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Is ‘binge listening’ the future?

Plus, more evidence that video podcasts on YouTube are a huge opportunity, and B.J. Novak plays a podcaster.

I hope everyone’s ready for the long weekend. I’ve got some big plans lined up that involve organizing all the cables in my living room… and hopefully getting out to Prospect Park, assuming the weather holds up.

Today, we’ve got updates on video podcasts, binge listening, an NPR diversity grant, and whatever B.J. Novak’s up to.

More evidence that video podcasts are a big deal

Podtrac has a new study out this week looking at how many podcasts are putting out video versions and how well those videos are doing when they’re posted to YouTube. And the answer is not all that many have video yet — but those that do have video are doing quite well.

Here’s the takeaway that felt most meaningful to me: for podcasts that posted full video episodes to YouTube, YouTube was their largest audience source, accounting for more than one-third of unique listeners. Apple Podcasts trailed just slightly behind, representing another one-third, and Spotify made up most of the remaining chunk, with about a 20 percent chunk.

Now look, I think there’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation here. Will YouTube be a huge traffic driver for a podcast simply because video is provided? Or are these shows big because they make sense for YouTube and video? A show like Logan Paul’s Impaulsive is going to do well on YouTube because Paul already has a giant audience over there. I don’t necessarily know that The Ezra Klein Show would be as explosive on the platform.

Still, this is more evidence in the “YouTube is a major podcasting platform” file, and it suggests that for the shows that learn how to take advantage of video, the opportunity is there. Podtrac’s study, which looked at the top 250 shows in February 2022, found that only around one in five shows even had a proper video version with a consistent YouTube presence.

Sony wants you to “binge” its new podcasts

Sony Music Entertainment is giving the Netflix model a try when it comes to podcast subscriptions. The company’s podcast division is launching a subscription channel next month called The Binge (name review: clear but unpleasant) that will drop complete seasons of shows all at once, with something new arriving each month. Sony’s plan is for limited run narrative series to come first to The Binge and run without ads, says Emily Rasekh, an SVP in SME’s podcast group.

If you don’t feel like subscribing — the service will cost $4.99 / month — you can still listen week to week, with ads, as episodes of these shows are released on public feeds. The two-track formula will give Sony the ability to experiment with different release models, which seems particularly important right now. Podcast subscriptions are just starting to take off on Apple Podcasts, where The Binge will live, and this arrangement lets Sony try to expand that business without risking the broader audience available through the main feed.

Sony has had some success with subscriptions so far. Back in September, John Carreyrou told The Verge that Bad Blood: The Final Chapter had around 6,000 subscribers paying $3.99 / month. Even with The Binge, Rasekh says Sony plans to maintain standalone subscriptions for some personality-driven and always-running shows, so the new channel won’t necessarily cannibalize subscribers from the company’s biggest hits.

NPR gets $1 million to work on diversity

After months of conversations around diversity and retention at NPR, the organization has been gifted a $1 million grant to further its “ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work,” the nonprofit announced on Monday

The money will be used to support “the four main categories of our DEI work: audience, content, staffing, and workplace diversity,” says Keith Woods, NPR’s chief diversity officer. That includes two fellowship programs focused on journalists of color.

This gift comes after a series of high-profile departures from NPR over the past year that have highlighted the organization’s DE&I challenges. Back in September, It’s Been a Minute host Sam Sanders illustrated the issue when he tweeted a list of “incredibly talented hosts from marginalized backgrounds who’ve left NPR recently,” which included Lulu Garcia-Navarro of Weekend Edition and Joshua Johnson of 1A, among many others. That list has only grown in the months since, with Sanders himself also leaving NPR.

Of course, one grant can’t fully reshape NPR’s culture, but it comes at a time when the organization clearly needs it. “As a mission-driven organization, inclusion provides the foundation for a strong and healthy future,” said Mollie Hale Carter, vice-chair of the NPR Foundation. Carter made the $1 million grant in a personal capacity, according to Isabel Lara, NPR’s chief communications officer.

B.J. Novak’s new film is about a true-crime podcaster

I don’t think I need to say any more. Here’s the trailer.

That’s it for me today. A quick programming note: given the holiday, we’ll likely skip Tuesday’s issue barring any big news. See you all again Thursday!