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Insider (May 7, 2021): Seller’s market?, Higher Ground’s next project, News Bites

Seller’s market? Another week, another instance of me gazing with longing curiosity at whatever’s going on at Meadowlark. On Tuesday, the Washington Post published the most comprehensive profile on the company I’ve seen so far.

Here’s a passage, on the studio’s operating strategy, that stood out to me:

Part media company and part production company, [Meadowlark] doesn’t plan to hire many employees. But it does want to make content, mostly about sports, by a group of Le Batard’s friends and collaborators: podcasts, documentaries, scripted shows and more. Then it wants Skipper to sell that content to the growing list of platforms competing in the new streaming economy.

Skipper ticked off the companies spending big in their quest for consumers’ attention: Netflix, he said, will soon be spending $23 billion per year on content; Apple, he said, is going to spend $6 billion; Disney will have a budget between $15 billion and $20 billion.

“There is a moment in time,” he said, “which is right now, where there is going to be more money spent on content than it’s ever been in history.”

Damn, dude. Somebody once told me never to underestimate Skipper’s ability to walk out of any room with money. Play to your strengths, I suppose.

Higher Ground’s next audio project. Deadline reports that the next podcast to come out of the Obamas’ production studio will be an adaptation of Heather McGee’s nonfiction book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

A notable thing: the report claims that “the deal is unusual as while it’s commonplace for books to be optioned for scripted series and movies as well as documentaries, it’s rare from book-to-podcast.”

I suppose this is true — though, I know there are a few book agents in the readership, do disabuse me of this notion if it’s inaccurate — as the prior models of the book-podcast relationship has largely revolved around podcast-to-book conversions, tandem book-and-podcast projects, and instances in which book authors work to create thematically-related audio-first projects, in the case of certain Audible originals and folks like Esther Perel, Gretchen Rubin, and Brene Brown.

Curious to see what this means in the actual execution of the project. The podcast is slated to drop in early 2022.


From Current: “NPR plans to recognize digital staffers’ union.” Missed this earlier!

From Protocol: “Everything you need to know about the Ximalaya IPO.” Linking back to my column from two years ago about podcasting — or “podcasting” — in China.

The Washington Post announced this week that “it has integrated Amazon Polly, giving readers the ability to listen to Post technology stories across platforms.” While pitched as a product to help with multitasking, the bigger gain here is from the accessibility angle.

From Reuters: “Kajabi, an e-commerce platform that serves knowledge-based businesses, said on Tuesday it raised $550 million in its latest round of funding led by Tiger Global Management, which puts the company’s valuation at over $2 billion.” Pair this development with this Digiday piece on an intimately-related subject. It opens: “Online learning has entered a new era, and it has higher production values. More and more digital creatives with large audiences — from YouTubers to bloggers to podcasters — are launching cohort-based group courses.”

From the Hollywood Reporter: “First Look Media’s Topic Studios has signed a slate development and production deal to produce four new Audible Original podcasts.” Topic Studios audio lives!