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Insider: November 14, 2019

- Personnel Notes, re: Goat Rodeo DC, Three Uncanny Four, Talkhouse - Pandora's Table Stakes - Slate is now half-podcast... and more!

Personnel Notes

(1) Goat Rodeo DC has hired a new Chief Operating Officer, and this wouldn’t necessarily be that strong of a news peg if it wasn’t for the slight oddity of the individual’s background: Megan Nadolski, who previously held the role of Creative Director of Luxury Brands for Marriott. I suppose it says something about the times when a Fortune 500 exec jumps the luxury cruiseliner for choppier podcasting waters, but I can’t really seem to put the words together.

Anyway, Goat Rodeo has been around for a bit now — I have Hot Pod entries on them going back to 2016 — though I remember them regarding themselves in the early days as a podcast network. Based on the current version of their website, though, it seems they’re billing themselves as a “Creative Audio Agency” these days, which I guess is the appropriate move in this era. I suppose there’s a column to be written about how “audio agencies are the new podcast networks,” or how “audio agencies are the new entrepreneurial way into the business.” But that feels a little too obvious, and crass.

Goat Rodeo’s most recent project of significance is a non-profit-funded collaboration with the Lawfare blog to produce a dramatized version of the Mueller report, called (appropriately) “The Report.” I’m told that the podcast, which played out over fifteen episodes, has crossed over the 3 million download mark, and that it’s kicking up some interest for film rights.

(2) This morning saw the announcement that Three Uncanny Four Productions — a.k.a the Sony-Adam Davidson-Laura Mayer joint — has entered into an “exclusive joint venture” with Hyperobject Industries, Adam McKay’s post-Gary Sanchez production shingle, that will develop… well, original podcasts, obviously.

No surprise here: McKay, of course, has prior professional history with Davidson. The latter Adam served as a technical adviser on the former Adam’s 2015 film The Big Short, and the two Adams once worked on a Gimlet podcast called Surprisingly Awesome, which went on to become Every Little Thing. McKay was also apparently attached to Three Uncanny Four’s first podcast, Broken: Jeffrey Epstein, which came out earlier this year.

Not really sure how the entanglements are divvied up when a joint venture is formed with an entity that’s already a joint venture, but I am tempted to use the phrase “joint squared” or “2 joint 2 venture” in future references.

One last note: Harry Nelson, a former Midroll producer of some reputation, will work as a producer on the venture.

(3) Talkhouse, the Brooklyn-based digital media company that pits various artists in conversation about their work, has added Ben Greenman, novelist and former editor at the New Yorker, as a “creative consultant for podcast development.”

Pandora makes podcasts available to consume on its desktop app and website, the company announced on Tuesday afternoon. Table stakes stuff, frankly, but good that they finally ended up here, I suppose? The broader context of Pandora’s past year with podcasting can also broadly be described as table stakes catch-up: expanding the number of shows available on the platform, cutting exclusive content deals (in this specific case, with Marvel), and leveraging its new SiriusXM parental situation — SiriusXM completed its acquisition of Pandora earlier this year — by piping through various “original SiriusXM podcasts.” Plus there’s the whole Podcast Genome Project business, which is supposedly Pandora’s calling card in the distribution frontier, but I’ve yet to see much conversation, reporting, or data that suggests whether it moved the needle one way or another.

For reference, Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2019 report noted that 43% of US monthly podcast listeners have ever listened to a podcast on Spotify, while 35% of that demo have ever listened on Pandora. That being said, the report came out in April based on a research period compiled from the months before, and I’m fairly certain that the proportions of this line item have probably shifted by quite a bit since then. This is particularly the case given what Spotify reported in its most recent earnings call: “We continue to see exponential growth in podcast hours streamed (39% Q/Q for 3Q19).” No mention of listenership movement on SiriusXM’s equivalent earnings call, which mostly focused on touting its Marvel partnership.

Before we move on, one other related item here: Liberty Media, the John C. Malone-controlled corporation that owns a majority stake in SiriusXM, got itself the Wall Street Journal treatment with a write-up noting that it’s supposedly “planning to step up its bet on podcasts and is looking for opportunities to develop unique content that will draw in customers.”

I’m sure they are.

Salary Spread. You may or may not have heard there’s a living spreadsheet floating around inviting journalists and media professionals to (anonymously) share their salaries. It’s pretty wild to sort through. As always, there’s a podcast angle here, as there are a couple of audio and podcast producer listings in there. (Plus a few mentions of podcast hosting and appearances, which tend to be sorted in as part of a greater array of responsibilities.) Great injection of data in this emerging industry, where producers often find themselves grappling with the question: “How should I conceptualize my salary worth in an environment where public radio no longer has the monopoly on my job?”

One more note: there’s a real big flex tucked away in one of the entries. Shouldn’t be that hard to figure out who that person is.

Slate is now half-podcast. You know, like how humans are more than half water? Is that a clear joke metaphor? No? Whatever. Anyway, here’s Digiday:

Slate is now making half of its overall revenue from podcast advertising, with total downloads up 39% this year following a 78% increase last year. That’s made Slate a relatively large player in the podcast arena, while its site stayed modest in the range of 15 million to 17 million unique visitors per month in the fourth quarter last year, according to Comscore.

Slate, of course, is an old hand at on-demand audio, one of the OGs of the whole “let’s build a business around this thing” mindset. When I think about that company these days, I tend to process them along these lines: here’s an example of a digital media company for whom audio is means not for dominance, but for steadiness and sustainability. You don’t have to conquer the world; just be alive and healthy within it. Though, I’m sure the crew over there would like conquest, given the opportunity.