Issue 184,  published November 6, 2018

Miscellaneous Bites: November 6, 2018

LA Hallucinations. KCRW, the Los Angeles public radio station that’s home to such fine podcast products as Bodies, Welcome to LA, Here Be Monsters, and Don’t @ Me with Justin Simien, announced yesterday that it has picked up Nocturne, the independent podcast by Vanessa Lowe, for distribution.

Has KCRW low-key become one of the most interesting podcast publishers in biz? Why yes, yes indeed.

Shareable audio [Caroline Crampton]. 9to5Google has spotted that a new sharing functionality has been added to the Google Podcasts app in the past few weeks. You can now click the dots in the top right of the screen and get a direct link for the show or episode you currently have loaded up. On an Android device, clicking this will open the relevant content straight in the app, and on desktop/other platforms it shows the podcast’s artwork and a link to download the Google Podcasts app. There isn’t yet any support for linking to specific timestamps within an episode, but we can only assume that’s coming, given Google’s previously stated aim of using AI to automatically transcribe podcasts so that listeners can jump easily between sections.

The question “can audio go viral” is a bit of a meme at this point, and I’m not sure that a basic functionality like this is suddenly going to change the game in that department. However, I’m all for easy linking options, especially on a mobile platform that doesn’t have an obvious or default podcast option.

Recode to be folded into Vox.com. The influential tech business news site, launched by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg in 2014 and acquired by Vox Media a year later, is being reshuffled within the organization. According to the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the move, Recode is set to relaunch as a section of Vox.com next year — where it will more formally take advantage of the latter’s editorial, technology, and distribution assets — though the site will reportedly retain its brand and business. Swisher also published a blog post clarifying these changes. If it sounds confusing, Nieman Lab helpfully points to a precedent: a similar shift happened with Racked.com, Vox Media’s retail site, not too long ago, where it has relaunched as a Vox.com section called “The Goods.”

The Wall Street Journal story held up two things: (1) that Recode’s traffic went down 50% year-over-year, and (2) that the audience for site’s podcasts, newsletters, and conferences has increased over the last year, though no specific numbers were given. (One should also add to that whatever revenues they get from their TV partnerships.) Predictably, the various ensuing observational analysis tended to emphasize the former more than the latter, and this is perhaps understandable: without more specific information on the growth of those three other business channels, it’s a little tricky to intuit the outlook of how the audience and revenue gains from those other channels may balance out the losses in web traffic. And given the generally gloomy media environment — and not to mention the general cattiness of the media industry — catastrophic thinking is the default assumption.

As far as intuiting how the podcast piece fits into the company’s current story, this might be helpful: I’m told that Recode’s podcast audience doubled over the past year, and that their podcast inventory has continually sold out at the upper range of ad rates in the industry. Not unrelated: parent company Vox Media doubled its podcast portfolio earlier in the fall. Sure, yes, slap me with the caveats: who knows what the future looks like for podcast advertising revenues, and we don’t know to extent to which those podcast revenues currently make up for digital advertising losses. Sure, maybe one day the podcasting well will dry up. Totally possible. But the overarching trend holds: display advertising on web text is a losing hand, and as far as a non-subscription-first digital media company goes, the logical strategy to continue ramping up revenue dependencies elsewhere.