Skip to contents
Hot Pod Insider
Premium

Insider: October 15, 2020

QCODE raises $6.4 million Series A Spotify introduces new mixed format Follow-up to WGA Audio Alliance... and more!

Just hit in the inbox: “QCODE, a premium content studio and podcast network, announced today that it has raised $6.4 million in a Series A funding round, led by Sonos with participation by C Ventures. Ryan Taylor, General Manager of Sonos Radio, will join the QCODE Board of Directors.”

I tend to not like QCODE shows very much, but gotta say, they’re very effective at the podcast IP farm game that they’re playing.Follow-up to the New York Times. No amendments to my arguments about Times Opinion Audio or the controversy around Caliphate, but I wanted to flag one noteworthy addition of detail: a Times spokesperson confirmed to me yesterday that The Daily now averages about 4 million downloads per weekday.

That’s up from 2 million downloads per weekday count that was last mentioned in the fall of 2019, which means, taking growth from the base number, the show basically doubled over the past year. And that’s just the podcast version — don’t forget that a broadcast version of The Daily is also distributed over 200 public radio stations by American Public Media. The APM website estimates that the radio version reaches more than 2 million listeners per week.

In other words: Barbaro’s dulcet tones reach a fuck-ton of people everyday, though seemingly more over podcast than on the radio.

For reference — and this isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison, because the measurement methodologies are different and are representations of audiences in different ways — the Fox News Channel is said to average around 3.6 million viewers in primetime.

Meanwhile… Here’s a piece from The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey that sets the table for Times Audio’s recent relaunch of the Modern Love podcast, now fully in-house.*eyes emoji*. Falling Tree, the UK audio production house run by Eleanor McDowall and Alan Hall, is withdrawing its participation from Prix Europa, the annual European broadcasting festival, citing that the latter wasn’t able to provide assurances that it would include people of color in the judging panel for its prizes.

“It’s with deep regret that we are unable to reconcile participation in this year’s @PrixEuropa with our commitments as founding partners and signatories of the #EqualityInAudio Pact,” the studio wrote on Twitter yesterday.

For more on the Equality in Audio pact, check out this interview with Renay Richardson, who spearheaded the initiative, from back in June.Spotify introduces a new feature… that’s a little hard to articulate, but has a bunch of ramifications that roll up into one big blob.

So, essentially, this feature gives creators using Anchor the ability to make audio show episodes that stitch together user-generated talk segments and music tracks from the Spotify library. To put it another way: Anchor users are now able to make episodes that can play entire songs within those episodes, as opposed to just chunks of a track, which was the conventional practice in the past due to licensing limitations and norms.

Obviously, the feature’s ability to let Anchor users do this is grounded in Spotify’s arrangements with the various music labels, but there are some quirks to the execution of this music track integration. For one thing, the fact that this feature emerges from those label relationships means that the mixed-creations generated by this feature can only be consumed on the Spotify platform itself. Additionally, there’s some walling-off to the consumer experience: according to Ashley Carman’s write-up over at The Verge, it seems that only Spotify Premium subscribers will be able to actually hear full songs within those audio shows episode. Vanilla Spotify users only get to hear chunks.

This creation tool is being tested among Anchor users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland at the moment, and as part of the roll-out, Spotify is also launching a bunch of original programming from its in-house content divisions, basically as a way to demonstrate and prove the concept. They include Murder Ballads, a Gimlet show that digs into murder ballads (shout-out to my favorite Criminal episode of all time, which about murder ballads); 60 Songs that Explain the 90s, which is maybe the most Ringer show of all The Ringer shows; and Conspiracy Theories: Music Edition, which again, is the most Parcast thing that’s ever come out of Parcast thus far.

Monetization seemed to be a big talking point in the press messaging about this, and the topic was brought up as well on the press call I had about this. I was told that music listens off these mixed-creations will go towards monetized streaming counts for the music artist. (Which is an area of much discussion — particularly about how the returns on streaming counts tend to be miniscule for listen — within the music business circle, though we’ll leave aside for now.)  asked if Anchor creators are also tapped into some monetization system for their own talk segments, and I was told that they will indeed be hooked up to Anchor’s monetization system when that becomes available. I suppose creators could also throw ads onto the talk segments as well, and just square those metric counts with advertisers.

Anyway, the big picture here seems pretty straightforward: Spotify has been tinkering with a bunch of different formats meant to augment the experience around audio shows on the platform, both in terms of creators and consumers. This new format — which doesn’t quite have an official name, making it annoyingly hard to efficiently talk or think about — comes in the wake of Spotify’s experimentations around video podcasting, or “vodcasting.” (Is that the phrase we want to use? Ugh.) All of which contributes to this general arc in which content experiences on Spotify are increasingly varied and divergent from the broader podcasting ecosystem, further decreasing the appropriateness of regarding those experiences as “podcasts” in the classic term and additionally deepening the sense that Spotify seems very much like it’s trying to create its own differentiated thing within its walls.

For what it’s worth, I’m still thinking through the angles of this development. There are two stories here, in my mind: the story about Spotify’s push into podcasting and non-music audio in general… and the story about Spotify’s relationship with music artists and music tracks as a commodity. I dunno, I’m getting very vague and very adjacent TikTok vibes here.

More, probably, on Tuesday, once I have more conversations about this. Let me know if you have any opinions on this new feature.Prologue Project’s Fiasco is now distributed outside Luminary, with help from Cadence13. Prologue and Cadence13 are already collaborating on a bunch of projects in the open podcast ecosystem, including The Edge, the narrative podcast contributing to the further national shame that needs to befall the Houston Astros.

The obvious storyline here is what this says or suggests about the Big Paid Podcasting Gambit known as Luminary, but the story seems obvious: this leak further contributes to the sense that the ship is taking water. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Luminary and (at least its senior) crew lands somewhere comfortably, probably through an acqui-hire by some big telecom company or something. There are just too many veteran media executives packed in its leadership ranks.

span style=”font-size:15px”>Follow-up to WGA Audio Alliance. Was curious about a few details behind this initiative, so I sent over a few questions to the WGA press contact. The answers came back into one contiguous chunk of prose, so I’ll break it up into two parts.

One line of inquiry had to do with the circumstances that led to the formation of this alliance. According to the WGA spokesperson that wrote back:

This year, Writers Guild members who work in the podcast industry came together with the Writers Guild of America, East to start informal meetups for podcast writers and, as the Guild has been interested in this sector for a while, we put resources behind supporting this organizing work (including conducting more research on the industry).

Since those initial meetups, this has expanded rapidly as we had many conversations with writers in the space. As you saw this weekend, there is now a public campaign to get more writers involved and aware of the protections available to them through the union.

The second line of inquiry had to do with the use of the term “scripted podcasts.” My rough understanding — corroborated by the language used in the press release — was that the term is being deployed to primarily refer to fiction podcasts, which I found a little curious, as the protections being lobbied by the alliance seem equally applicable across both fiction and nonfiction narrative/”scripted” podcast genres. It seemed to me to be a situation in which a broader blanker solidarity can be fostered among a bigger chunk of freelance podcast workers.

The response:

As for the definition of “scripted”: the Writers Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement — the contract that primarily covers film/television work, but that can also cover new media work like podcasts — covers freelance scripted writing work, period. We’re still mostly talking about fiction podcasts, as fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now, but the contract is able to cover a freelance script for a nonfiction podcast, too.  A lot nonfiction writing currently is coming from companies that employ full- or part-time staff (and as you know, the Guild is also organizing in that area – i.e. Gimlet, The Ringer, Parcast.)

That said, the lines are blurry — and getting blurrier by the day – which is why it is so important to build solidarity between writers across mediums.  In the podcast industry, writers not only write scripted and non-scripted, fiction and nonfiction podcasts, but also often write feature films, television or news.

As entertainment goes digital, the creative opportunities for writers are more numerous – it’s a matter of making sure those opportunities provide financial stability and quality benefits for writers.

Interesting observation that “fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now.” Gonna tuck that away for later.

span style=”font-size:15px”>Follow-up to WGA Audio Alliance. Was curious about a few details behind this initiative, so I sent over a few questions to the WGA press contact. The answers came back into one contiguous chunk of prose, so I’ll break it up into two parts.

One line of inquiry had to do with the circumstances that led to the formation of this alliance. According to the WGA spokesperson that wrote back:

This year, Writers Guild members who work in the podcast industry came together with the Writers Guild of America, East to start informal meetups for podcast writers and, as the Guild has been interested in this sector for a while, we put resources behind supporting this organizing work (including conducting more research on the industry).

Since those initial meetups, this has expanded rapidly as we had many conversations with writers in the space. As you saw this weekend, there is now a public campaign to get more writers involved and aware of the protections available to them through the union.

The second line of inquiry had to do with the use of the term “scripted podcasts.” My rough understanding — corroborated by the language used in the press release — was that the term is being deployed to primarily refer to fiction podcasts, which I found a little curious, as the protections being lobbied by the alliance seem equally applicable across both fiction and nonfiction narrative/”scripted” podcast genres. It seemed to me to be a situation in which a broader blanker solidarity can be fostered among a bigger chunk of freelance podcast workers.

The response:

As for the definition of “scripted”: the Writers Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement — the contract that primarily covers film/television work, but that can also cover new media work like podcasts — covers freelance scripted writing work, period. We’re still mostly talking about fiction podcasts, as fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now, but the contract is able to cover a freelance script for a nonfiction podcast, too.  A lot nonfiction writing currently is coming from companies that employ full- or part-time staff (and as you know, the Guild is also organizing in that area – i.e. Gimlet, The Ringer, Parcast.)

That said, the lines are blurry — and getting blurrier by the day – which is why it is so important to build solidarity between writers across mediums.  In the podcast industry, writers not only write scripted and non-scripted, fiction and nonfiction podcasts, but also often write feature films, television or news.

As entertainment goes digital, the creative opportunities for writers are more numerous – it’s a matter of making sure those opportunities provide financial stability and quality benefits for writers.

Interesting observation that “fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now.” Gonna tuck that away for later.

span style=”font-size:15px”>Follow-up to WGA Audio Alliance. Was curious about a few details behind this initiative, so I sent over a few questions to the WGA press contact. The answers came back into one contiguous chunk of prose, so I’ll break it up into two parts.

One line of inquiry had to do with the circumstances that led to the formation of this alliance. According to the WGA spokesperson that wrote back:

This year, Writers Guild members who work in the podcast industry came together with the Writers Guild of America, East to start informal meetups for podcast writers and, as the Guild has been interested in this sector for a while, we put resources behind supporting this organizing work (including conducting more research on the industry).

Since those initial meetups, this has expanded rapidly as we had many conversations with writers in the space. As you saw this weekend, there is now a public campaign to get more writers involved and aware of the protections available to them through the union.

The second line of inquiry had to do with the use of the term “scripted podcasts.” My rough understanding — corroborated by the language used in the press release — was that the term is being deployed to primarily refer to fiction podcasts, which I found a little curious, as the protections being lobbied by the alliance seem equally applicable across both fiction and nonfiction narrative/”scripted” podcast genres. It seemed to me to be a situation in which a broader blanker solidarity can be fostered among a bigger chunk of freelance podcast workers.

The response:

As for the definition of “scripted”: the Writers Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement — the contract that primarily covers film/television work, but that can also cover new media work like podcasts — covers freelance scripted writing work, period. We’re still mostly talking about fiction podcasts, as fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now, but the contract is able to cover a freelance script for a nonfiction podcast, too.  A lot nonfiction writing currently is coming from companies that employ full- or part-time staff (and as you know, the Guild is also organizing in that area – i.e. Gimlet, The Ringer, Parcast.)

That said, the lines are blurry — and getting blurrier by the day – which is why it is so important to build solidarity between writers across mediums.  In the podcast industry, writers not only write scripted and non-scripted, fiction and nonfiction podcasts, but also often write feature films, television or news.

As entertainment goes digital, the creative opportunities for writers are more numerous – it’s a matter of making sure those opportunities provide financial stability and quality benefits for writers.

Interesting observation that “fiction makes up the bulk of freelance podcast writing right now.” Gonna tuck that away for later.