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Insider (May 13, 2021): Armchair Expert goes exclusive to Spotify, IAB Podcast Ad Revenue Report, Upfronts Notes

Persistent problems with Apple Podcasts? Still getting sporadic reports of Apple Podcasts being wonky — both on the upload side and on the front-facing platform side. Gathering some yarn here; do let me know if you’re dealing with any of this.

Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert enters multi-year exclusive license agreement with Spotify. The deal also includes a first-look with Armchair Umbrella Network, Shepard’s audio publishing brand. New and existing episodes will start being exclusive to Spotify on July 1.

No terms were disclosed, but I would imagine it’s lucrative, given the fact that Armchair Expert — which Shepard makes with co-creator and co-host Monica Padman, and is produced by Rob Holysz — is *wildly* popular.

Sales for Armchair Expert has been repped by PMM, and Shepard is repped by WME.

Okay, today’s the last day of the IAB Upfronts, so we should go over some notes. Let’s start with the ad market sizing report.

IAB: US Podcast Ad Revenues climbed to $842 million in 2020, expected to exceed $1 billion in 2021. That’s the stat headlining the IAB’s fourth annual podcast advertising revenue report, based on a study that involves surveying a pool of “leading Podcast Industry players,” taking those self-reported numbers, and projecting out to estimate the size of the broader ad market. As always, it’s generally more prudent to pay closer attention to the trend line than the actual numbers.

The $842 million number for 2020 marks a 19% increase from 2019, which is a development that should obviously be read against the context of the pandemic year. It shows growth amidst considerable chaos, but the negative impact of the pandemic is still apparent in the $842 million number: the IAB had previously projected, in its 2018 report, that the industry would achieve $863.4 million in ad revenue in 2020.

Meanwhile, the IAB’s 2020 report also featured another notable estimate: that podcast advertising would exceed $2 billion by 2023.

I’ll think through the bigger picture of these findings for Tuesday, but for now, here are a few other data points from the report that caught my attention:

  • Brand advertising apparently approached parity with the classic direct response advertising over the past year, at 45% to 51%. Shout-out to the DR brands, you’ll always be remembered as the true OGs.
  • Half of podcasts ads lasted longer than 30 seconds. The report largely spins this as a positive, framing the trend as allowing for more “creative storytelling.” But, I don’t know, it’s still a drag. Relatedly, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of ad-skipping in the report.
  • The host-read ad format shrank as a proportion of overall ad type (66% to 56%), with announcer-read/pre-produced ads and brand/agency-produced creatives growing. More the former than the latter.
  • I don’t know why I find myself surprised by this: CPM-based buys increased over the past year, from 84% to 93%, with the other buy types being the series ownership model and a flat-fee system.
  • There was a decrease in annual buys (47% to 42%), and an increase in “remnant” or last minute buys (21% to 27%). In other words, more short-term, less long-term. One imagines the pandemic had something to do with this.
  • Keep an eye on this one for the long run: the share of podcast advertising sold programmatic largely remained flat (2.9% to 2.2%).

There’s quite a bit more in the actual report itself, which you can find a link to here. However, you have to create a free login account with the IAB to access the document.

One last thing before we move on: keep in mind that the podcast industry shouldn’t be sized on advertising revenue alone. Given the big subscription tool announcements of the past few weeks, this is poised to become even more true as we look ahead.

Various upfronts-related notes. Only picking out the stuff that stood out to me, I’m sure you can find the full suite of press releases floating around elsewhere.

Re: SiriusXM… The satellite radio giant has reshuffled its sales structure, and ahead of the upfronts this week, the company announced that it has created a new combined sales group covering its three consumer-facing brands: SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher. The new group is called SXM Media, claiming a reach of 150 million listeners.

SiriusXM also announced that the group will be the exclusive rep for Soundcloud — building upon an existing relationship, as SiriusXM invested $75 million in Soundcloud last year — as well as NBC and MSNBC podcasts, with additional sales rights to CNBC pods.

Here’s the Deadline write-up for additional detail.

Re: Rooster Teeth… The digital creator-heavy network announced a suite of new shows deepening that position, with upcoming projects around Youtubers Matthew Espinosa and Erik Griffin, along with Twitch stars QT Cinderella, Maya, Malena, and Adept.

Two things that interests me about Rooster Teeth right now: firstly, the fact that it’s also fairly video podcast heavy, and the IAB podcast ad revenue report notes that video podcasts only account for less than 10% of revenues. (It’s unclear if this includes revenue taken in from YouTube’s ad tools.) And secondly, the fact that Bloomberg recently reported that AT&T, its corporate owner via the WarnerMedia division, is currently seeking buyers for the company.

At Vox Media… New York Magazine will be launching its first serialized investigative podcast. It’s called True Story, and editorial director of audio Hanna Rosin describes itas follows: “We’re taking the great stories New York Magazine already makes and making a version of them in audio. The way I think about it is that we’re doing investigations but in our own way.”

As always, caveats around my own relationship with Vox Media and NYM. I’m a contributor, not an employee.

At Art19… Once purely a podcast technology platform company, Art19 has spent the past year diversifying out into content, perhaps as a response to shifts in prospects falling from the industry consolidation that specifically pertains to the technology and platform layer.

This week, the company made several content-related announcements to this effect, including shows from Tig Notaro and Cheryl Hines (also called True Story), plus Michael Ian Black (Obscure).

At Slate… We’re fairly Slate heavy in this newsletter, so much of what was announced this week shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I was interested to see that the publisher is building a new show around Josh Levin, who hosted the David Duke season of Slow Burn. The new project is called One Year, and it’s billed as a narrative history podcast.

On a related note, The Verge did a story on Slate launching its own audiobooks store this week, which is powered by Supporting Cast, its sister direct revenue audio tools company. Some version of this was hinted at in a January column I wrote about Pushkin’s own direct-to-consumer audiobooks effort, which also uses Supporting Cast. (Pushkin co-founder Jacob Weisberg, of course, being the former editor-in-chief of the Slate Group.) In the column, you’ll see mention of Slate having previously used the platform to facilitate direct RSS-delivered sales of the audio version of Daniel Lavery’s book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You.

Revolving Door.

  • Kristen Myers, formerly Stitcher’s Director of Business Development, has moved to UTA, where she holds the title of Executive Director of Business Development.
  • Rooster Teeth has made two key hires: Christina Petrillo as East Coast sales director, and Jejuan Guillory as Head of Casting and Talent Strategy. Petrillo was previously SVP of Strategic Solutions at Audacy, while Guillory was previously at Microsoft, where he worked as a Business Development and Partner Marketing Strategist for Content and Gaming.

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