Issue 189,  published December 11, 2018

Nick’s Picks on the Other Big 2018 Stories

(1) Haven’t you heard? The Daily News Podcast, i.e. the new front page, continues to mushroom in the wake of The Daily and Up First. (Slate even has two daily news podcasts now! Also, interestingly enough, the New York Times published a thing yesterday rounding up a few for your convenience. Strange!) Two questions on this trend, through: how many is too many daily news podcasts, and where does the daily news podcast go from here?

(2) Click-farm scams on the Apple Podcast Charts seem to have hit fever pitch in recent months — which is to say, the situation has either gotten worse, or it’s always been this bad but is finally attracting a critical mass of attention. (Here’s my reporting on the matter, part one and part two.) Whatever the case, this isn’t a good situation, and the charts, a highly-observed space, feel weirder than ever.

(3) We’re beginning to see the full weight of the podcast-to-television adaptation pipeline. Lore kicked off the proceedings last fall, but this calendar year saw what you could the first full wave of this generation’s podcast-to-television adaptation projects: from Alex, Inc. (now cancelled) to Dirty John to Homecoming to Pod Save America to 2 Dope Queens.

(4) Serial returned for a third season this year, ultimately hitting two high watermarks for the legendary podcast: the biggest launch podcast advertising deal to date, and the biggest season performance to date.

(5) In May, Luminary Media raised $40 million to build a “Netflix for Podcasting.” Yeah yeah, I know that label’s been thrown around a bunch since, like, basically forever, but to my eyes, the company represents the first true test on the matter: for one thing, they’re starting purely from scratch, and for another, their business model is fully pegged to the paid subscription-first structure. Fail or succeed, their exploits will likely bring us some concrete learnings about this alternate avenue for the on-demand audio universe.

(6) New York Public Radio entered the year besieged by scandal, which was catalyzed a December 2017 expose in The Cut and only deepened in the first few months of 2018 through further coverage that shed light on an organizational culture that allowed for bullying, sexual harassment, and other discriminatory behaviors that have especially hurt women and people of color. The rest of the year was noticeably quiet one for the station as it reshuffles its executive ranks and works its way through lingering questions. Things even look bleak from a podcast business standpoint: if you’ve been paying close attention to the station’s Podtrac numbers, its numbers for unique monthly podcast audience size for the US has dropped from 7.4 million in January down to 6.6 million in October, despite an increase of show portfolio size from 48 to 53.

(7) I thought the De-Platforming of Alex Jones was a really important podcast story. Partly because it raises big questions concerning the responsibilities of podcast, audio, and music distribution platforms around hate speech, but mostly because it’s attached to a more troubling development: a trend that sees white nationalists using podcasts to get their word out. It feels like there’s been an uptick in mainstream coverage on the matter — here are stories from the Daily Beast, HuffPost, and CNN. It’s the double-edged sword of podcasting’s historically-defining trait as a contemporary torch-bearer for the open internet. Low barriers to entry means anybody can publish, which means that, well, anybody can publish.