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Tracking: February 15, 2019

(1) Shouts to the few readers that sent me Spotify’s recent filings to the SEC. According to the company’s most recent 20-F: “Subsequent to year-end, the Group entered into agreements to acquire Gimlet Media Inc. and Anchor FM Inc. for purchase consideration totaling approximately €300 million, primarily in cash, subject to closing adjustments.”

Assuming ~$230 million for Gimlet, and adjusting for today’s exchange rate, we can estimate that Anchor’s acquisition number was around ~$110M. As the dude Peter Kafka pointed out, this leaves Spotify with around $60M-$160M left in its intended $500M podcast shopping budget.

The questions I fixate on remain the same: what’s left? And are they going to double-dip in a category? (Will Graham sell off Megaphone, should the opportunity arise?)

(2) So here’s something to note: a collection of seven podcast companies are staging a “Winter Podcast Upfronts” in Los Angeles next week, to be hosted at the UTA Theater in Beverly Hills. Those companies are: ESPN, Midroll, NPR, PMM, WNYC, iHeart, and Wondery. In case you need a refresher: an upfront is a big, fancy media event that serves an on-the-spot marketplace for advertisers. Rile ’em up, get ’em excited, that sort of thing.

Here is what’s interesting about the event: it appears to be separate and apart from the IAB Podcast Upfronts held annually in New York. I wonder how the IAB feels about that. Anyway, the move to open up an advertising marketplace front-line in Los Angeles is a smart one. After all, West Coast-based advertisers and agencies need love and attention too.

All presenting companies will probably have announcements to make at the event. I’ll round them up as I see them.

(3) Spotted in my inbox yesterday: Panoply Media has partnered with Veritonic, the first analytics platform to quantify the value of sound. With Veritonic, Panoply will supplement its years of experience in the podcasting space to develop best practices for producing impactful audio advertising content, while helping its advertising partners choose the most effective ad creative for their campaigns across Panoply’s Megaphone Targeted Marketplace (MTM).

Since its inception in 2015, Veritonic has been a pioneer in online testing and optimization, helping advertisers, audio platforms and others make data-driven decisions in audio creative. They have worked with many of the audio giants in the streaming space such as Spotify, Pandora, and CBS, but Panoply is the company’s first podcast-exclusive partner. Panoply will utilize the platform’s machine listening and learning technology  to garner insights into what resonates best with podcast listeners across different demographics and advertiser categories. The strategy includes A/B testing across various advertising and sound design elements, like voice, script, keywords, tone, and music. Here’s the full press release.

This isn’t directly-related, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned this out loud: I’m curious to see how the whole Spotify news affects how Megaphone’s view its future. As far as I can tell, Megaphone’s long-term goal is to become a primary — if not the primary — podcast marketplace for advertisers. Should Spotify actually make good on its ambition to (a) strengthen its position as a podcast distributor and (b) realize its potential as the advertising back-end for a large portion of podcast listening, I reckon Megaphone views Spotify’s machinations as a threat to its frontier. Hmm…

(4) Some revolving door notes:

  • John Wordock, formerly the executive producer of podcasts at the Wall Street Journal, has moved to Westwood One, where he will serve as the executive editor of podcasting. He starts today.
  • Chris Peterson is leaving iHeartMedia, where he served as EVP of Podcasting, to join Liontree, a boutique bank, where he will be the President of Kindred Media, which I guess is kind of like its communication-outreach division. Anyway, Liontree feels like pretty mid-town Manhattan stuff — though they were a Gimlet investor as well, by the way — and I recommend reading this 2017 New York Times piece to get a sense of things.

(5) Looks like Wondery’s on a press push again. Quote to spot: “[Hernan] Lopez, 48, wouldn’t comment on whether Wondery had been approached for a takeover, calling such talk premature. He says the company is the largest independent publisher of podcasts in the U.S. and ‘very confident in our growth path.'”

(6) Two not directly podcast-related stories that are worth tracking:

  • From Recode: “Apple says it wants to help save journalism. All it wants in return is half of all the revenue journalists make when they sell their stuff through a forthcoming new Apple subscription service. Cue internet outrage.” I’d keep an eye on all the Apple News developments… particularly if you’re one of those folks who believes that Apple should step up in the podcast space somehow. The devil, as always, is in the details.
  • Watching the conflict between the Los Angeles Times and the LAT Guild over intellectual property with morbid fascination. Here’s an open letter written by the latter on the matter. Yes, of course it’s relevant to our interests, come on.

(7) I fuckin’ love this bizarro Jon Mooallem thing.