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Tracking: November 19, 2019

Well, that’s a little harsh. The latest New York Times Magazine issue — the annual Tech and Design issue, this time themed around the unforeseen consequences of the once-hopeful Internet — had a piece that leaned heavily on podcasts as its primary case study, though with a headline barbed with thorns: “Even Nobodies Have Fans Now. (For Better or Worse).” Of course,  for some in the podcast/blogging/online publishing community, the whole notion of Nobodies now being able to have fans as well was kind of the fundamental point of the Internet to begin with… for better or worse.

Anyway, the piece ended up being somewhat basic, complete with a mention of podcasting’s so-called intimacy and various straightforward observations about the nature of online communities. I came away from the read with the distinct feeling that it was largely built around the following data point, which is an interesting one nonetheless:

According to Wyatt Jenkins, senior vice president for product at Patreon, podcasts are the second-largest category on the site, and the fastest-growing. In the past three years, the number of Patreon pages for podcasts has quadrupled, while revenue intake in the category has increased eightfold. “Roughly 40 percent of our members — this is a guess — are probably doing it altruistically,” he says. “As a vertical, podcasting communities retain memberships very, very well. A lot higher than some other verticals. They release regular weekly content, and they create this incredibly strong bond.” The quiet but steady growth of direct support as a true monetization channel alternative to advertising has long been a trend that we’ve been tracking, and Patreon, perhaps above all other similarly-structured platforms, seems to be the most prominent actor in this lane. Perhaps we can consider a moment of mainstream recognition for the trend.

O Property Brothers, Where Art Thou? This week, the fine folks over the Brooklyn-based Multitude Studios announced that they’re now renting out their physical studio space for podcasters. As part of the announcement, they’ve published a neat Medium post walking readers through their process of building out the space.

Something to note: in the post, they link out to a spreadsheet breaking down the budget they set aside for the build. I gotta say, few things are more intoxicating to me than a budget sheet — Acoustic caulk! Shipping and Handling costs! Tax! Oh my! My mother was right; I should have been an accountant.

What You Gonna Do. For Vulture, I tried to articulate why the notion of police departments picking up the tools of true crime podcasts as part of a public relations experiment feels deeply unsettling.

Over on Public Media Island… This is cool: “The Texas Newsroom, a first-of-its-kind public radio journalism hub, has selected its first statewide managing editor: Mark Memmott.” More details in this KERA announcement post. More! Regional! Hubs!

Uncle Fun: I’m quite taken with Finding Fred, the Carvell Wallace-led audio documentary series is part deep reading of Fred Rogers’ legacy and part meditation on the idea of empathy in these exceptionally difficult times. It’s wonderfully written, efficient with the sentiment, and most importantly, far from being bald hagiography, which is a quality that often ruins this kind of project. Pairs well with the out-of-this-world Taffy Brodesser-Akner profile of Tom Hanks that came out last week.

Grandpa Grumps: One thing I didn’t like about Finding Fred, though, is its non-host-read ad execution, which really harshes the mellow.