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Insider March 24, 2022 — Sirius’ big strategy gets bigger

And more wins for YouTube

What a week! Big deals, big data. Also like, big newsletter sections. Apologies.

Before all that, though, some big closure: for anyone who listened to the most recent episode of Las Culturistas and felt secondhand stress while Matt Rogers cold-DMed a potential guest, I think we have our answer.

Sirius stays trained on the big dogs

Starting in May, SXM Media will have exclusive rights to sell ads across the Crooked Media slate, a move that looks a lot like Amazon’s recent podcast deals and is plenty in line with what we’re learning about Sirius’ podcast strategy.

What’s funny is that Sirius has been seen as not really having a coherent podcast strategy, as Ashley reported in a revealing story (her last for The Verge) about the tumult inside Earwolf and Stitcher after they were acquired by the radio giant. Anecdotes from former employees painted a picture of a lack of support for smaller shows and a general misunderstanding of the podcast landscape, weaknesses that couldn’t be outweighed even by Sirius’ “deeper pockets that could make them more competitive,” as Ashley writes. And yet, Sirius remains the company that convinced Roman Mars to come on board, with “greater resources for his staff” apparently being big enough of a draw.

In a quote that didn’t make it into Ashley’s final piece, Sirius’ SVP of communications, Patrick Reilly, asserts that there has been a firm podcast strategy at the company. He says that since SiriusXM has a “multi-platform approach to audio, which includes satellite, streaming and podcasting… our strategy includes the ability to do deals where podcasters can be onboarded, developed, and grown across all of our platforms, and distributed and monetized widely with exclusive ad sale agreements.”

So, in response to the idea that Sirius doesn’t have a clear podcast plan, Reilly said that, well, sure they do — it’s called controlling ads. That just happens to be a plan that makes the most sense for shows big enough to justify controlling ads for. And it looks a lot like this week’s deal with Crooked Media, which the press release cites has “over 21 million monthly downloads” across its shows.

A few more notes on the Crooked deal: 

  • In addition to dibs on in-episode advertising, Sirius also gains sales and sponsorship rights to Crooked’s digital video, social media, and live events — a big get for a company that’s active on the live-tour beat.
  • Both parties stand to benefit from the timeline of this partnership, which will carry through the 2024 election cycle. Crooked was created in the wake of a, um, particularly noteworthy election, so it’ll surely be getting lots of play on its shows (and lots of ears on its ads) over the next few years. Plus, it’ll help to have a big distribution reach if Crooked takes another stab at voting initiatives, which I sense it will.
  • A Crooked spokesperson told us that Cadence13 / Audacy, the company’s most recent ad-sales partner, “was instrumental in the growth of Crooked Media and [we] will still have a great relationship with their team.”

Dialed in, infinitely

Edison Research presented its 2022 Infinite Dial report yesterday, showcasing the media behaviors of folks in the US, as collected through phone surveys. 

Here’s what stood out: routine podcast listening is a little lower than you might’ve thought, diversity of listeners is higher than you might’ve thought, and the usage of things like Spotify Greenroom and YouTube is probably right where you’d expect.

Across age groups, monthly podcast listening went down from 2021 to 2022, but listenership is still slightly higher than it was in 2020, which was already higher than the year before. As Edison senior vice president Tom Webster said during the presentation, “we had a lot of people try the content — that’s the good news,” even though not all of those people stuck around. He shared that this trend is also reflected in Edison’s Share of Ear report, with the 12-34 age group being where listenership eroded most. That age range was heavily impacted by things like school closures in 2020, and they ostensibly picked up listening to fill time, then dropped it once they began to do things in person again.

Now, this finding got me so jazzed: according to Edison’s data, the diversity breakdown of monthly podcast consumers is almost identical to the diversity breakdown of the US population. (Here’s how it’s gotten less white since 2012.) Huge credit to the creators and teams making shows that help listeners feel like a show or a network is for them. That’s so rad.

Here are the last two data things I’ll point out. 

iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music are tied for fourth place when it comes to how much “brand awareness” they have as audio companies; Spotify is first, then Pandora, then Apple Music. But when it comes to how much audio companies are actually being used, YouTube Music is in a strong second place, behind Spotify. The most recent time we saw stand-out YouTube data was in Edison’s “Super Listeners” report, so it’s useful to see that YouTube’s audio popularity holds true for less-fervent listeners, too.

This report also corroborated what we were probably all guessing: that social audio just isn’t that big, at least anymore. Infinite Dial just started tracking respondents’ awareness of any “audio-based social media service,” and Twitter Spaces registered with only 12 percent of the US population ages 12 and up, which technically includes people who don’t even use the internet. And when it comes to actual usage? Spaces, Clubhouse, and Spotify Greenroom all clocked in at 1 to 2 percent of the population, with Greenroom at the bottom of that range.

PodcastOne bets on visuals

The network PodcastOne just announced a partnership with Adori Labs to use its “Gateway to YouTube” feature, which allows podcasters to add visual assets to episodes and publish directly to the video platform. This makes PodcastOne “the first podcast network to utilize Adori’s pioneering interface technology,” according to the press release, the technology broadly serving to “unlock a massive new distribution and monetization channel” for podcasters,” as Adori co-founder Kartik Parija announced on LinkedIn.

I asked what PodcastOne specifically had in mind for visualization for its shows. Jim Ballas, CTO and VP of operations, told me that if a given host is telling a story or interacting with a guest, Adori would allow them to “drop in images of who or what she’s talking about so that it’s a visual experience even though the original content is not a video.” Additionally, he said, “we can use this tool to drop in an advertiser image or even video during the host-read ad spot.”

Put another way: they can use YouTube — by way of Adori — to kind of do what Spotify has been trying to do itself, with its pop-up podcast ads. Looks like YouTube gets ‘em again.

I heard one of those “wom wom WOMMMM” air horns outside my window, and only then did I remember that that is indeed a real sound and not just a joke.