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Insider: November 5, 2020

Megaphone and Pinna earnings The state of Hindi podcasts iHeart partnerships in Australia... and more!

Graham Holdings Q3 earnings report. The company, which owns Megaphone, Slate and Pinna among many other businesses, yesterday released its Q3 results. Megaphone and Pinna are still categorised as “investment stage businesses” and both reported operating losses, although both apparently saw an increase in revenue in the first nine months of this year. Their losses were less than last year, and growth at Megaphone is cited in the report as contributing to an overall positive picture for the company despite the pandemic.The demographics of Hindi podcasting. Indian podcast app Khabri, which focuses on spoken word audio in Hindi — the biggest language by number of native speakers in India — has released some demographic data about their users. Among both creators and listeners, men outnumber women by a ration of about four to one, and the app is primarily used by people aged 18 to 24. That makes sense, given that India generally skews young: more than half of the population are aged under 25.

The gender imbalance is perhaps more interesting, although it’s not so out of step with what we’ve seen in other developing podcasting markets, where the proportion of women listeners has been slower to grow. And of course, there are myriad barriers facing women creators everywhere that their counterparts don’t necessarily have to deal with. That said, this Quartz piece about how podcasts are proving a lucrative outlet for women who struggle to get traction in other media provides useful context.

Khabri is also definitely a platform to keep an eye on, I think. Founded in 2017 by three Indian entrepreneurs, last year it secured seed funding from the likes of Y Combinator and Z Nation Lab. According to a 2019 PwC report, India is the world’s third biggest podcast market (after the US and China) and streaming consumption in the country for both music and spoken word is growing fast.

Spotify launched in India just last year too, and has been commissioning Indian Originals, but lacks Khabri’s focus on Hindi and other regional languages. A comprehensive podcast catalogue all in one place seems like a pretty good pitch right now to the millions of native Hindi speakers, I would imagine.iHeart’s new Australian partnerships. The iHeartPodcast Network Australia, which is operated in the country by the Australian radio group ARN, has announced a new partnership with Diamantina Media. Together with the Australian Podcast Awards, they’re also now producing a show called Behind The Podcast, which profiles Australian podcasters and provides behind the scenes details about their work. I’m always intrigued by attempts to make good podcasts about podcasting, especially ones with a broader audience in mind, so it’ll be interesting to see how this series fares.Podcastle raises $1.75 million.Podcastle, a platform that started out as a browser extension that let users turn text based articles into audio, has raised $1.75 million in a seed round led by Sierra Ventures, bringing their total raised to $2 million. The new funding will be used to expand the offering into podcast creation tools and a discovery platform. It will still be driven by the machine learning that originally powered the AI narration, apparently. The other thing that caught my eye about this outfit? They’re based in Yerevan, Armenia.Revolving door. A few recent moves to know about. Tim Roesler is leaving his role as SVP and chief business development officer for American Public Media at the end of 2020, having “helped lead MPR through a challenging year”. Kayla Lattimore has joined Fresh Air as an associate producer, having previously been a multimedia producer for Sojourners magazine in Washington, DC. And Jane Lindholm, formerly of Marketplace, is stepping down as host of Vermont Edition for Vermont Public Radio in February. She will move to a new VPR role focusing on expanding But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids (which she also hosts) as well as producing special news projects for the station.New venture. Kellie Riordan, founding commissioning editor of the ABC’s podcast unit, has launched her own consultancy called Deadset Studios. The new venture’s first show, Curveball, which is hosted by Riordan, launches 17 November.Hmmmmm. The streaming service has announced a new experiment in the way its personal music recommendations work on the back end: artists and record labels will now be able to have “input” in the process. And there is a paid element to this — artists and labels will have to accept a “promotional recording royalty rate” (aka a lower rate) for tracks that they choose to promote in this way. Although this system isn’t quite as simple as “pay and get featured”, you can take a financial hit and nominate your track to be included in more recommendations.

Of course, this is about music at the moment, but as Spotify’s ad operation ramps up, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that we’ll see something analogous rolled out for podcasts in the future. In exchange for a smaller ad revenue cut, you could get your show pushed higher up playlists like Your Daily Podcasts, say. Which doesn’t strike me as necessarily a good development for the wider ecosystem. Getting a show featured on Apple Podcasts or other podcatchers has always been a bit of a “who you know” exercise, but so far there hasn’t been a paid element to it, so those curated homepages aren’t just at the moment a wall to wall showcase for networks with money to spend.And finally. I found reading this interview with a retiring local radio host in Cornwall a really nice antidote to everything else that’s going on. Laurence Reed has been hosting a weekday phone in show on BBC Radio Cornwall for 25 years, taking something like 5,000 calls from listeners on air during that time. This quote from him especially tickled me for its sense of perspective:

“I can talk about Donald Trump, and maybe I get one or two callers. I talk about dog mess on the beach, and you get loads.”

Reed’s last show is tomorrow, Friday 6 November. If anyone wants to tune in for a dose of cathartic emotion (callers are already crying on the line, apparently), you can stream it here from 7am EST.