch made “cost more than $500,000 in production and marketing,” and that same $500,000 figure was quoted by Ad Results Media CEO Marshall Williams as an example of how valuable it can be to secure distribution deals with big companies. Bigger companies can monetize a show through something like subscription fees, which, for many creators, is a huge improvement over fronting that money themselves and then praying they’ll recoup it in ad sales later.

One of the shops featured in the piece was Prologue Projects, which once produced its podcast Fiasco as a Luminary original and has since secured a new deal for the show with Audible. Here’s the general shape of that deal, as outlined by Ugwu: Audible gets an exclusive, paywalled show (which will be ad-free) plus prioritized bidding rights on any future podcasts from Prologue, and Prologue gets four whole seasons funded, which among other things has allowed co-founder Leon Neyfakh to expand his staff. Neyfakh tells us that he was most recently able to hire four more full-time producers: an assistant producer who will work across Prologue’s slate, plus three senior producers who will work on “as yet unannounced shows” that are in development at the company.

I asked Neyfakh if he thinks that more people, particularly people who are in a position to fund shows, seem to be getting hip to how much it actually costs to support reporters, producers, composers, etc. He said he fears lots of shows are still being shorted on funds but that we’re getting closer. Maybe articles like this will help.

Dozens of French shows now behind Apple’s paywall

Speaking of subscription-based shows, Apple Podcasts recently gained a subscription partner in the French company Majelan, and it’s a big one: Majelan’s offerings are said to comprise 40 original shows and span four different channels. Believe it or not, I recall writing about Apple Podcasts hiring for the position of head of international — it was that recent. In the mere months that have passed since the company filled the position (Susie Warhurst was hired this past fall), Apple’s clearly been putting in work.

Now now now, let’s stay in Europe for a minute.

Get Zuck to the Greek

Remember when I flagged a tentative acquisition of a Greek audio company by Meta, then imagined the metaverse sounding like Wii Sports Resort? That deal — with a company called Accusonus — went through. Now there’s a smidge more context about what’s to come of that company (thanks to Podnews), and it’s looking more and more like a podcast investment to me.

Between the two realities I imagined — Meta using Accusonus’ existing music libraries to score its digital landscape versus Meta putting Accusonus’ podcasting and music creation tools into the hands of users — it looks like we’re likely to have the latter, with potentially more podcasting than music. In an email sent out to customers, Accusonus said it would discontinue beat- and music-making software like its drum-mixing tool and “SFX & Music Cellar” and would henceforth be working to “democratize content creation by developing technology for billions of users.” Hmm. This feels like a sneaky, quiet development on the spoken word front.

When My Favorite Murder breaks form, it’s bound to break through

Today, the podcast My Favorite Murder is doing something it doesn’t normally do: a crossover episode. I’m told it’s largely because hosts Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff have lots of overlapping coverage areas with Disgraceland, the show they’re partnering with for the episode, as well as the show’s host, Jake Brennan (he says the three of them are pals). But man, I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the potential boost in listenership that may come for Disgraceland as a result of this.

To remind you how big My Favorite Murder is, I will write this out plainly: Amazon spent more than one hundred million dollars to sell ads for the show and its associated properties, purely because brands will pay out the nose for those ads, considering how many people will hear them.

Neither team would speculate on any boost in listenership ahead of the release, so I’m looking forward to knowing how this goes, and all of you should be, too.

Arthur lives on, for Gen Z

And what a wonderful kind of day it is, because I’m going to leave you more details on the forthcoming Arthur podcast, which was a piece of news so wholesome that I couldn’t help but passive-aggressively push in front of Jake while I was OOO. 

In this Hollywood Reporter piece about the wider boom of kids’ audio programming, we learn that WBGH is in the process of adapting the perpetually child-aged aardvark “into a podcast with Gen-Z Media that will feature new storylines and games for the beloved character.”

Woo! Be back tomorrow! A thing I never get to say!