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Insider: March 12, 2021 — What Happened at Gimlet Media, Entercom buys Podcorn, Social Audio Updates

Overnight… For Vulture, I spent the past two weeks looking into what happened with Reply All and Gimlet Media, which is partly why I was burnt out to write on Tuesday’s newsletter.

Here’s the piece that came out of that.

Relatedly, a few other publications were working on this story as well, and it seems like we all decided to publish at the same time. Here is the New York Times, and here is The American Prospect.Entercom buys podcast advertising marketplace Podcorn,the Wall Street Journal reports.

This marks Entercom’s third acquisition in the podcast space, after picking up Cadence13 and Pineapple Street in the summer of 2019 for a combined ~$70 million or so.

The read with this situation seems pretty straightforward: given that almost every other major audio played has been picking up podcast advertising technology solutions aimed at scaling up those marketplaces lately — Spotify with Megaphone, iHeartMedia with Triton Digital, so on — this deal is basically Entercom buying its way to the table a little late, as usual.

And that buy-in was quite modest, comparatively speaking. According to the Journal, “the deal values Podcorn at $22.5 million, with Entercom paying $14.6 million upfront in cash and a performance-based earnout over the next three years.” In other words, it’s a fraction of what Spotify and iHeartMedia paid for their respective techs, around $230 million each.

Still, it’s an unnaturally good exit for Podcorn, which was founded less than two years ago and claims to connect advertisers with “almost 40,000 midsize podcasters to facilitate campaigns and native sponsorship.” (I’m super curious about those multiples.) And in many ways, it’s probably a well-timed exit as well — seems like an increasingly tough market to be a pure podcast ad tech company right now, what with all the platforms pushing their way in.Apple Podcasts apparently shifting away from “Subscribe” to “Follow,” Podnews found earlier this week. The thinking being — or at least it’s thought to be — that the word “Subscribe” is generally associated with media products that aren’t free. Then again, “Like and Subscribe” vis a vis YouTube is a phrase that’s been absorbed by The Culture.

Anyway, I’m keeping an eye out for the downloads vs. streams angle on this one.Social audio as on-demand content generator. In a recent episode of Decoder with Nilay Patel, Twitter’s head of consumer product, Kayvon Beykpour, said that people using Twitter Spaces, the platform’s competitor to the significantly buzzier Clubhouse, will soon be able to have those sessions be natively recorded.

As The Verge’s Ashley Carman points out, this essentially means that those sessions — which, as a reminder, has an appeal that’s currently chiefly oriented around the live virtual gathering experience — will be able to be converted into a podcast-like on-demand audio experience to be distributed to time-shifted audiences.

The question, of course, is whether the appeals of the experience carries over. There’s a long history of podcasts distributing recordings of their live shows as bonus content over their feeds, which is more or often than not a mixed bag: totally workable and good for folks who are already super down with the show to begin with, but a high measure of friction for folks who aren’t already super bought in with what the show is selling.

Then again, this could be a performance language and proficiency thing: if this indexed product gathers enough momentum, there will surely be someone who figures out the right production approach to the live Twitter Spaces — and Clubhouse, and whatever else comes down the pike — such that it’s able to transition seamlessly as an on-demand product.Speaking of social audioFrom Axios: “Marc Stein, the New York Times’ star NBA reporter, has partnered with Locker Room to create live audio content, Axios has learned.”

Locker Room is a sports-centered alternative to Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, which coincidentally, and not unlike my general take on paid podcast platforms, is probably where I think we might see a lot of prudent action in this space.

Anyway, one thing I’m thinking about with this news: I’d swap out the “Will Clubhouse kill podcasting?” frame for a slightly broader “Will social audio kill talk radio?” frame.

The answer, of course, is TBD.Podchaser acquires Podcharts and Podrover. Bit of a nomenclatural trend here.

The self-branded “IMDb for podcasts” company, led by CEO Bradley Davis, announced yesterday that it is acquiring two service tools that will add to its activities around podcast discovery.

  • Podcharts is described as a service that “allows you to track podcast charts and rankings across popular apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.”

  • Podrover is described as an app and service that “helps podcasters track, organize, and share their podcast reviews across multiple platforms.”

Both products were made by Cesare Rocchi, an Italian software developer working under the shingle “Studio Magnolia.”

The deal terms were not publicly disclosed — though I’m inclined to presume they’re modest — and it comes not long after Podchaser raised an additional $4 million in funding earlier this year.This Week in Bilingual Podcasts. WNYC has multiple bilingual projects out now that produces two separate but parallel versions of the same show in the Spanish and English language.

One is La Brega, a collaboration with Futuro Studios around a seven-part series that works to “reflect and reveal” how la brega — a phrase and concept roughly translated as “to grapple” — defines various aspects of life in Puerto Rico. (This continues Futuro Studios’ run of creating separate-but-parallel bilingual podcasts, after Anything for Selena.)

Another is a collaboration with The Public Theater in New York on a bilingual podcast adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, which is called Romeo y Julieta and stars Lupita Nyong’o and Juan Castano. That project is adapted by Saheem Ali and Ricardo Pérez González, based on the Spanish translation by Alfredo Michel Modenessi and directed by Saheem Ali. It’s out on March 18.Miscellaneous notes… And they’re both Spotify-related, I think?

  • I’m just really fascinated by this whole Spotify vs. Kakao situation. From Variety: “Spotify has announced that it has reached an agreement with Kakao Entertainment (previously KakaoM), making their content available on the platform across the globe, including for the first time in South Korea.” This comes not long after hundreds of K-pop songs distributed by Kakao — essentially a monopoly in the country — were pulled from the platform over a licensing deal dispute.

  • From the Hollywood Reporter: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have found a leader for their production company Archewell in Ben Browning, president of film and television production at FilmNation Entertainment.” Nominally germane to this readership, given the fact that Archewell’s first media product was a podcast through their Spotify partnership. Should we talk about the Oprah interview? Eh, I think that’s outside my purview.

Revolving Door. Got a new job? Tell me — would love to Let The People Know.