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Insider October 28, 2021 — More indie shows go corporate

While WNYC and Radiolab pursue a YouTube strategy

It’s been a week of earnings calls — and here at Hot Pod, I’m going to go ahead and say Q3 was a success! I have zero data to back this up; we’re purely riding on vibes and feels. I just think I should report this to my stakeholders, which is essentially you all. 

Today, we go deeper into our discussion about YouTube and podcasting with a piece on one show that’s investing in it and then hit on some quick news stories, like the ongoing developments of whatever the heck is happening at Cumulus with Dan Bongino. Onward!

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EXCLUSIVE: Radiolab looks to YouTube to bring its new miniseries to the masses

WNYC’s committing to YouTube. Well, sorta. Chief marketing officer Ayesha Ahmad tells me she and the team are experimenting with the video platform for the release of Radiolab’s new miniseries, MIXTAPE. Episodes of the audio show will be put on YouTube and paired with a video of a cassette tape playing and turning over midway through. The idea is to try and reach the people who listen to YouTube in the background while doing other things — instead of listening to chill music, why not try a podcast? 

The first MIXTAPE video will be up on the network’s YouTube page tomorrow, and the team is also actively working on a Radiolab “best of” video playlist, along with turning some other miniseries into videos, like Dolly Parton’s America. These videos aren’t super high production, says Ahmad, and instead, the back catalog videos will likely just include show transcripts over some imagery.

“There’s a perception out there that public media isn’t engaging with technology, isn’t thinking big, isn’t doing interesting things,” she says. “This is one area that I feel that we, through some research, have found a potential distribution channel that would help us not only achieve our goals of building a diverse audience, but also grow our audience, and also put us more at the forefront of trends.”

With all that said, I cover this not because uploading a podcast to YouTube is highly unique, but because I think we’re continuing to see the interest from publishers — and, potentially, the audience — about listening to podcasts on YouTube. With the incoming free background listening in Canada, it’s possible we’ll see many more people listening to music and podcasts. If there was ever a time to set up a YouTube strategy, now might be it. 

However, I do have to point out that WNYC has shared clips on YouTube in the past, and many did not perform well. The channel has slightly less than 9K subscribers. Launching a YouTube page is hard! These Radiolab videos will appear on Radiolab‘s own YouTube page, which has 37,000 followers, so maybe they’ll have a better shot at finding an audience there. Ahmad didn’t share a clear idea of what success looks like for the network, but I’ll be checking in on those subscriber numbers in the coming months to see how this all played out.

The Bongino meltdown continues

The reports are flooding out of Cumulus in relation to its Bongino problem. For those of you who missed it the first time around: Dan Bongino, a right-wing podcaster and former cop, is vaccinated because he’s a cancer survivor. He’s also very angry about his employer Cumulus’ vaccine mandate to the point that he’s issued an ultimatum. It’s him or the mandate. We left off at that point, and yesterday, we got stories from both Salon and Podcast Business Journal about the deteriorating situation. 

Salon reports another Cumulus radio host, Dave Jackson, is now feuding with Bongino because he thinks Bongino is “virtue signaling” because he only made this threat months after the mandate was announced and weeks after it was in place. Bongino called into Jackson’s show and described Jackson as “delirious,” while Jackson countered and told Bongino he has a “tough guy routine” but that he understands “you got a bit, and you are playing it.” Incredible content! I love a feud — true entertainment. 

Anyway, Podcast Business Journal reports Bongino’s show is now in “best of” mode for the remainder of this week. During his latest episode, he complained about Cumulus and said, “If you trust your content, don’t ever sign any long-term deals with anyone.” Something tells me Bongino’s lawyer has flagged that exiting this contract is going to be difficult! Cumulus is keeping mum on the whole thing, but truly, I am DYING for the goss on this, so if you have a heart, you’ll share with your girl. 

Now, onto more news of people signing contracts with two indie shows going corporate.

Stitcher and SiriusXM sign a deal with Ed Mylett

The Ed Mylett Show, hosted by the eponymous inspirational speaker, is taking his show to Stitcher and SiriusXM starting November 2nd. The “multi-year” agreement is the first for Mylett, as the show was independent prior to this point. Sirius says the show, which has been regularly released since 2017, has been downloaded over 90 million times. Sirius is, of course, the sole place advertisers can buy ads for the program going forward.

We’ve seen a bunch of Sirius deals lately, with the company gobbling up indie shows that it can monetize and use to beef up its ad inventory: Crime Junkie, New Rory & Mal, and Last Podcast On The Left are just a few. Plus, it acquired 99% Invisible over the summer.

Which brings us to the next indie show to be sucked up into a mothership…

Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso goes to Pushkin and iHeart 

Sam Fragoso, the host of Talk Easy, is bringing his weekly culture show to Pushkin and iHeart after five years of being independent. (Acast sold Fragoso’s ads prior to this deal.) 

Pushkin is handling the marketing, production, and operational support, while iHeart will be in charge of sales. (iHeart sells all of Pushkin’s shows.)

“​​After five years of making this show independently, I’m overjoyed to be part of Pushkin,” Fragoso says in the press release. “Their vision is singular, programming superb. Above all, though, they do what I’ve always hoped a creative partner would do: they care.”

Again, this is part of a bigger trend we’re seeing of independent shows tying themselves to bigger companies for more reach and support. The companies get to beef up their ad inventory and add reputable names to their roster, and the indie folks can take a slight load off knowing they don’t have to hustle all by themselves.

Spotify claims it’s the top podcast player in the US, sells lots of podcast ads

Spotify hosted its earnings call yesterday, and many outlets, including The Verge, have you covered on the nitty-gritty details, so I’ll spare you. The thing we care about, though, is that Spotify is claiming to be the top podcast listening app in the US. Tom Webster over at Edison Research tells me this data came from its Podcast Consumer Tracker subscription service. It asked the 8,000 weekly podcast consumers what platform or service they use the most to listen to podcasts, and Spotify came out number one. This is based on audience / reach, not downloads, he stresses. 

Presumably, if you’re making podcasts, you’re focusing your efforts on both Spotify and Apple and every other podcast app, which you should continue doing! But sure, Spotify can take the victory lap here and enjoy this moment.

Also pertinent to us is Spotify says it now has 3.2 million podcasts on the platform, up from 2.9 million at the end of Q2. A good question here is how many of these are actually active? Spotify itself released over 100 original and exclusive shows across the world, which is wild to me. The company continues to go all in on exclusives, even as we’ve seen a couple high-profile podcasters leave for wide distribution. (The Joe Budden Podcast and Last Podcast on the Left, for two.)

Spotify also says one in five advertisers is now participating in its ad marketplace, and it points to its opening up of the network to Anchor creators as an opportunity for scale. (I want to go longer on this eventually, but I am thinking about how advertisers are feeling when they can’t tailor their ads to an individual show and have really no clue where their ad will show up.) Lots to consider here!

I’m also thinking about how we cover earnings in this newsletter going forward. What do you need? What do you want? If you have feedback, let me know!

Dating app Hinge becomes part audio app

The voice era of dating apps has arrived; Hinge is making voice prompts part of the app. Instead of typing out the answers to a question, daters can instead talk them out. They have 30 seconds to do so, and Hinge says two out of three daters it polled said they thought voice would help them “better determine their chemistry” with someone. I have nothing snarky to say here other than this is speaking to the idea that audio is going to become part of various apps across industries more frequently. I’m already all in on voice notes, so I bet if I was dating, I’d want to suss out someone’s voice before committing to a date. We deserve to know the truth! (And I’ve definitely shown up to a date and been disappointed by someone’s voice. I hate to admit it.)

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We’re in and out today. Thanks for sticking around and subscribing. Your support means the most! You know how to reach me if you have something to share. Aria’s covering you tomorrow and Tuesday, as I’ll be out moving. (Yes, I have an apartment, bless.) GoodbyyyyeeeeeEEe

Update October 29, 2021, 5PM ET: Updated to reflect that Radiolab’s videos will run on its own channel.