This is gonna be a big ol’ issue about the influence of podcasts. I will waste no time.
The challenge posed by inflammatory pod quotes
In 2016, the actress Tippi Hedren accused Alfred Hitchcock of sexual assault. So why are people talking about it now? Because Dakota Johnson (Hedren’s granddaughter, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame) brought it up in a recent episode of Awards Chatter, a podcast from The Hollywood Reporter. Fortunately, most articles seemed to portray what she said relatively similarly and accurately, but because there was sudden buzz around something that happened somewhere within an 80-minute audio file, I wondered how many people had actually heard it.
I generally get pretty uneasy when a quote blows up after being shared on a podcast since the words tend to be passed around without the original audio that can validate that everything happened as described. That’s in contrast to articles about essays or TV appearances, which often embed words or visuals that readers can see for themselves. To be fair, I get why people take creative liberties when getting podcast content out there: podcasts are long, and longform media is way harder to pass around than TikToks or tweets. What I feel less comfortable explaining away is that when podcast appearances make waves, the original audio might not even be… nearby. Spotify allows you to link to precise points in a podcast — not as good as being able to embed those clips, but I’ll take it — yet I can’t think of a single time I’ve actually clicked on a link that led me there. It feels irresponsible. Quoting audio but not providing it means readers will have to (but likely won’t) spend a long time searching for it in order to hear it firsthand.
Audio is essentially an invisible medium, and it takes patience and skill to make it easy to scan or digest quickly if that’s the goal; as a former producer, I totally get it. I’d love to see — ideally, hypothetically, if the gods would have it — more resources dedicated to figuring out how to handle and disseminate headline-making audio. It’s a different ballgame! The steps and final product should look different than they do for visual media. And I’m excited to see if / how the approach to audio shifts.
For now, I’ll leave you with a few exceptions to the no-audio trend. When Aaron Rodgers and Joe Rogan dropped dangerous takes about vaccines, it happened on video podcasts, which were ubiquitously clipped and embedded in tweets and articles. (Turns out, that was an option for The Hollywood Reporter interview this whole time! It was a live podcast taping! There’s a video version!) And even though they had less framework for what their final product should look like, the team at The Ringer painstakingly clipped and exported tons of offensive podcast quotes for the article that ultimately led to Mike Richards’ resignation / firing from Jeopardy! I’d argue that that’s what made the takedown so airtight. You couldn’t argue with it because it was right there, each quote playable as you followed along in the story. See ya, Mike. (And thank you, Isaiah.)
Friendly swaps go corporate, baybee
A new database from Muck Rack launched to support the historically amorphous strategy of getting podcast hosts to talk about your product or your work just because they want to. If you want to sell ads on a podcast, that’s more straightforward: services exist to help you find the right show for your budget, product audience, etc. But what about that good “earned media” when a person voluntarily hypes up your product / show / publication, or you negotiate to make guest appearances on each other’s shows? How do you track down the right podcast for that? These are questions I hear people asking legit all the time, and now paying Muck Rack customers can use this database to answer them. It compiles things like a show’s recent guests, as well as tweets the show has sent out.
Packaging something specifically for PR purposes is neat and kind of funny. Shamelessly pursue recognition! Make a strategy out of it! I mean, it is called earned media — not, like, bestowed media — but I’ve always associated the phrase with a gentler approach: you’ve done something cool, and you have “earned” my attention. I guess another interpretation is that media is “earned” if you fight hard enough. It’s a pod-eat-pod world; I’m not here to deny it.
Radio still faring… pretty well
You might’ve already seen the Spoken Word Audio Report from Edison Research / National Public Media last week, but I wanted to draw your attention to two things.
First, AM / FM radio gets nearly as much play as all other non-musical audio combined. That’s wild. Yes, radio listening has gone down. Way down, actually, from 79 percent of all the spoken word listened to in 2014, after which it started to get edged out by podcasts and audiobooks. But it’s still at 48 percent. Clubhouse & co have emphasized that people welcomed the live-audio model; obviously, though, there’s still something about good ol’ broadcast radio, no bells or whistles, that intrigues folks.
Second, Edison’s SVP Tom Webster has a newsletter, and on Friday, he dug into what some of the other findings mean for music, given that time spent listening to spoken word is time not spent listening to music. (Total listening time hasn’t increased accordingly.) TL;DR = it’s really hard to be a musician. Contemporary modes of music discovery don’t work in your favor, the way radio-debut models used to. And it’s made even harder by Spotify being incentivized to have fewer users streaming music (and therefore fewer royalties to pay to artists) and more people streaming podcasts (and their ads). It’s a good read.
okay, now I’m moving “moves” up bc I can & also it’s relevant
Every day, audio folks gain more clout, so when they change jobs, it can be a flex for their new institutions (and can raise questions about the ones they left behind). Jazmín Aguilera, who just joined The Cut earlier this year, is already leaving, slated to start as head of audio for The Los Angeles Times. ART19’s director of data Chadd Hollowed is leaving the company for none other than Apple. Irene Noguchi has stepped down as head of audio at Politico, transitioning to executive producer of The New York Times’ Opinion Audio team (which already welcomed Lulu Garcia-Navarro in September). And just a few days before, another member of Politico’s audio team, Jeremy Siegel, announced he’d be moving to WGBH, a Boston public radio station. All I will say is: IN-trist-ing. If you have more to say, you know where to find me.
And here’s a mixed bag of other things that happened
- Libsyn partnered with Samsung to pre-load its shows onto the mobile app Samsung Free. (Yes, Acast did the same thing last week.)
- Medium acquired Knowable, a platform for educational audio lessons touted by its co-founder as existing “between social audio, which is largely ephemeral and non-monetizable, and podcasts and audiobooks, which are far more labor-intensive.”
- CNN released a… “showcast?” It’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown as it originally aired, but just the audio. IMO, the theme song sounds goofy on its own.
That’s all, folks. Take care.