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Tracking: March 10, 2020

Manoush Zomorodi will begin her run as host of the TED Radio Hour this Friday, replacing long-time host Guy Raz, who you can still find in another corner of the NPR podcast universe asking various successful people how they built stuff.

One more detail to note about this story: in addition to taking over TED Radio Hour hosting duties, Zomorodi’s independent podcast effort, ZigZag, is also joining the TED family of podcasts. That arrangement takes the shape of a partnership: Zomorodi still co-owns the show with her business partner Jen Poyant under the Stable Genius Productions banner, while TED will primarily operate as a marketing and sponsorship partner.

ZigZag was originally launched as a show within the Radiotopia family. It isn’t exactly a full split: PRX, which operates Radiotopia, also serves as a distributor for TED’s audio portfolio.

I asked Zomorodi how her perspective on starting a podcast business has changed since starting Stable Genius in mid-2018. “As long as Covid-19 doesn’t destroy marketing budgets, there are many more opportunities to be a podcast ‘entrepreneur’ [these days],” she wrote back. “And it’s become a wide spectrum: on one end, some people want to build a production house with a slate of shows. On the other end, there’s real demand for solo-preneurs who can make podcasts for businesses or other talent.”

She added: “I think the hardest is right in the middle — launching an independent, high-quality show and breaking through this saturated market is TOUGH. I’d like to see more small but mighty podcasts succeed because they emphasize quality over quantity. Maybe one day ‘just make more episodes’ won’t be the only answer to a financial problem.”

A forever echo of what’s happening everywhere else, which is the death of the middle.

Revolving Door. Conde Nast Entertainment, the entertainment and IP-repackaging arm of the prestige magazine publisher, has hired an Executive Producer of Podcasts: Alex Kapelman, who you might know as the co-creator of Pitch (not to be confused with The Pitch, which itself should not be confused with Shark Tank), and who I know as the guy who made that one podcast where he tried to bail on the Knicks in search of a new NBA team to root for.

Anyway, those curious about this whole business with Conde Nast Entertainment and pods should check out this Digiday write-up from last month. FRANCHISES, BABY, ALL ABOUT THOSE FRANCHISES.

COVID-19 and Advertising. As above, so below. Which is to say, what happens in Big Advertising will at some point impact us here. On that note, some things to mull over:

(1) From CNBC: “Experts told CNBC that if the spread of coronavirus continues significantly, that could result in increased ad spending in areas such as mobile gaming or streaming services if consumers end up spending more time at home amid the outbreak, while ad spend could decrease in areas such as out-of-home advertising.”

(2) From Digiday’s Max Willens: “As interest in Coronavirus has surged globally, publishers have launched a fleet of popup products focused on the disease, including popup newsletters, podcasts, live blogs, and even a text messaging service. But a publisher’s ability to monetize those products is limited.”