Apple expands its affiliate program to Apple Podcasts. For those unfamiliar, Apple has this thing called the Apple Services Performance Partner Program, also known as the Apple affiliate program, which basically does what every other affiliate program on the internet does: creates an incentive structure for publishers and their marketing partners to widely distribute links to their products distributed over the Apple infrastructure by offering one-time compensation for every paid subscriber conversion. In this case, that Apple-distributed product is the Apple Podcast Subscriptions feature, which is due to roll out widely soon, and with this specific affiliate structure, those who link out to the Apple Podcasts paid subscription listing will get 50% on the first paid month of every subscription membership they drive.
So, let’s say I have a premium podcast distributed over the Apple Podcasts subscription tool that costs $7 per month, and I’m part of this affiliate program, and I use the Apple-generate affiliated link and slapped it on the Hot Pod site. If a listener buys a subscription using that link, I get that person as a $7 per month subscriber and $3.50 for converting that person. This also applies to, say, someone I partner with for marketing. Let’s say we’re buddies, and you take my affiliate link and run it on your website, and a visitor to your site becomes a paid subscriber to my premium podcast through that link. You get the $3.50 for the conversion, and I get the new $7 per month subscriber. This also applies, I reckon, if we don’t even know each other. See: how the Wirecutter has built an entire business model around recommendations.
What’s in it for Apple? Again, affiliate links programs like these increasing the incentive to push Apple Podcast subscription links far and wide, and it creates more alignment for podcast publishers and their partners to get behind the Apple Podcast subscription tools a little more, which means something in a context where there exists alternative tools, like Spotify’s subscription features and other companies like Patreon and Supporting Cast. Anyway, another additional incentive to note: I imagine there’s plenty of useful marketing data to be generated for publishers using these affiliate links.
There is some trickiness with this addition, though; I’m gonna guess that there are some major differences that come into play when the product being marketed is a subscription, and not a singular product to be marketed for a one-time purchase. Additionally, this addition may drive more incentive for podcast publishers to consider Apple Podcast Subscriptions as their primary subscription tool option, but whether that added incentive is enough for people to overcome the 30% cut that Apple takes from each subscription transaction — on top of the fact that Apple Podcasts Subscription is a closed system — is the bigger question.
Anyway, in the meantime, here’s the official page about the Apple Podcasts addition to the program, which contains more specific information about how this works.
Elsewhere… From The Verge: “Twitter previews Ticketed Spaces, says it’ll take a 20 percent cut of sales”… after Apple and Google’s cut from running their respective app stores. Those cuts add up, yikes.
Okay, onto Aria.
New studio launch: Hyphen Media. The company, co-founded by multiplatform media vets Andrew Kuo and Kareem Rahma, is billed as “a premium audio-first entertainment company that tells stories by and about people of color, for all audiences.” There’s no shortage of emphasis on this goal, particularly on the Hyphen Media website (which, though it currently lacks audio samples or promotional images, reads “We tell colorful stories” and itself changes color when you click an icon in the top-left corner).
As points of comparison for the scope of the company, Kuo and Rahma set their sights on such media as Crazy Rich Asians and Jane the Virgin, which, in their eyes, have been widely popular without compromising the authenticity of non-white stories.* Some people might disagree with that assessment based on their own lives, but, to be fair, there aren’t that many big-name movies or shows that can currently serve as examples. To that end, Hyphen Media also intends for not just some, but all, of its shows to “have the potential to grow and be adapted into other forms of entertainment, including television series and feature films.” So, whatever the company’s able to achieve may hypothetically trickle into other media.
* Nick’s note: Can’t speak for Jane the Virgin, but I tend to disagree with the latter part of this sentence with respect to CRA.
When I asked how and where past media companies have gone wrong on cultivating authentic diversity in their programming, the pair said, “underrepresented storytelling often tokenizes harmful tropes and features plot lines or characters that tend to be one dimensional. Stories about people of color don’t always have to be about their struggle with identity. Those stories are important, but there is much more to explore that defines our experiences.”
The full Hyphen Media catalog will apparently span scripted and unscripted shows, as well as genres like autobiography and science fiction, though release dates are still under wraps.
Relatedly… iHeartMedia is launching My Cultura, a podcast network for Latinx listeners that will produce 30 original shows in one year. Digiday reports that six of these shows are already slated to go live in July, suggesting that a lot of the production has already begun.
The piece notes that, according to a study by Nielsen, “the number of Hispanic podcast listeners increased six-fold from 1.1 million in 2010 to 6.8 million in 2019” (that’s compared to a four-fold increase in white listeners), and in that same study, 28% of Latinx respondents said they didn’t listen to podcasts, namely because “there aren’t any that cover the topics they are interested in.”
Clearly, the impetus for programming is there. And since this is, in my impression, a quantitatively ambitious undertaking, one would hope that the endeavor will be handled thoughtfully. There have been plenty of stories, large and small, of audio makers being taken advantage of because of too-small teams and too-tight deadlines.
Speaking of iHeart… The company announced on Monday that it will also be co-producing a dozen or so original shows with Bloomberg Media.
According to the press release, “[t]he first four new co-produced iHeartRadio Original podcasts will take a broad view on business topics covering subject areas like financial crime or the cost of climate or the future of an industry,” with the first ones going live later this year. The multiyear partnership will also include the distribution of Bloomberg’s existing audio catalog, which has around 30 shows.
Old Apple forum still (kind of) relevant today. I’m about to take a plane trip soon, and since I currently use Apple Podcasts to listen to stuff, I wanted to sniff around for any weird steps I’d have to take to make sure I could consume downloaded episodes on Airplane Mode. (You never know.) The idea of me listening to anything at all is wishful thinking, frankly, because I’ll probably be so struck with panic from sitting thisclose to other bodies that I’ll just sit still and stare ahead in silence without breathing, but a girl can dream.
Anyway, I stumbled upon this nine-year-old support inquiry on Apple’s site, initiated by the question “Why can’t I listen to my Podcasts while in Airplane mode?” The issue seemed to be that, while the user believed they had downloaded (12 hours of) podcasts for offline listening, they’d merely saved them, a mistake that feels pretty easy to make, given Apple’s layout and not-so-intuitive user flow. With the ongoing-but-different problems that Apple Podcasts is having with iOS 14.5, the conversation felt comically relevant. The best part is that a new user came and posted on the forum (“Well, I still have this problem…”) five years later. And four years after that, here I am, wondering how the heck to do some of these same things.
So why do I keep using this app? Unclear. Stay tuned: I might come back a new woman.
Okay, now we’re just deep in forums and planes. This time, Pilots of America. After clickety-clacking out several combinations of “airplane” and “podcast,” I of course came across parts of the internet that were for the people flying the planes, not riding in them.
“Do pilots get to listen to music or podcasts while flying?” one person asked on Quora.
Yes, it turns out, they do.
After sorting through lots of acronyms (EFIS, IFR) and learning what “instrument meteorological conditions” are (e.g., flying in dense fog and having to navigate by something other than sight, which is apparently the only situation in which one user wouldn’t be listening to something for entertainment), I began to see a trend emerge among the pilots: They liked leisure listening but thought the available options for doing so were annoying. The short of it is, air traffic control still has to buzz in to an aircraft, halting whatever other audio might be playing, and this muting is either the default setting for the plane’s audio system or its only one. The audio cutting out is, of course, a pragmatically safe feature, but unfortunately for one user, it had a habit of cutting out “every time I want to sing along with Waylon.”
Nearly all the users were discussing non-spoken-word audio (though someone did proclaim “Coast to Coast AM, baby!”), but a lone user named “rwellner98” mentioned pulling out podcasts on cross-country flights. So, it does happen, folks.
By the looks of many of the profile pictures, these pilots primarily identified with flying personal planes, so these weren’t summaries of commercial flights; rwellner98’s profile picture in particular is a smallish propeller-nosed plane, like Snuffy from the terrifyingly animated show Jay Jay the Jet Plane. And honestly, whew. I’m paying you to hold me up in the sky, so please, my guy, keep your ears on the scanner.
AND I’M YOUR HOST… GLYNN WASHINGTON.
When Glynn Washington, host of the narrative podcast Snap Judgment, speaks, he does nothing less than grab your attention. If you happen to drift off while listening, as humans are apt to do from time to time, but you then hear Washington say, “BAM!” or that he’s sure that “you,” with penetrating emphasis, would be interested in a particular story he wants to tell, it pulls you right back. The tone of his voice sounds genuine, like he really believes what he’s saying, as though any excitement is coming from him, not from a script.
Here’s another example: Portrait mode on iPhones pretty much always makes me cringe, partially because it doesn’t work well and partially because it reminds me of this TikTok trend. Yet, Washington can use it, and with the confidence and earnestness he puts out there, in my opinion, even semi-meme-ified visual effects feel fresh.
Below is a glimpse into Washington’s process of telling the stories he’s practiced at hooking people into, his responses characteristically quirky and quippy.
Hot Pod: What’s a question you always find yourself asking sources that feels unique to your approach to telling a story?
Glynn Washington: “What part of this story are you afraid to tell?”
HP: If someone asked you that same question, how would you answer it?
Washington: I wouldn’t!
HP: Which story that you’ve reported have you been the most attached to?
Washington: The openness and generosity parents of people lost to the Heaven’s Gate cult provided was astonishing.
HP: Who’s made you the most nervous to interview?
Washington: My mother.
HP: Ask yourself one question that you want to be asked. Then answer it.
Washington: “They say you’re too good looking for radio. What’s your secret?” Thanks! I credit that new razor, whisky in my morning smoothie, and Photoshop.