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Insider: October 8, 2020

SiriusXM said to be close to new Stern deal This Week in Spotify The Thinking Around the Team Coco-Audible deal... and more!

Let’s start with… The fact that Call Her Daddy’s Sofia Franklyn has gone solo and launched her own show, Sofia with an F, this week. As you might recall, Call Her Daddy was the subject of a pretty public feud back in the summer between its hosts, Franklyn and Alexandra Cooper, and Barstool Sports, which acquired the podcast in 2018.

Taylor Lorenz over at the New York Times wrote the story up when it was still playing out, and the entire episode carried themes that ran adjacent to the other podcast intellectual property discourse that started bubbling up around that time.

The New York Post, which has covered Call Her Daddy with some strange intensity, has a more detailed write-up of Franklyn’s new podcast launch.SiriusXM said to be close to new Howard Stern deal. Bloomberg with the close watch, published on Tuesday:

Howard Stern, the radio shock jock who’s maintained his star power in the podcasting era, is nearing a contract renewal with Sirius XM Holdings Inc. that would boost his pay to about $120 million a year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Stern’s contract with Sirius expires at the end of December, and the 66-year-old has been negotiating a fresh deal for the better part of the year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are ongoing.

Of particular note in the report: Stern’s team had apparently held “preliminary conversations” with Spotify, but sources told Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw that those discussions didn’t end up going very far.

As always, keep in mind that deal negotiations of this magnitude tend to involve some amount of public performance, with one or both sides taking to the press to distribute messaging tog get points across or to improve their respective positions. Which is why you’ll also see things like this follow-up report published on Wednesday, by Bloomberg as well:

Satellite-radio star Howard Stern told listeners Wednesday morning that he isn’t yet close to a new contract with Sirius XM Holdings Inc., but he said the reported figures he’s heard sounded good to him.

“I have seen no contract, I have heard nothing about this money,” Stern said on his SiriusXM show. He added, “I’m ready to take that deal if I can get it — it sounded awesome.”

Theater aside, I don’t think it was ever very likely that Stern would have seriously considered going anywhere else. A legend of traditional radio, Stern is largely understood to be the centerpiece of SiriusXM’s satellite radio business — one that remains core to that company in the midst of a changing audio/radio landscape, and even as the company only begins to seriously take podcasting and the prospect of an audio world where on-demand comes first, which we can peg to the planned ~$300 million acquisition of Stitcher.

Put simply, Stern is just too valuable for SiriusXM. And besides, what’s the point of Stern going over to something like Spotify, where he wouldn’t be the most important voice on the roster?Radiotopia’s Passenger List is being adapted for television and is currently worknig on its second season, Deadline reports. It’s unclear, at least to me, whether Kelly Marie Tran will also be attached to the television adaptation. I sure hope so, because if they whitewash that shit, a plague on everybody’s houses.You Must Remember This is now distributed by Cadence13. Here’s the press release. I think the argument can be made that Cadence13 is what Panoply would’ve looked like if the latter was able to successfully execute on what was once its content ambitions. Ah well, life goes on.

This Week in Spotify. Couple of things on this front.

Firstly, Spotify has voluntarily recognized the Parcast Union. This means that all three content divisions that were acquired into the company now have formally recognized collective bargaining units. That doesn’t the entirety of Spotify’s original content divisions have organized, however. There remains the fourth, and native, Spotify Studios banner.

Secondly, and this is probably interesting for the audience development/marketing folks in the crowd, the platform has rolled out a new “Promo Card” feature that’s meant to help podcasters create “eye-catching shareable social media assets.” More details in this Engadget write-up, and on the dedicated feature page itself. (Shout-out to Audiograms/Short Cut.)

Thirdly, spotted off Twitter:

An interesting fault line to watch. Also, more interesting when viewed through the whole “host-read endorsements are the best embodiment of podcast advertising” perspective — though, of course, Spotify’s Streaming Ad Insertion thesis was always going to apply some pressure to that idea at some point.

This Week in Spotify. Couple of things on this front.

Firstly, Spotify has voluntarily recognized the Parcast Union. This means that all three content divisions that were acquired into the company now have formally recognized collective bargaining units. That doesn’t the entirety of Spotify’s original content divisions have organized, however. There remains the fourth, and native, Spotify Studios banner.

Secondly, and this is probably interesting for the audience development/marketing folks in the crowd, the platform has rolled out a new “Promo Card” feature that’s meant to help podcasters create “eye-catching shareable social media assets.” More details in this Engadget write-up, and on the dedicated feature page itself. (Shout-out to Audiograms/Short Cut.)

Thirdly, spotted off Twitter:

An interesting fault line to watch. Also, more interesting when viewed through the whole “host-read endorsements are the best embodiment of podcast advertising” perspective — though, of course, Spotify’s Streaming Ad Insertion thesis was always going to apply some pressure to that idea at some point.

This Week in Spotify. Couple of things on this front.

Firstly, Spotify has voluntarily recognized the Parcast Union. This means that all three content divisions that were acquired into the company now have formally recognized collective bargaining units. That doesn’t the entirety of Spotify’s original content divisions have organized, however. There remains the fourth, and native, Spotify Studios banner.

Secondly, and this is probably interesting for the audience development/marketing folks in the crowd, the platform has rolled out a new “Promo Card” feature that’s meant to help podcasters create “eye-catching shareable social media assets.” More details in this Engadget write-up, and on the dedicated feature page itself. (Shout-out to Audiograms/Short Cut.)

Thirdly, spotted off Twitter:

An interesting fault line to watch. Also, more interesting when viewed through the whole “host-read endorsements are the best embodiment of podcast advertising” perspective — though, of course, Spotify’s Streaming Ad Insertion thesis was always going to apply some pressure to that idea at some point.

Speaking of which… Here’s something I didn’t expect to see on the Apple Podcast carousel:
Speaking of which… Here’s something I didn’t expect to see on the Apple Podcast carousel:
Speaking of which… Here’s something I didn’t expect to see on the Apple Podcast carousel:

Meanwhile, in Seattle. Not much new to glean from this Financial Times piece about “how podcasting became a new front in the streaming wars,” but this detail about Amazon Music is worth filing away in the back of your head nevertheless:

“It’s still such early days in podcasting. More widespread consumer adoption just started happening in the last two years,” said Steve Boom, head of Amazon Music. Mr Boom declined to say how much Amazon was investing in podcasts, but said the amount was “much more modest” than Spotify.

Emphasis mine. For the record, I continue to hold the impression that Amazon doesn’t really have a clear idea what it wants to do with podcasting and how it really wants to handle the strategy; which is to say, I think the recent movements within Audible and Amazon Music are chiefly happening because they felt compelled to act on the hype.

For what it’s worth, my personal read is that Amazon’s most worthwhile pathway probably runs through the smart speaker… as Apple’s acquisition of Scout FM (née Subcast) earlier this year might very well indicate.

Anyway, as much as I’m inclined to be skeptical about Audible’s re-entry into “podcasting,” I do quite like a good deal of the original programs they’ve been putting out — specifically when it comes to fiction. My sense is that we’re looking at a situation in which paid Audible users are just the right taste set to match with more fiction audio shows.

Also, just to clue you in on something: I’ve been going back and forth on including Audible Originals in the picks I make for the podcast recommendation newsletter I do for Vulture, 1.5x Speed. On the one hand, I generally like to be respectful of the arguments that these aren’t, technically speaking, “podcasts,” given the fact they are not distributed over the open podcast ecosystem and are locked behind Audible’s walled garden. On the other hand, it’s the more audience-centric thing to do, and I do believe that words and meanings are evolving things. Besides, more “podcast people” are getting opportunities from walled gardens, and my interests have traditionally tracked more with the people (and the companies) than the technology itself.

Anyway, this is perhaps too much of a navel gazing discussion. But it is interesting to me that the New York Times’ book critic, Parul Sehgal, reviewed the audiobook-only Audible Original “Fauci,” which was produced by Pushkin Industries, earlier this week. That show, along with Gaby Dunn’s “Apocalypse Untreated,” are on my list of potential 1.5x Speed targets, and I continue to mull.Speaking of Audible… Was pretty curious about the strategic thinking behind Team Coco’s recently announced production partnership with Audible, so I reached out to COO Adam Sachs (formerly of Stitcher) with a few questions. He was kind enough to oblige.

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Hot Pod: How do you generally approach the question of working directly with different platforms?

Adam Sachs: From both a business and creative perspective, we see value in working with varying platforms with distinct business models. Our scripted series tend to be shorter run — around 10 episodes per season — with much higher production effort and budget in comparison to our unscripted shows, like Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. Those scripted series are difficult to viably produce via the traditional, host-read ad model… not to mention that they don’t even typically have hosts to begin with.

A subscription model, however, is well equipped to support short run, high production-value shows. On the flip side, Stitcher has been a very helpful partner in monetizing and distributing our unscripted series to a broad audience. And from a marketing perspective, each platform offers something unique that allows us to tailor promotional efforts to tap into their existing audiences depending on the show, or individual guest, we’re promoting. In Audible’s case, they have massive potential reach and data targeting capabilities to help bring in new listeners.

In short, we want to make high quality shows in our voice and we love experimenting and we’re grateful that there are different platforms out there to help support those efforts.

Hot Pod: What do you see as the specific value of working with Audible?

Sachs: Well there’s the reach capability mentioned above. But additionally, they put significant effort and resources into promoting their series in a way that often resembles what you might see for a TV series launch (eg., billboards, TV spots, etc).

Audible has a proven track record of creating successful scripted comedy series, like Heads Will Roll. Their audience is familiar with the format and increasingly they’re attracting big talent to their shows. They’ve been good creative partners too. They give us plenty of autonomy, but they also have wise, format-specific notes that come with their experience being leaders in the space.

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You can find Sachs on Twitter here.Finally…  ICYMI: This week’s Servant of Pod features an interview with Roman Mars on the occasion of ten years of 99% Invisible and the publication of his book with Kurt Kohlstedt, The 99% Invisible City.