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News Rundown: May 18, 2021

The stuff that's been happening around the week.

New York Public Radio fires On The Media co-host Bob Garfield, citing a “pattern of behavior that violated NYPR’s anti-bullying policy.” According to the press release on the matter circulated yesterday, the decision was made following a recent investigation by an outside party, which concluded that he had violated the policy. Garfield was apparently also a subject of an investigation last year, which resulted in disciplinary action at the time. The release also noted that On The Media will continue production with Brooke Gladstone as the sole host.

On Twitter, Garfield wrote: “I was fired not for ‘bullying’ per se, but for yelling in 5 meetings over 20 years. Anger mismanagement, sorry to say.  But in all cases, the provocations were just shocking. In time, the story will emerge…and it is tragic. On the Media was the pride and joy of my career.”

If you’re at the station and would like to talk about it, you know how to find me.

IAB: U.S. podcast advertising revenues climbed to $842 million in 2020, expected to exceed $1 billion in 2021. That’s the headlining takeaway from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s fourth annual podcast advertising revenue report, which the organization released ahead of its upfronts event last week.

The report is based on a study that involved surveying a pool of “leading Podcast Industry players,” taking those self-reported numbers, and projecting out to deliver an estimate of the broader market. In other words, it’s prudent to pay closer attention to the trend line than the actual numbers.

The $842 million in 2020 number marks a 19% increase from 2019, which, of course, is a development that should be read against the larger context of the pandemic. On the one hand, this data point gives further substance to the general take that podcasting has proved to be resilient under pandemic conditions — perhaps even a beneficiary of it — as publishers, creators, and various entertainment industry operators flowed into the medium and its capacity to support socially distant production in search of stable business. On the other hand, the negative economic impact of the pandemic is still present in the $842 million number; the IAB had previously projected the industry to reach $863.4 million in advertising revenue in 2020.

Meanwhile, the report also featured another notable estimate: that podcast advertising would exceed $2 billion by 2023, effectively doubling in size over that stretch. I imagine this projection is driven, at least in part, by corporate enthusiasm pertaining to the industry’s increasing consolidation around a few advertising sales options; the rise of marketplace platforms with greater dynamic ad insertion, programmatic, and targeting features; and basically the ongoing co-option of the podcast space by traditional audio players, who bring their wealth of existing advertising relationships with them into the Hot New Thing.

One should take any and all optimism around these points with a grain of salt, however. The IAB may project that advertising revenue will double over the next two years, but it remains to be seen whether those gains will trickle down to more creators, more shows, and more good jobs — or whether they’ll just be concentrated among a few companies, a few platforms, and a few big talent winners. 

In any case, the IAB report’s emphasis on advertising revenue itself should also be taken with a grain of salt. Given the big subscription tool announcements of the past few weeks and the rising interest around direct revenue for podcasts, the industry’s set to grow far beyond the scope, and interestingness, of the IAB’s future studies.

Meanwhile, at Spotify… From Bloomberg: “Spotify Wants to Hire a Hollywood Vet to Oversee Its Podcasting Studios.” Something to know if you’re keeping the org chart in the back of your head.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, here’s your periodic reminder that behind every so-called No. 1 Podcast is some combination of: an incredible amount of work and effort; considerable time spent and the opportunity costs embedded within; the contributions of an established track record, profile, or celebrity; some amount of innate talent; some amount of risk; considerable investments both monetary and otherwise not always visible to those outside of the show; and some substantial amount of luck.

Sure, you might not need more than a microphone and an idea to start a podcast, but it takes so much more to make a good one, however defined, and it takes a hell of a lot more on top of that to make a decent living off it.

Let’s not underplay the true costs.

Selected Notes.