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Anchor Raises $10M in Series A

Plus: Advertising week, PodcastOne's insane story, and Joe Biden's read-a-long

Anchor Raises $10M in Series A. So, I would have titled this item as “Another Fundraise,” but I did that the last time, and really there’s no telling how many more there is to come. Not any more at this point, anyhow.

The once-buzzy social audio platform that seeks to “democratize the creation and consumption of audio” — more so than it is right now, I suppose — has bucked the trend of investment money being funneled into primary podcast businesses and secured $10 million of its own, bringing its overall funding volume to $15 million. The Series A round, led by Google Ventures (or GV), includes the return of Accel, Betaworks (which has also invested in Gimlet), Eniac Ventures, and The Chernin Group (where former Midroll CEO Adam Sachs now calls home) as participants, along with Homebrew, Atlantic Records’ CEO Craig Kallman, and author Nir Eyal as new contributors. The inclusion of Kallman continues the trend of including music operatives in the funding mix; American DJ and entrepreneur Mick Batyske participated in the last funding round.

With the news of the investment also comes news of an executive addition: Dave Altarescu joins as VP of Marketing. Altarescu is the former Director of Marketing at Spotify, and most recently served as the Director of Product Marketing at Verizon Digital Entertainment.

You can find the press release here.

Two simultaneous thoughts: on the one hand, I’m still not quite sure what to make of Anchor. The app principally positions itself as a maker tool and platform, a rig that caters towards a new universe of user-generated audio content. Its recent endeavors has seen the platform take steps towards inserting itself into the broader podcasting universe, including the introduction of a feature that allows for quick-publishing to Apple Podcasts and a clone of WNYC’s Audiograms project (which itself is a clone, I guess, of This American Life’s Shortcut). Which is to say, I’m pretty dubious about Anchor’s whole language of “figuring out how to make audio social” in the press release.

But on the other hand, I am a firm believer that any conversation around “what’s a podcast” vs “what’s not a podcast” is in large part operationally useless. We might well live in a paradigm where a piece of media is defined by the container that holds it, but there’s some reason to believe we’re soon to shift away from that: that we build businesses less on the specificities of a podcast infrastructure, and more on a broader notion of getting audio content out to wherever it may flow appropriately. (Which is to say: RSS Feed + Smart Speaker + Bootleg DVD + Live Event Hall + Blared out from a car speaker moving down a road).

In any case, Anchor’s various machinations strike me as a move to, and forgive me for the tortured use of “X for Y” constructions, cultivate a “YouTube for Audio” — a technological-entrepreneurial play that’s generally guided by the dream of platform dominance, the achievement of which has generally led to… let’s say up-and-down outcomes. But then again, the endgame isn’t quite clear to me, so I’m not 100% on the analysis here.

Follow-up to that PodcastOne story. This week I momentarily broke my sabbatical to briefly write up that insane PodcastOne story which featured, among others things, a lawsuit, gunplay, and manipulated data.

Later, I got an official statement from a company rep attributed to CEO Norm Pattiz himself, that I believe was the same statement that was sent to TMZ. It’s… uh, a pretty colorful statement. Here’s a chunk from it:

His allegations are absurd. From the day this company was founded to today, our numbers have been reported through independent third party companies working with our hosting and technology provider — Nox Solutions. What occurred has nothing to do with numbers and reporting. Our Production Assistants have no access to feed data and no means to affect them even if they wanted. Mr. Hernandez was fired for stealing intellectual property from PodcastOne — a theft he admitted to committing. A year later, he threatened to go the press with these ridiculous claims unless we gave him millions of dollars. At that time, we had an outside law firm investigate and confirm that his allegations were baseless — just a shakedown for money. When we explained that we don’t pay ransom, he went to TMZ. Each and every assertion is preposterous on its face and we will see him in court.

What a crazy story.

Podcasts at “Advertising Week.” I blurbed this on Tuesday, and I’m told that there wasn’t really much from the panels that brought up things we don’t already know. (But, I mean, really, these things aren’t actually for the programming, y’know?) If you still need a summary, InsideRadio’s got your back.

For broader context, though, here’s the Wall Street Journal: “At Advertising Week, Anxiety Lurks Among the Agencies.

Consumer reactions to podcast advertising, per Morning Consult:

  • 54% of respondents find Podcast Ads intrusive (most intrusive: Internet Ads, 75%; least intrusive: print ads, 44%);
  • 43% of respondents think Podcast Ads are the most well-targeted (most well-targeted: Social media ads, 46%; least well-targeted: TV ads, 37%);
  • 42% of respondents think Podcast Ads are the most entertaining (most entertaining: TV ads, 60%; least entertaining: Internet Ads, 38%).

The study was distributed under the broader framing of “Consumers Love to Hate Ads but Won’t Pay to Escape Them,” as part of a larger conversation about the follow-through for premium ad-free services.

Here’s the study post.

Isn’t the TV ad situation fascinating? The least well-targeted, but the most entertaining. I think you can begin to build a more general theory from those data points.

Joe Biden now has a podcast of his own. Sort of. Well, not really. Whatever.

The product is called “Biden’s Briefing” — and not, as friend of the newsletter Eric Johnson pointed out, “Biden Time” — and it’s essentially… well, The Skimm-meets-audio-meets-Joe Biden, where the former Vice President says hello before the experience rolls into a series of articles read out by voice actors. For this very straightforward product, Biden reportedly collaborated with a startup called Ground Control, the talent firm Creative Artists Agency, and the text-to-audio startup SpokenLayer.

The thing seems to primarily be built for smart speakers — I mean, it makes a ton of sense — but you can also find it where you’d normally find podcasts, like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. CNN Money has the story.

We live in weird times, folks. Biden’s foray into podcasting deepens the string of political figures — specifically that of the Democratic bent — getting on-demand audio rigs of their own, including Hillary Clinton, Preet Bharara, and the expanded universe of former Obama staffers known as Crooked Media. (And let us not forget who arguably seeded the trend in the prehistoric era: the Democrat John Edwards, who launched a pod back in 2005. Oooh boy.)

Is it any good? Look, I love Joe. I’m a big fan of Delaware, a bigger fan of Amtrak. But, uh, nah man. The people want Biden, not Biden’s Pocket archive.

Related: Also on the podcast-train — Ed Miliband, the former leader of the Labour party in the UK. BuzzFeed has the write-up.

Self-Driving Cars and You. Loved this piece from Nieman Lab looking at the efforts of three public radio operatives — KQED’s Umbreen Bhatti, KPCC’s Kristen Muller, and NPR creative director Liz Danzico — to study how self-driving cars might impact the public radio system. (And, by extension, non-music audio of all kinds.)

The entire write-up is worth a read, but here’s the chunk that stood out to me:

There was a small stir in car circles yesterday when several sources reported that the new Tesla Model 3 — which has limited self-driving capabilities — comes with no AM/FM radio at all. Tesla later said FM radio, at least, would be turned on via software update at some point in the future. But the company is also reportedly negotiating directly with music labels to create its own proprietary streaming service for its cars — more evidence, if we still need it, of the power technology companies have over media consumption decisions.

Damn.

National Public Media and Edison Research publishes follow-up to its Smart Speaker Report. You can find the report here, but here are the things that stood out to me:

  • 52% of heavy Smart Speaker users are under the age of 35.
  • 28% say that getting a Smart Speaker caused them to pay for a subscription service.
  • 20% of self-identified Primary Users of the Smart Speaker in the household regularly use the device to play podcasts, versus 3% of non-Primary Users.

Hmm… I’m still processing Brent Merritt’s “A brief history of media measurement,” published earlier this week as a post on Medium.

Bites

  • Holy shit, Casper: “Casper went to war with a popular mattress reviews site — then financed its takeover.” Don’t fuck with the mattress. (Recode)
  • And while I’m just linking the crap out of Recode content: Jad Abumrad was on Recode Media. (Recode)
  • Just a reminder that WNYC’s Werk It festival is next week, taking place outside of New York for the first time. (Press release)
  • WBUR is launching a daily podcast of their own, but one that focuses on sports. “Season Ticket” comes out of a partnership with the Boston Globe. (Website)
  • “CPB-backed diversity project draws close scrutiny.” Woof. (Current)