Skip to contents
Stories

Tracking: June 30, 2020

ICYMI. Probably the biggest “whoa, if true” story from last week: The Information reports that EW Scripps is shopping Stitcher around for a sale. SiriusXM and Spotify were cited as possible suitors. As a reminder, Scripps paid over $50 million for Midroll Media in 2015 and about $4.5 million for the Stitcher app in 2016, before rebranding the whole thing as Stitcher in 2018.

For what it’s worth, here’s the logic as I see it: EW Scripps mostly operates in television and radio, and if you’re not going to be able to compete with more focused and bigger spenders like Spotify and iHeartMedia, you might as well sell the thing in a hot market. But I suppose the counter-argument would be: to what extent is the market actually hot, given the pandemic?

On a related note… The public radio mothership has announced new slate of podcasts for the fall 2020/early 2021 seasons. It also announced a new phase for Invisibilia; Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin are leaving the show, and current producers Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse are taking over as hosts. That new version will debut in winter 2021.

ICYMI. Probably the biggest “whoa, if true” story from last week: The Information reports that EW Scripps is shopping Stitcher around for a sale. SiriusXM and Spotify were cited as possible suitors. As a reminder, Scripps paid over $50 million for Midroll Media in 2015 and about $4.5 million for the Stitcher app in 2016, before rebranding the whole thing as Stitcher in 2018.

For what it’s worth, here’s the logic as I see it: EW Scripps mostly operates in television and radio, and if you’re not going to be able to compete with more focused and bigger spenders like Spotify and iHeartMedia, you might as well sell the thing in a hot market. But I suppose the counter-argument would be: to what extent is the market actually hot, given the pandemic?

On a related note… The public radio mothership has announced new slate of podcasts for the fall 2020/early 2021 seasons. It also announced a new phase for Invisibilia; Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin are leaving the show, and current producers Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse are taking over as hosts. That new version will debut in winter 2021.

ICYMI. Probably the biggest “whoa, if true” story from last week: The Information reports that EW Scripps is shopping Stitcher around for a sale. SiriusXM and Spotify were cited as possible suitors. As a reminder, Scripps paid over $50 million for Midroll Media in 2015 and about $4.5 million for the Stitcher app in 2016, before rebranding the whole thing as Stitcher in 2018.

For what it’s worth, here’s the logic as I see it: EW Scripps mostly operates in television and radio, and if you’re not going to be able to compete with more focused and bigger spenders like Spotify and iHeartMedia, you might as well sell the thing in a hot market. But I suppose the counter-argument would be: to what extent is the market actually hot, given the pandemic?

On a related note… The public radio mothership has announced new slate of podcasts for the fall 2020/early 2021 seasons. It also announced a new phase for Invisibilia; Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin are leaving the show, and current producers Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse are taking over as hosts. That new version will debut in winter 2021.

Don’t Miss: This profile of NPR’s Code Switch by The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey. A data point to highlight: the podcast experienced a whopping 270 percent surge in downloads in the wake of the anti-police brutality protests compared with its previous thirteen weeks.Meanwhile. Stitcher has an intriguing new narrative podcast with Market Road Films called “Unfinished: Deep South“; Pineapple Street is launching a new show hosted by Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn later in the summer; now that Cam Newton’s a Patriot, I have mixed feelings about the upcoming Cam Newton audio doc by The Ringer’s Tyler Tynes.This is super cool: Death, Sex, and Money is collaborating with Love + Radio on a special series, called “Skin Hunger.” I’m told that it’s a series in two parts, and that will draw stories from listeners of both shows with interviews conducted by both Death, Sex, and Money’s Anna Sale and Love + Radio’s Nick van der Kolk. Most intriguingly, it will also blend the music and sound design styles of both shows. Big fan of crossovers, could use more of ‘em.This is also super cool: MacMillan Podcasts is collaborating with Apple Maps to create a custom map based on the former’s upcoming podcast series, “Driving the Green Book,” which is being produced by Lantigua Williams & Co.Heads up: Edison Research is releasing its first report on Latino podcast listeners in the US later today. There will be an English-language webinar at 1pm ET, and a Spanish-language webinar at 2pm ET. Here’s the link to register.This is kinda unexpected:From The Verge: “Reddit will ban r/The_Donald, r/ChapoTrapHouse, and about 2,000 other communities today after updating its content policy to more explicitly ban hate speech.”

Chapo Trap House, of course, is the highly popular “dirtbag left” podcast, though the subreddit is described by the article as a “spinoff” of the show.This is pretty unexpected: From Politico: “How a veteran’s secret podcast put her in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.”

That podcast, by the way, is the also highly popular Mueller, She Wrote. Remember the Trump impeachment? Damn.New BBC Podcast Unit [by Caroline Crampton]. The BBC Radio in house production unit relaunched on Monday as “BBC Audio”, having formerly been known as “BBC Radio & Music Production”. I went into more detail on this in Friday’s Insider, but the key element of this restructuring is the designation of a new Creative Development Unit for podcasts in Bristol, to be headed up by Clare McGinn. With a core team of four, this unit has the remit to make shows both for radio stations and BBC Sounds, as well as working with “teams and individuals new to podcasting on pitching and development.”

So far, so W1A. The part of this news that is coming up most in my discussions with sources at the BBC, however, is its location: Bristol is in the south west of England and is home to a very prestigious and old university as well as some of the wealthiest suburbs in the whole of the UK. (You might have come across it recently as the place where protestors threw a statue of slaveowner Edward Colston into the harbour, a move that the city’s black mayor welcomed.)

The mission statement for BBC Audio commits it to representing everyone in the UK, but the commissioning power for podcasts so far seems very concentrated in areas traditionally over represented in the media, ie London and Bristol, with only a couple of people (including the Controller of BBC Sounds, Jonathan Wall) based in Salford near Manchester. Prior to the pandemic, outgoing director general Tony Hall had announced that more BBC jobs in journalism and tech would move outside of London, but it’s unclear how much support that devolution agenda has now in an economic downturn, and whether any senior editorial jobs will ever be relocated.Times Radio debuts [by Caroline Crampton]. Rupert Murdoch’s new radio station, Times Radio, launched this week on the UK airwaves. This is News Corp’s big push against the BBC — it has already poached a number of presenters and journalists — and part of the company’s ongoing attempt to replace falling print and digital newspaper advertising revenue with subscriptions. The latter is clearly visible in the station’s name, which connects it to another Murdoch property, The Times newspaper, and the fact that a number of that publication’s journalists are now also hosting radio shows. It also launches without sponsors, instead using all slots to push subscriptions.

Of course, Times Radio was conceived of in a pre-pandemic moment when relations between the BBC and the government couldn’t have been worse. But there’s been a rapprochement of sorts in that quarter since the UK entered lockdown, and I can imagine that some of the big name BBC staffers who triumphantly announced their departure for the new venture back in February might be privately regretting that they no longer have access to the “default” broadcaster status that the BBC enjoys during a crisis.

It’s far too soon to make predictions about the fortunes of Times Radio, of course, but I did just want to highlight one moment from the station’s launch day that might provide a teachable moment for anyone else debuting a new station or show any time soon. Smart speaker users on Monday struggled to use Alexa get hold of Times Radio in London, instead being redirected to a station called “Times Radio Malawi”, based in East Africa, while those on Google devices reported getting a UK station called Radio X, as the assistant mistook the word “Times” for a multiplication symbol, apparently. A timely reminder of how hard it is to name things these days.