Issue 263,  published June 23, 2020

Tracking: June 23, 2020

This Week in Spotify. More content deals from the Swedish audio streaming platform: one with Kim Kardashian-West to produce a criminal justice podcast that will distributed under the Parcast banner — which increasingly appears to be the most interesting of all Spotify’s acquisitions thus far — and one with Warner Bros and DC, which opens a pathway for podcast projects to be developed around the latter’s vast inventory of comic book characters.

Both are exclusive deals, as you would expect.

Another development from last week, this one a little more noteworthy for our purposes: Spotify is beginning to test an interactive advertising experience that’s meant to allow listeners to take direct action on ad spots through the Spotify app itself. More specifically, the feature is designed to cut the numbers of steps between a listener hearing about, say, a direct-to-consumer brand’s promo code and actually using that promo code to make a purchase.

The company calls the feature “In-App Offers,” and it’s currently being tested in the United States and Germany with brands like Harry’s, Quibi, and HelloFresh.

This move, of course, should be read within the context of Spotify’s efforts around Streaming Ad Insertion, its big podcast ad tech play. As always, whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how you feel about platform power and centralization. On the one hand, this feature may provide advertisers with better conversion rates, podcast publishers with happier advertisers, and listeners with more products in their pockets. On the other hand, a successful execution of this feature would increase the distance between the podcast publisher and the advertiser: where previously podcast publishers would either own the relationship with the advertiser or have to rely on a third-party advertising agency, Spotify would own those advertiser relationships — in addition to serving as the distributor. Which, of course, may commoditize the publisher in the eye of the advertiser, rendering them somewhat disposable in the larger scale of things.

Meanwhile… The Ringer’s issues with diversity gets the New York Times treatment, in a piece that came out last night.

SiriusXM acquires Simplecast. Here’s the press release, details are scant, but I figured all you finance folks in the crowd would want to know this.

This news comes in the same week that Pandora, which is also owned by SiriusXM, rolls out more granular podcast analytics, which gives more user data like where they live and episode completion rates. Here’s The Verge on this story.

Apple’s WWDC conference took place yesterday. No major Apple Podcast news, other than the fact the company will be rolling out an overhauled app experience with iOS 14 when that comes out later this year. Here’s the 9 to 5 Mac write-up. Apparently it will contain a new personalized podcast recommendation feature. Shout-out to the Pop-Up Archive acquisition, way back in 2017.

Public radio orgs rocked by cuts. We already flagged the hits sustained by American Public Media in the last newsletter, which includes the organization laying off 28 staffers, ending The Hilarious World of Depression podcast, and ceasing national production for Live From Here.

But last week also saw hits to two other organizations that are the result of pandemic-related economic fallout: shortly after the APM news went out on Wednesday, Chicago Public Media also announced layoffs, noting that it was letting go of 12 staffers and that it was ending production of Sound Opinions.

That’s not all. A day later, the Boston-based WBUR announced that it, too, was making cuts. The station is laying off over 10% of its staff, totalling 29 workers, and it’s also ending production on two shows: the Kind World podcast, which will wrap its run in July, and Only a Game, WBUR’s long-running weekly sports magazine program that’s also distributed as a podcast.

(The organization also announced that Modern Love, its highly popular podcast that comes out of a partnership with the New York Times, is being brought in-house by the Times. More on that in a bit.)

An incredibly rough week for public radio. For those wondering about the close timing for all these announcements, consider the calendar for fiscal reporting.

I run this thing.