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Insider March 11, 2022 — Amazon meets… thespians?

And doing audio differently

Hey! I have one song stuck in my head, and I bet you’ll figure out what it is about halfway through.

Overlapping accessibility

People who are visually impaired may choose to listen to a podcast; people who are hearing impaired may choose to read a podcast transcript. For people who experience both, more comprehensive accommodations are necessary, like a transcript that feeds into a Braille reader. Today, Radiolab debuted an episode and announced forthcoming assets that attempt to meet the needs of someone who is Deaf-Blind, as was the case for the episode’s subject, Helen Keller.

If any of you have experimented with these kinds of accessible assets for your shows, please do reach out! Seen and Not Heard and More Than This stand out for their comprehensive, play-like transcripts, and I’d love to compile more examples, plus any other assets folks have had success with. Additionally, once all the Radiolab assets are released (they’ll soon have an ASL video, in addition to their transcript formatted for digital Braille readers, which is already available), we’ll be sharing more about how the team pulled everything together.

The ascent of Audible Theater

Also this week, a New York Times piece described, in detail, Audible’s “bold push into theater,” something you may not have realized was happening at all — I sure didn’t — for not only audio recordings but in-person stage productions.

A representative example of Audible’s involvement in the theater world is a play called Coal Country, which you can listen to a clip of right in the article (and you know I love an embed). The play was put on by The Public Theater before the pandemic; since then, Audible not only recorded and streamed it but started to put on an in-person version.

This point, as spelled out by the reporter Michael Paulson, drills down on why this all seems to be working for Audible:

“The company’s main source of revenue is from members who pay to listen to audio titles. That means box office revenue is not a make-or-break factor for Audible’s theater productions, which allows the company to do risky work, and, even more distinctively, to stage short-run productions, which in turn allows them to attract film and television stars who have limited time in their schedules. The economics of most commercial play productions generally require stars to commit to runs of at least 15 weeks; because Audible isn’t looking to recoup costs from ticket sales, it can accept fewer.”

Here’s what else Audible’s been up to, from the article:

  • Audible has released 93 audio theater works since creating a designated theater division, Audible Theater (which now has five full-time staffers)
  • In the five years since Audible Theater was born, it’s commissioned new work from over 50 playwrights
  • Audible started leasing space at New York’s Minetta Lane Theatre all the way back in 2018 (yeah, I totally missed that)
  • The company now has Broadway production credits, specifically for the shows Latin History for Morons and Sea Wall / A Life, which it’s also released as audio works
  • In 2018, Audible released nine plays; in 2021, it released 24

I’m not an audio purist by any definition, but now that I know Audible is in the business of in-person, viewable theater, it gets me into a bummer of a mindset, like, “Is an audio drama not enough? Was it not doing a good enough job of being a play?” Even though the opposite move that Audible is making — converting visual plays into audio  — is nothing new, I imagine some theater purists might feel similarly to me about that, worrying that the nuance of stage-first productions might be lost when converted into sound. I imagine they also might spell it theatre.

Can a Patreon-exclusive podcast work (from home)?

Lauren Jauregui — a former member of the musical group Fifth Harmony, for those unfamiliar — has just launched a podcast exclusively on Patreon.

This seemed like a limiting move until I saw how many social media followers Jauregui has: 4.3 million on Twitter and 10 million on Instagram. If anyone could swing a Patreon exclusive, it’d be a celebrity of her caliber. At the same time, in the Instagram post announcing the debut of the show, Jauregui wrote that the show was “available only on Patreon for now” (emphasis mine). So we’ll see where they decide to take this.

Patreon shared in a statement with us that “Attunement has seen significant success in the past 48 hours since launch” but declined to share the subscriber count for the profile, which I’m bummed about both because I want to track the progress (and Jauregui’s page hides the stat) and because I’m curious to see what it adds up to, given the significance of the prices: Jauregui tells us she “wanted every element of my show, down to the membership tiers” to reflects its theme of spirituality, leading her to pick the “angel numbers” of $3.33, $9.99, and $22.22.

More combing of Spotify audio, more calling out

As Ashley wrote last month, we don’t know much about how things are moderated behind the scenes at Spotify, and for the content removals that we do know about, the company’s “main line of defense appears to be media reports,” with external listeners calling out problematic content that the company may then do something about.

One reliable provider of such callouts is Alex Kaplan at Media Matters, and last week, he delivered another: “Despite its rules, Spotify is still hosting QAnon-supporting shows.” The headline explains the findings, which are similar to observations Kaplan has made about Patreon, PayPal, and other sites in recent months. 

It was around the time of an earlier Media Matters report that Spotify took down a bunch of other QAnon podcasts, and it looks like Spotify may have worked off their reporting again. Three of the shows highlighted in the story now seem to be missing from Spotify, though the other four are still there. Spotify didn’t respond to a request for comment before press time. Still, it seems like Ashley continues to be right: media reports really are pulling the weight.

MOVES

As mentioned in yesterday’s edition, Prologue Projects has hired four new producers. Arlene Arevalo, most recently an intern at Pineapple Street Studios, is now assistant producer across Prologue’s podcasts; Benjamin Frisch and Danielle Hewitt, both coming from Slate, will serve as senior producers for in-development shows; and a third senior producer role will be filled by Lena Richards, after previously working at Three Uncanny Four.

On Tuesday, Ashley shared a scoop that three members of Megaphone’s original C-suite would be leaving: Brendan Monaghan, Matt Turck, and Jason Cox, who held the titles of CEO, CRO, and COO, respectively, before Spotify acquired the company.

Current COO of National Public Media Bryan Moffett will add on the role of senior vice president of network growth for NPR. Sam Sanders, who recently departed the company and his long-running show It’s Been a Minute, will join Vulture in April and host its forthcoming flagship podcast. (Disclosure, by the way: Vulture is part of Vox Media, which owns The Verge and Hot Pod.)

At Insider, newly appointed CRO Maggie Milnamow comes from a long advertising tenure at The New York Times, with a goal to “build more robust revenue partnerships around new mediums, like newsletters and podcasts,” according to Axios.

And in a cool move that tickles my audio-maker brain, Radiolab has hired Alan Goffinski as both associate producer and songwriter for the show.

If for some reason, on Tuesday, I’m nowhere to be found, comatose, or blasted off into space, it’s because MUNA released new music and I wasn’t ready for it. Pray for me.