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Insider October 29, 2021 — Sirius about podcasting

And a match made in hell

SiriusXM growing in $$ and scope

On their Q3 earnings call yesterday, execs for SiriusXM emphasized the company’s goal to be known as more than just the pre-installed radio feature in your rental car. Whether or not that’s true just yet, they’re certainly spending — and making — a lot of money in the interim.

As is becoming more obvious lately, the company is trying to compete as a podcast provider. When CEO Jennifer Witz noted on the call that Sirius’s non-car listening is indeed on the rise, it was set against the backdrop of the company recently buying the audio company Stitcher and 99% Invisible Inc. — in other words, major podcast moves. More broadly, ad revenue and overall revenue for Sirius have both increased, as has the average listening time of some of its users — importantly, the ones who listen to ads. Sirius’ total revenue increased 9% in Q3 to $2.2 billion, said CFO Sean Sullivan, and the average amount of time that ad-supported listeners spend with Sirius grew since last year, from 19.5 hours per month to 20.1. No specific numbers about podcasting, though: Sullivan shared some figures that excluded Stitcher, reminding listeners on the call that Sirius only acquired the company last fall.

But Sullivan did say this: revenue growth for Pandora, which Sirius also owns, “was aided by our off-platform business, centered around Adswizz and AdWave, and by the addition of Stitcher — together, these contributed 89 million dollars of revenue in the third quarter.” Hmm. Would definitely like to know more about how podcasting is working for them so far.

Fittingly, one person on the call pointed out that Sirius talks a big game about podcasting but is still relatively new to the scene. What would a full podcasting slate look like for the company, the person asked, and how long will it take to get there? Chief content officer Scott Greenstein was quick to step in: Sirius already has enough shows to constitute a “full slate,” he said, just perhaps not enough to constitute a “business” just yet. They are aiming to make it a business, though, specifically through such arrangements as gaining global rights to a show’s ad sales, “like Crime Junkies.” Let’s hope part of that process is getting the names of the shows, right?

Now, speaking of the names of shows, here’s another bit about The Last Podcast on the Left, which, when I first heard about it years ago, I assumed meant “the last podcast on the left side of the political spectrum, because the rest of you aren’t real libs!” A presumptuous claim that led me to categorically avoid the show!

There’s a “time of year” for true-crime/horror podcasts? 

If there had to be one, I guess it would be Halloween, and since Halloween will have passed by the time I’m next in your inboxes, I’ll note this now: A whole slew of podcasts are participating in a Patreon project called Trick-or-True Crime, where users “knock” on creators’ doors and are greeted with, you guessed it, a trick or an exclusive piece of true-crime content. (From the press release: “Maybe it’s just five minutes of Patrick Hinds shrieking into the microphone, or a full-on true crime mini-sode.”)

The game / scheme / marketing tactic draws attention to 16 shows with an existing presence on the crowdfunding site, as well as to what is, in my opinion, a bloated scene. There are so many damn shows that make entertainment out of crime, harm, and fear! Lord! Which, yes, is the purpose of Halloween in many people’s minds, too. And here I was thinking that maybe this year would be the year we got less gory with the holiday, after all the real-life darkness and death we’ve faced. For what it’s worth, though, I also thought that last year, and I think I actually saw more decorative gravestones than usual.

Keeping Slate in Pocket

To speak of a crossover that sits a little better with me, I’ll mention this recent one between Slate and Pocket. Slate is known, among other things, for big-name podcasts like Slow Burn, and Pocket is a tool for storing, categorizing, and revisiting web pages in your internet browser. (Think of it like a suped-up bookmarks bar, except you can do cool things like send links to it via email and integrate it with Twitter and other apps.) Through an ever-expanding partnership, the creators of Slate podcasts will essentially share what’s in their bookmarks, pulling together collections of “deep-dive reads, down-the-rabbit-hole research, and commentary straight from the hosts’ notes.” 

The idea is that this will offer something that’s particularly desirable to devoted listeners, who might want to know the nitty-gritty of how a podcast came together. I personally relate that to the way that some podcasts exist to give a behind-the-scenes look at other processes, like the making of TV shows. Very meta.

Improved visuals for listeners with hearing loss

Do you see me trending upward towards more positive stories? Nieman Lab recently shined a light on a show produced by Vox Media for the way it accompanies its audio with visuals. (Disclosure: Vox Media acquired Hot Pod and owns The Verge.) The podcast, a branded show called More Than This, is accompanied by “immersive transcripts,” which use dynamic text and visuals to try and mimic the timing and tone of the audio that’s being played in the event that you can’t hear it.

What was it about this specific show that led to developing this accommodation, you ask? The idea was reportedly inspired by musician Mandy Harvey, who’s interviewed in the first episode about losing her hearing. The resulting transcripts, which so far exist for all episodes, were then tested by users with hearing impairment. This was helmed by accessibility consultant and disability activist JamiLee Hoglind, who was quoted as predicting that “[t]his podcast’s visual experience is the first of many.” It’s pretty neat — I encourage you to check out what’s been released so far.

*Hi, hello. As a reminder, Vox Media acquired Hot Pod and owns The Verge.

Moves

  • Despite my media diet consisting mostly of Jeopardy!, I do have the capacity to think of Sony as doing other things. And look at that, the company just made two new podcast hires! Monica Toribio will work on podcast finance, and Yvonne Gerald on podcast marketing, in their new respective vice president roles. (This marks the fourth time Gerald has filled a VP-of-marketing role at a company.)

Remember, you can always send me announcements, ideas, and questions at aria.bracci@voxmedia.com! Until then, Happy Hallow’s Eve, weirdos. Please be unproblematic.