Is Hillary Clinton’s podcast propaganda or a milestone for political podcast advertising?

With Her. Well, this is certainly something. Last Friday saw the launch of With Her, the official Hillary Clinton presidential campaign podcast, which both marks a milestone for the industry and, I suppose, is a sign of the times. The show also has the distinction of being Pineapple Street Media’s first launch, the podcast company recently founded by former BuzzFeed director of audio Jenna Weiss-Berman and Longform Podcast cohost Max Linsky. Linsky holds hosting duties on the podcast, which he ostensibly shares with Clinton herself, though one imagines that her extensive campaigning schedule will ultimately have a say in that.

The podcast is an absolute coup for the company and a strong, attention-getting start to its portfolio. The linkup between Pineapple Street and the Clinton campaign grew out of Weiss-Berman’s previous collaboration with the team, back when she worked on BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast that booked Clinton on as a guest last October. “I stayed in touch with her digital team,” Weiss-Berman told me over email. “And shortly after Max and I started Pineapple Street, we started talking to them and we all loved the idea of a campaign podcast that focused on day-to-day life on the trail and not policy.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that last point — the podcast’s focused on campaign trail life and not on policy — ended up being the point of critique for a few media outlets. Politico’s writeup of the podcast bore the headline: “Hillary Clinton finds another way to avoid the press: Her campaign launches a podcast with an on-payroll moderator whose first interview is the nominee herself,” highlighting the show as an extension of a long-running grievances held by the parts of the news media about Clinton’s tightly messaged campaign. That perspective was echoed by Michelle Goldberg over at Slate, who called the show “charming and gutless propaganda” and further argued that “a politician attempting to circumvent the media by creating media of her own sets a bad precedent.”

I don’t buy those critiques. For one thing, media creation — whether through tweets, a YouTube channel, creating a TV spectacle out of a convention, and so on — is an essential tool for a candidate’s political communication, and it’s one that’s part of a much wider set of tools, with messaging through the news media (either directly, e.g. sitdowns with Charlie Rose, or indirectly, i.e. free media) being only one within a larger toolkit. A candidate’s aversion to working directly through the press, as in the case of the Clinton campaign, may well be morally and procedurally frustrating for the press, but a perfectly fine outcome in this scenario is to make the absence of participation mean something as part of the candidate’s larger spectrum of political communication. (Which, indeed, is what is already happening, and we see traces of that in Slate and Politico’s analysis.)

So the media aversion/”propaganda” reading of the podcast isn’t one that really resonates with me, but I think the reason for that lies in an understanding that the podcast shouldn’t be read as anything too dramatically different from it actually is: a political ad.

Consider With Her as yet another example of a branded podcast — not unlike Gimlet Creative’s Open for Business or Pacific Content’s Slack Variety Pack. (Indeed, viewed this way, With Her is quite possibly the first major political ad buy in the history of the podcast medium.)

And because it’s a branded podcast, we should levy onto it the very same questions (of ethics and execution) that we would those projects from Gimlet, and Pacific Content. Questions like: Is the show successful in harnessing the format’s associations with sincerity, authenticity, and intimacy? (I.e: Do the interviews make her feel more real, the way the Longform Podcast and Another Round have drawn out people in the past? Also, just how real can a career politician, so hardened by decades of battle, feel?) Is the podcast able to be engaging while nulling the overarching context that the listener has opted to enter a space where the brand is trying to get them to think and feel a certain way? Is the project doing a good job being clear with its targeting — is it focused on deepening the candidate’s relationship with her supporters, or is it more engaged with humanizing Clinton in the face of on-the-fence supporters? And is the podcast, with its opt-in, on-demand, and high-involvement consumption requirements, appropriate for that?

That’s how I’d approach reading the podcast. Which is why I’ll say this: Based on the first episode (which runs short, at about 15 minutes), I’m not very sure whether With Her will answer these questions much beyond its novelty as the first presidential campaign podcast ever. To be sure, it’s a fizzy and fun listen, and longtime Hot Pod readers know I love love love me some Linsky interviews. But as a person already predisposed to the Clinton campaign, I didn’t feel like I gained anything particularly new or meaningful that wasn’t already telegraphed at the Democratic National Convention. And considering the broader messaging context, I also don’t think it’s clear yet who the podcast is for — and, by extension, how it’s supposed to carry out the aims of the campaign, which (and this isn’t a new thought at all) really struggles with connecting.

That said: It’s only been one episode, and I want to be clear that an assessment like this doesn’t quite honor the immense complexities that go into working with a campaign that aims to win the highest office of the land. (I can’t even begin to imagine the number of clearances that the production must go through.) The podcast is slated to run up until the election in November, and I have a good amount of faith that the team will figure out a way to take this powerful, powerful novelty — let’s not forget the fact that the first presidential campaign podcast is a major milestone for the emerging medium — and fashion it out into a genuine tool of political communication in the future.

What’s next for PSM? Weiss-Berman: “We’re working on lots of great stuff and something I’m really excited about is that we’re trying many different styles. So we’re doing a very heavily produced short-run serialized mystery show, a really fun chat show with The New York Times, Women of the Hour season two with Lena Dunham, and we’re developing a bunch of original shows. And so much more! And all the shows are really different, with amazingly diverse hosts, so I’m hoping they bring in audiences that are new to podcasting.”

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The convention bump. The Republican and Democratic conventions were dramatic and often confusing affairs, and it seems like a significant number of folks turned to political podcasts to figure some stuff out. Indeed, several enjoyed noticeable jumps in downloads across the two-week period. Some highlights:

  • The NPR Politics Podcast saw more than a 50 percent increase in weekly unique downloaders. (That metric tracks the number of individual listeners based on measurements of IP addresses.) The podcast dropped episodes every morning across the conventions, with each edition covering the goings-on of the night before.
  • Panoply reportedly experienced a 35 percent increase in weekly downloads (over the average of the previous four weeks) among their set of political podcasts: the Slate Political Gabfest, The Gist, and Vox’s The Weeds. The Gist, which is already a daily podcast, opted to drop short review episodes every morning in addition to its normal episodes across the period. The other two shows maintained their weekly schedules.
  • The FiveThirtyEight Elections podcast also saw “a big rise in downloads and rankings,” according to producer Jody Avirgan. A spokesperson later added that over the convention period, the team “saw consumption of the Elections podcast increase nearly 300 percent compared to daily consumption before the conventions.” The podcast also dropped episodes daily across the two events.
  • The Ringer’s Keepin’ It 1600, which features former Obama administration staffers Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, saw a bump of about 15 percent. Before the conventions, the podcast had steadily grown up to an average of over 200,000 downloads per episode, and went up to about 230,000 downloads per episode through the two events.
  • BuzzFeed’s No One Knows Anything saw a “171 percent increase in downloads during the two weeks of the conventions, compared to the two weeks before the conventions,” said Meg Cramer, who produces the show. “But, it’s hard to make comparisons, because our convention coverage was different from our weekly show. (Several topical mini-episodes, vs. one big show.)”

These event-based growth bursts are extremely valuable, but the real question is whether the shows will be able to retain the influx of new listeners. Brent Baughman, who produces the NPR Politics Podcast, tells me that, while it’s still a little too early to tell, he estimates that about three-quarters of the podcast’s new listeners have stuck around since the conventions. He also notes that the podcast now enjoys an audience of over 560,000 weekly unique downloaders.

It should be noted that the bumps didn’t come from organic discovery alone. Around the convention period, FiveThirtyEight carried out aggressive cross-promotion efforts that hoped to draw in audiences that exist on its other platforms and on platforms controlled by parent ESPN. Those efforts included a refocus on embedding the podcast in FiveThirtyEight articles, adding language that welcomed new listeners to the show, featuring the podcast in the ESPN app, and working with ESPN Radio to run a spot on terrestrial stations promoting the podcast. “That’s going to start working into the rotation soon, I hope,” Avirgan added. “It’s not going to be a huge push, but frankly I imagine a lot of the kinds of folks who are just tuning in to the election are the types of folks who are listening to ESPN Radio, etc. So, we’re trying to be smart about targeting that group.”

NPR marshalled similar efforts of their own. On July 14, Gimlet’s Reply All dropped an episode containing a guest dispatch by NPR reporter and Politics Podcast cohost Sam Sanders (who, by the way, is an absolute star) that focused on the shooting in Dallas. And in the following two weeks, NPR director of programming Israel Smith coordinated a strong cross-promotion push across the organization’s other podcasts, acutely focusing attention onto the Politics Podcast and its presence on the convention floors.

Key national events like these conventions are essential opportunities for podcasts — or any new medium, really — to prove their worth as possible additions to the world’s wider information architecture, and the onus is on them to make themselves known in times when collective reality feels increasingly distorted.

“I think you build news consumption habits in a year like this,” Baughman said. “It’s a time when you generally want to be more informed than you are.”

An audio newsletter. It’s always a wonder to find a place that’s doing strange and wonderful things.

One such place is Boston public radio station WBUR, which will be launching an experimental 21-day fitness podcast project called The Magic Pill next month. Here’s how it works: People who sign up will receive daily Magic Pill newsletters, with each missive — that can be consumed right off their inbox — containing a short podcast episode that contains exercise tips, stories about fitness, and even some music to get that body movin’. Participants move through three-week-long sequence on their own, as they’re given the ability to initiate the challenge cycle at any time, and their relationship with the podcast will be tightly managed through their interactions with the newsletter.

“In a way, you could call this an audio newsletter,” said Lisa Williams, who holds the title of engagement director at the station. “It’s a real hybrid.”

The challenge is one of the many projects being developed in WBUR’s Public Radio BizLab, a Knight Foundation-funded initiative that seeks to explore possible new business models that can help sustain public radio stations in the future through rigorous experimentation and design. (And let me tell ya’, some of these experiments are fascinating, including a blockchain-powered emerging music library.) The lab is a smart, deeply needed enterprise and, quite frankly, I’m amazed that such a thing exists in the first place.

Like all other BizLab projects, The Magic Pill was designed to answer very specific, testable questions: Could you create a tightly-design podcast experience that plays out within a subscriber’s inbox (as opposed to, say, an RSS feed)? Can the process of creating that experience increase the level of data literacy among the operators at WBUR? And, perhaps most importantly, are listeners who take part in an ongoing experience more likely to donate or become members?

That last question, which focuses on discovering new fundraising avenue within the public radio system, is a crucial pillar for the BizLab initiative. And much of the project designs are guided by tangible, and often frustrating, past experiences. “We did this great project once on Whitey Bulger,” Williams said. “It was just such amazing work, but we didn’t do anything to package it in a way that would get people to support the station more. But when we packaged and sold it as an ebook, about 11,000 people bought it. We left money on the table.” (Interestingly, the ebook, “Whitey on Trial,” is generally available for free, but it’s priced at $1.99 on the Amazon Store — the lowest possible rate — because ebooks can’t be listed there for free.)

When I asked Williams what conversion rates she would consider a success, she guided me to focus more on the balance between outcome and effort. She noted that relatively low conversion rates would still be considered fine, given that the amount of work that goes into making The Magic Pill is significantly less than the huge fundraising efforts that involve heavy participation across the whole station. In Williams’ mind, the emphasis is on the tightness of workflow and a rigor in pushing specific sets of audiences down the fundraising funnel. It is a valiant, refreshing prospect, and I’m curious to see where this goes.

You can sign up for the newsletter here. The Magic Pill project goes live on September 1.

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Bumpers. I believe I’ve been on the record before as not particularly enthusiastic about social audio apps and any relevant enterprise that seeks to make podcasts more shareable on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook more broadly. For me, the arguments largely takes two forms: (1) a sense that the rendering of a piece of media into something more shareable threatens to deconstruct, atomize, and commoditize that piece of media for a whole other purpose — and for podcasts, that fundamentally means a stripping it of its original value proposition, and (2) a general feeling that social platforms are universes upon themselves whose activities should be native to the very structures of those platforms. Plus, there’s a whole square peg/round hole bit to such efforts, and I just find it all rather inelegant.

That said, I’ve still made it a point to keep an eye on new social audio apps like Anchor (my write up here) and Rolltape (R.I.P., my write up here) because I figured there’s always something to learn from such experiments.

Which is why I’ve been tracking a new app called Bumpers for some time now and, I have to say, it’s perhaps the audio-oriented app that comes closest to deconstructing and replicating the original value proposition of a podcast. Where apps like Anchor and Rolltape focused on communication, Bumpers firmly trains its eye on creation and expression — and that, I think, is where it gets the association right.

Here’s how it works: Users record a session through the app, which then automatically segments the recording based on sentences that users can stitch together into a podcast (referred to as a bumper within the app’s universe, for obvious reasons) by selecting and sequencing those sentence units into a whole through the app’s rather intuitive mobile audio editing interface (which, goodness, is key to the whole experience). There’s a library of preset sounds that you can throw into the mix, the additions of which greatly influences the feel of the bumper — not unlike, say, how an Instagram filter alters the feel of a picture.

That evocation of Instagram is not accidental. “I think a good analogy is Instagram for podcasts,” said Ian Ownbey, one of Bumpers’ creators, when I asked him to describe the app, which I had trouble articulating. “Instagram’s goal wasn’t to replace professional photographers — it was to let everyone else easily take and share high quality photos.”

Ownbey, who was an early engineer at Twitter and is also responsible for the OneShot app (which I’ve written about in relation to the theory behind screenshorting audio), has been paying close attention to the dynamics of the podcast space to build Bumpers, and thus is privy the complexities associated with the distribution and listener-end of the ecosystem. A lot of those considerations inform the development of the app.

“The problem isn’t solvable as long as the community is fractured over all these different consumption mediums,” he said, reflecting on the distribution question. “Even if I went out and created a consumption client that had the best discoverability in the whole world, it would be impossible to get adoption high enough that it was useful…If all the listening happens in Bumpers itself (or in an embed from bumpers), we can start to solve these problems.”

For now, though, it’s still early days for Bumpers, and so tackling the distribution angle will have to be a future preoccupation. “Creation is our entire focus right now,” Ownbey said.

Bites:

  • A little more on the NPR Politics Podcast: Producer Brent Baughman believes the experience producing the daily convention episodes have given them a roadmap for possible breaking or morning news podcast projects in the future. “Someone’s going to plant the flag on the morning news podcast, and I think it can be us,” he said.
  • I am super, super psyched over Castro 2, a new podcasting app that shifts the user experience paradigm in such smart, wonderful ways. (Supertop)
  • After the Cleveland Browns, another NFL team has launched their own official podcast: the Baltimore Ravens. (Official Ravens website)
  • According to Current, “the audience for NPR’s newsmagazines and its member stations has been growing,” bucking a recent trend. The organization credits the rise to a bunch of different factors — much of them internally driven, but also one that involves a change in how Nielsen collects listening data — but as Tape’s Mickey Capper tweets out, “wouldn’t the main factor be the election?” Be sure to check out the ensuing thread.
  • “The (Future) Queens of Podcasting.” (The Ringer)
  • This is super cool: “Introducing 1,000 Words, a podcast that describes internet pictures in binaural audio.” (The Verge)

Is “Why doesn’t audio go viral?” the wrong question to ask?

Acast hires WNYC’s Sarah van Mosel to head up revenue efforts. It’s been a while since I’ve heard something official coming out of Acast, the Swedish podcasting company looking to move into the American market. But when news comes, it comes with force, and often with the unfortunate side-effect of leaving my inbox in flames.

Here are the facts: Acast has hired Sarah van Mosel, currently WNYC’s vice president of sponsorships, to serve as the company’s chief commercial officer. She will lead up efforts to build company’s emerging U.S. business, which will likely involve some combination of figuring out revenue generators, partnerships to bolster audience growth, and strategies to increase the adoption rate of the company’s platform offering.

Which is all fine and dandy, but the role may sound somewhat generic at face value, so here’s the necessary context. Acast is probably best described as an end-to-end podcasting company with three core parts of the business: a platform for hosting and content consumption, a content network, and a programmatic ad sales service. Crucial to understanding the platform are two facts: First, the platform supports dynamic ad insertion, which gives rise to the possibility of programmatic advertising in spoken audio (thus placing it directly in competition with Panoply, my day-job employer, and its current technology play, which is due to feature a similar offering); and second, the platform further emphasizes accompanying non-audio assets meant to elevate the audio consumption experience — pictures, graphics, that sort of thing — that can only be viewed if you download the app. The precise value-add there is a little counterintuitive to me, but then again, I only started really understanding Snapchat, like, last month, so give this aging millennial a break.

van Mosel, then, appears to be taking a role where she has to:

  • configure the company’s opportunities for monetization such that they make equal sense to both advertisers and consumers;
  • convince as many potential content-creating partners to adopt the platform and the experimental hypotheses it’s placing bets on in the market (which will be translated into inventory for advertisers and content offering for listeners); and
  • squeeze out as much of that sweet, sweet cashola as possible.

It’s a pretty big job, to say the least.

Van Mosel jumped on the phone with me yesterday, and we talked about what she thinks are the primary points of opportunity. She singled out the value of dynamic ad insertion/programmatic advertising, which probably means pre-recorded spots separate from the core listening experience (and thus separate from the novel value that host-read ads brings to advertisers). She also talked about the potential for native integration and custom content. “All those things are on the table,” she said.

But still, when asked where she thought all of this podcasting business is going in the coming months, she said “dynamic ad insertion is where it’s going to be for anybody who has skin in the game”:

It’s going to be enormous. I think the thing that’s going to push it along is a unification of how we count our metrics, and how we come to an agreed upon a way to make an apples to apples to apples comparison. And the public radio community is extremely close to figuring it out themselves, and when that happens it’s going to trickle out to the other sectors.

Note to close podcast industry watchers: Watch the point about metric unification very closely. It’s a really big issue that’s holding the industry back a great deal, and my stomach has a distinct feeling something official and big is on the way on this front.

Van Mosel’s move to Acast was most likely catalyzed and facilitated by Caitlin Thompson, the company’s U.S. director of content, who had served as an executive editor at WNYC before leaving back in July. This is yet another notable management-level departure in recent months for the New York public radio giant, with van Mosel joining the ranks of folks like Chris Bannon (former vice president of content development and production, now at Midroll) and Ellen Horne (former Radiolab executive producer, now at Audible).

For their part, WNYC appears to have been hiring robustly — the station reached out to me yesterday with a partial list of recent hires, emphasizing that the list doesn’t even include all the “new people in the all the non-programming divisions such as The Greene Space, Sponsorship, Development, Board Relations, Finance, PR, Marketing and all the other functions that create an infrastructure that enables creative people to do what they do best.”

“[van Mosel’s move] might be a win-win for everybody,” said Margaret Hunt, WNYC’s VP of development, the nonprofit equivalent of chief revenue officer, who was also put in touch with me. Hunt mentioned that they were sad to see van Mosel go, but that they “have an opportunity now to bring in a real leader to oversee all the sponsorship revenue for both broadcast and digital.” I asked Hunt what, exactly, will they be looking for in a candidate. “Someone who’s experienced phases of high growth,” she said. “Someone who can be a real talent magnet.” They will be seeking candidates both internally and from the outside.

When asked why she decided to leave WNYC, van Mosel took her time before responding. “I’m incredibly passionate about podcasts,” she said. “And I know that I can, in this role, really take what I’ve learned over the past six years, take the best of it, and focus on what I’ve learned from the marketing community, the ad ops community, and burn away all the fat, keep the lean, and keep the best combination of things moving forward.”

“I have nothing but respect and esteem for the people in WNYC,” she continued. “I know they are going to continue to do great work, and they’re going to keep pushing the market forward.”

van Mosel’s last day at WNYC is December 17. She starts her role at Acast the very next day.

Another round for Gimlet. Whoaaaaaaaaaa. Gimlet Media, the HBO-AMC-Showtime of podcasting, sent an email out to its community last night announcing that the company will be raising an additional round of investment. This will be designated as a Series A round. Gimlet is also once again taking to Quire (formerly Alphaworks), an online investing platform, to open up investment opportunities to more people. Do note: To invest, there’s a minimum of $3,000, and you need to be an U.S. accredited investor.

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What’s a U.S. accredited investor, you ask? According to the Quire FAQ, the SEC defines the individual as “a person who has an individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, exceeding $1 million, excluding the value of their primary residence.” One can also be designated an accredited investor if her annual income exceeds $200,000 in each of the two most recent years.

*looks at my dinner of reheated pizza rolls* Nope. Not me.

More information about the round can be found in this week’s StartUp episode, which will drop on Thursday.

Towards a more intimate share. “The only way to grow social audio is slowly,” said Jessica Taylor, cofounder of an app called Rolltape, when we spoke over the phone recently. “And that’s not something most VCs want to hear.”

Rolltape is a peculiar and highly particular thing. Essentially, it’s an app that lets you send jazzed up voice messages to another person or a small group of people. (“It’s not broadcast, it’s not one-to-one. It’s one-to-few,” said Taylor. “We might go into broadcast at some point, if that makes sense.”) Voice messages on Rolltape are capped at five minutes, but users can elevate recordings using small design additions that are conceived to modify and enhance the experience of the message — a largely decorative color to accompany the file that suggests mood and emotional context, and a musical theme that’s automatically laid down in the background of the recording that introduces and then supports the clip throughout. It’s a little hard to explain, like the mechanics of a baseball pitch or a try of cricket, and yeah, well, it’s one of those things where you can only properly understand by trying it out yourself.

The app is not particularly unique in its take on audio as a social, mobile experience. Over the past few months, I’ve seen a couple of prototypes that take this bite-sized, augmented-by-other-media approach. Most have not been publicly rolled out yet. But the experience of listening to a Rolltape message as it is intended — sincerely, thoughtfully, slowly — is, to be perfectly honest, an astounding, almost transporting experience.

But what does this all have to do with podcasts, or audio more generally?

Like many in the podcast community, I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of social audio; about questions of its ability to be shared or effectively transmitted, along with, of course, its potential for virality. The lead item of last week’s newsletter, “Why audio doesn’t go viral, revisited,” was a fortuitous happenstance, as the catalyzing incident — a Digg Dialog on an old inquiry into the matter — drummed up conversations that kickstarted my brain.

The conversation there left me compelled, in particular, by the logic and assumptions beneath what we’re talking about when we talk about sharing audio. Which is to say, I believe the question we’re really asking is: “Why can’t audio benefit from the social Internet the same way as video, images, or text?”

One of the big takeaways from the Digg discussion is that the Internet is principally visual. Extrapolating this thinking further, one could say that social platforms in particular participate in this extended privileging of the visual. (That video is now the principal growth medium, and the topic of frenzy for both publishers and Facebook alike, is indicative of this fact.) So in order to make audio more shareable, one would have to make audio more acceptable by the demands of these platforms: shorter, more visual, more skimmable, and so on.

One might say that these demands directly contradict what makes successful shows like Radiolab and This American Life so powerful and popular among listeners, what with their patience and conversational slack. One might also say that these digital realities are themselves opportunities for new types of audio content designed for the social landscape; there’s a reason, after all, that most Facebook video content produced by publishers borrow the same visual vocabulary, which is a vocabulary drastically different from film and television.

What Rolltape represents to me is an attempt to carve out a whole new digital space that requests a completely different kind of social interaction: again, sincerely, thoughtfully, slowly. If you don’t like the way the game is played, why not make your own?

Taylor interprets the current state of the social internet in…shall we say, sociological terms. Think about who created these social platforms, she said. “Text was created by white men. Twitter was created by white men. Facebook was created by white men. There is no coincidence that men created more of these transactional form of communications,” she continues. And this has shaped media consumption behaviors. “In the industry, everyone assumes that everyone wants quicker, shorter, faster.” Rolltape, then, is an expression of the other side of a dialectic.

I’m not sure what I think about that, but I can’t help feeling like I’m slightly convinced. (I’m also partially a Beyoncé baby truther, so I’m not the best reader of reality.) And I’m not sure whether Rolltape will ultimately be a thing — it is, in my opinion, still very early days for that company.

But I’m drawn to Taylor’s ultimate premise: the notion of resisting the pull of social, the notion of leaning deeper into the demand of audio to just take it slow. Now it’s just a matter of seeing whether I can make a living off this kind of thinking.

The Sarah Awards: the latest on the audio fiction front. It would seem that not even a domestic calamity can stop Ann Heppermann, a Brooklyn-based radio producer (and friend of Hot Pod) who is organizing the Sarah Lawrence College International Audio Fiction Awards that’s set to take place next year at WNYC’s Greene Space here in New York. The competition, by the way, is now officially open to submissions. Heppermann writes in:

Don’t know if this counts as an an official press release, but despite my apartment burning down The Sarah Awards is now accepting submissions! I didn’t even miss the deadline. Here’s the information.

F*CK YEAH! Glynn Washington agreed to host. I’ll have more details for you later but it’s going to be an epic, weird and amazing award ceremony on April 1.

We also announced our winner for the first Very, Very, Short, Short Story Contest, Ellie Gorden Moershel.

Check it out, folks!

Some fine numbers from Radiotopia’s latest crowdfunding campaign. I’m late to this (yikes!), but November 19 saw the conclusion of PRX’s second major fundraiser for Radiotopia, its beloved podcast network/indie label/hippie commune. This year’s campaign saw over 19,612 contributors on the CommitChange platform, which is a little less than the 21,808 backers that contributed to last year’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. It’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison, given that CommitChange emphasizes recurring donations while Kickstarter is structured more for dense one-time donation campaign runs. But observers may be intrigued to learn from a PRX blog post that 82 percent of contributors signed on as recurring donors. Yowza.

The co-opting of the public radio pledge drive model lives on!

You should check out the blog post in full, as it contains an assortment of lessons that the PRX team learned over the course of this year’s campaign.

Nieman Lab on GE and Panoply’s branded content play. Laura Hazard Owen with that sweet, sweet coverage. Check out the whole article, but here’s the money:

If sponsored content is now considered old news in the world of text-based online media, it’s still a fairly new prospect when it comes to big brands funding podcasts. But it’s likely that this model will come to coexist alongside other podcast business models, like host-read advertisements, programmatic advertising, and reader donations or paywalls.

Cooool beans.

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