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A Subscription Platform for Kids Podcasts

Plus: A short history of podcasting, Crooked Media expands beyond audio, and Barstool Sports takes its podcast to ESPN

Panoply launches on-demand audio subscription platform for children’s programming. The platform is called Pinna, and the service charges $7.99 a month for an ad-free experience that ranges across a wide range of content types, from audiobooks to nonfiction podcasts to experimental-sound 3D listening experiences. The New York Times’ Amanda Hess was given the story, and here’s her rundown of the type of stuff you’d find on the platform:

In addition to snackable audio for younger children, Pinna offers longer, serialized narratives like “Remy’s Place,” an “Eloise”-style series about a boy who lives above a Brooklyn juke joint (created by “Blue’s Clues” composer Michael Rubin), and “Season Isle,” a fantasy series about twins living on an enchanted island. Pinna also snagged Gen-Z Media’s follow-up to “Mars Patel,” the paranormal mystery “The Ghost of Jessica Majors.”

Nonfiction content includes the kid’s trivia game show “ExtraBLURT,” the sports talk show “Good Sport!” and “The Show About Science.” Come November, Pinna will debut a choose-your-own-adventure podcast and, in December, a series styled like an advent calendar, with an episode dropping each day leading up to Christmas. This launch is the latest in a laundry-list of developments surrounding the prospect of children’s podcast programming, which has experienced a steady uptick of interest over the past year or so. Indeed, I’ve written a bunch of stories on the topic, from the independent agitations that would lead to the Kids Listen collective to NPR’s eventual launch of their own Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas-led project, Wow in the World. Underlying all those data points was a conversation that’s distinctly familiar here in Podcast-land, namely that of monetization, but it had an additional complication that’s distinct to its nature: there is, and will always be, an uneasiness around serving advertising to kids. (Think of the children!)

On its surface, then, the move to experiment with a subscription service to serve children’s podcast programming is a pretty elegant way of side-stepping this ethical program with kids and advertising. I’ll be on the record and say that it’s a shrewd move by the folks at Panoply. The question of its success, of course, will come down to the nitty-gritty: can it acquire customers effectively and will it be able to acquire a critical mass of programming that parents would want to give their kids… which is to say, the basics of building a sub-business within their over-arching business.

Pinna will also test that long running nut often muttered in podcast business development hubbub: will people pay for podcasting? My sense is that you can damn well make anybody pay for anything if you do it right. We’ll see if Panoply is up to task on that.

Anyway, I’m due to jump on the phone with the team next week to ask some nuts and bolts questions. Hit me up with your queries and curiosities on the matter.

Side note: I do find it curious that Audible wasn’t the first one to explicit take a swing at subscription kids programming, with their default ad-free position in the market. The latest big swing from them that’s appeared in my inbox: a new Dan Savage podcast, and various new comedy shows from folks like Eugene Mirman, Kurt Braunohler, and Lauren Cook.

Side side note: what would happen if you built a subscription podcast service and swung the other way… into adult programming? Free idea, Audible. Go for it.

Side side side note: Somebody threaded me into someone’s tweet asking: “Why are podcasts still free?”

You know what? That’s going to be the first column I write when I’m back at full duty. I have many thoughts on that… question.

A brief overview of the short history of podcasting, written by me for Wired. Of course, my favorite things about writing for an undifferentiated audience — and writing something as political and contestable as a history — are all the “but what about X” replies that inevitably hit my inbox after every one of these.

To that, I say: sure, you could totally make alternate arguments. Historiography is a craft in which choices are made, and theses put forward. People, events, and ideas get lost from historical narratives over time, and the act of constructing History is an endless fight for placement and representation in the “main” narrative, to argue that perhaps overlooked pockets are actually more meaningful in the overarching story of a thing. We have Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.” We have the so-called “Great Man Theory.” We have The Canon of all kinds.

For my part, I believe in the thesis that the rise of podcasting is intimately tied to structural shifts catalyzed by certain actions of the part of Apple, which isn’t to say that all the other stuff — the birth of Midroll (which I think is incredibly important), the early machinations of Adam Curry (which are noteworthy), or early tinkerers of the first podcast boom — aren’t important. I’m just saying that Apple was the most important, and in a single-page article, that’s the only story that should be told.

Crooked Media expands with more podcasts and a text component. Nieman Lab has a great write-up on the development, highlighting how “Crooked Media views its ‘pivot to text’ as a way to better use the content trapped in its podcasts.” Here’s the meaty portion of Nieman’s Q&A with incoming editor-in-chief Brian Beutler:

Before we had this website, we had these podcasts that had all these interesting conversations happening. Like 43 minutes into a podcast, one of the people being interviewed would said something fascinating or newsworthy, and that valuable moment tended to just escape into the ether. Or we could maybe harness it and post it to social media. Often, though, we would find that more established media companies would notice the interesting stuff that happened in our podcasts and turn those moments into articles or news-breaking blog posts on their own sites. We’ll now be our own home for that.

I’m not… sure if that should be the thinking behind building text extensions from the company’s podcast portfolio. You’d want more established media companies to pick up newsworthy pieces from your output; it is both signifying validation for what was achieved in a podcast episode and also the point of a media company like Crooked Media — that is, to “move” a conversation that other people are having.

Bites

  • The Paragon Collective, the LA podcast network headed up by Alex Aldea that’s responsible for shows like Darkest Night and RuPaul: What’s the Tea?, has launched a new star-studded fiction podcast. It’s called “Deadly Manners,” and it’s a ten-part podcast series that features Kristen Bell, LeVar Burton, Denis O’Hare, RuPaul, Timothy Simons, and Anna Chlumsky. Here’s something to note: the EW.com write-up notes that the series “will premier exclusively” on AMC Network’s streaming platforms Sundance Now and Shudder on Oct 3, but it looks like the podcast is available on Apple Podcasts as well. (EW.com)
  • ESPN is reportedly bringing Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take,” which is a satire of ESPN to some extent, to television as a late-night show, The Ringer reports. It’s weird. A reminder that I’m not 100% on that show’s metrics.
  • Blue Apron is rolling out a branded podcast with Gimlet Media, expanding the nature of its podcast advertising operations. (AdWeek)
  • NPR’s Up First ramped up its output on the day after the Las Vegas shootings, dropping multiple dispatches across the morning to account for breaking updates. I’m told that this is the second time the podcast has done this, and in my mind, it reflects an editorially responsive way to use the RSS feed as a real-time news channel.
  • On the smart speaker front: Sonos has announced it will be integrating Amazon and Google’s voice assistance platforms. (BuzzFeed)