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Insider: October 10, 2019

-Blumhouse-iHeartMedia - Audioboom Check-In - Executive revolving door... and more!

Blumhouse strikes up strategic partnership with iHeartMedia, to “produce a series of fictional podcasts for potential, future film and television development.” This isn’t, however, Blumhouse’s first podcast engagement: shout-out to the “exclusive partnership” that the film and entertainment studio struck up with pre-Entercom-acquisition Cadence13 last summer.

So, nothing really new here, other than the arrangement making overt the whole “build cheap here, sell high elsewhere” strategy.

Audioboom Check-In. The London-based podcast company, which saw its CEO Rob Proctor resign last month, released its Q3 update earlier this week. Things that stood out to me:

  • I think this is probably the primo metric to watch: “Total Q3 available premium advertising impressions was 446 million, up 66% from the same period last year… total available premium advertising impressions for the nine months to 30 September 2019 was 1,138 million, up 46% on the same period last year.”
  • Audioboom brought in ~$5.7 million this quarter — a record quarterly number for the company — bringing total year-to-date revenue to ~$15.5 million. The same period last year generated ~$6.8 million, so the business has more than doubled.
  • Global CPMs for September 2019 is $27.38. That’s up from $21.34 in the same period last year.

At the recent IAB Podcast Upfronts in the UK, the company announced a few additions to its original content label, which tended to revolve around celebrity-driven projects. The quarterly update also noted key contract renewals for No Such Thing As A Fish, The Totally Football Show, and The Morning Toast.

Two points of context to insert into your reading of this development:

  • Audioboom went through a failed “reverse takeover” deal with Triton Digital last summer. The Telegraph had a good summer of what happened in the aftermath: “The collapse of the deal left Audioboom weeks from a winding up order when it was unable to complete a stock market fundraising push for the deal. It was forced to pay a £90,000 break fee while hunting additional cash, ultimately securing £4.5m over the summer.” According to the quarterly report, the company’s 2019Q3 cash position is $2.5 million, up from $1.6 million in the same period last year.
  • The UK podcast advertising is a little more competitive than it once was. In particular, we’re watching the joint Stitcher-Wondery venture, which will likely compete for the region’s brand advertiser dollars.

If you’ve been tracking the Libsyn story, RAIN News has an update. According to its most recent report, the company has “has reached a settlement with one of its shareholders, Camac Fund. As a result of the agreement, new members will join the board of directors for the podcast company, including at least one new independent director.” Read the whole thing.

~Influencers~ From Digiday: “Bon Appétit has seen a 64% increase in subscriptions generated from digitally native channels year over year, including plugs from social, podcast and newsletters. Specifically, since August of this year, that number increased to 158%, when the brand began its effort to push subscriptions across multiple platforms, bring awareness of its other offerings to its digital audiences.” Spicy.

On a somewhat similar note. Axios had the scoop, but the fine folks at Nieman Lab have the deep dive: Substack, the newsletter provider (and premium podcast solution?), is seeing its first straight-up media company launch on its platform. It’s The Dispatch, a center-right media company founded by former Weekly Standard and National Review editors Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, and it will take the form of a website, newsletter, and podcast.

The thread for us here is Substack-as-provider of podcast tools, which is situated in the same competitive set as Slate’s Supporting Cast and Patreon.

Talking Heads. A curious tid-bit: the latest Apple Podcast update introduces a new “Hosts & Guests” carousel that… well, shows you hosts and guests associated with a given show. Linking to Steve Wilson’s tweet here, because Apple users can only get it once they update to iOS13 or MacOS Catalina… which I haven’t yet, as I’m one of those people. Seems pretty Celebrity-Oriented for now, but apparently indie shows can become eligible for this feature.

Heads and Vices. I don’t always troll the LinkedIn boards, but when I do, there are often interesting things to mull over. Two to go with lunch:

(1) The now-Entercom-owned Pineapple Street Media is hunting for a Head of Branded Content, likely to extend the division’s position as a branded podcast agency. Something to weigh in light of the now-Spotify-owned Gimlet Media’s recent decision to shift the focus of its branded content division, Gimlet Creative, into creating original shows for Spotify.

(2) Sony Music Entertainment is apparently hunting for a VP of Podcast Revenue Operations. Currently, Sony’s most known position in the podcast space is its joint ownership in the Adam Davidson-Laura Mayer venture, Three Uncanny Four, but I’d take this as further indication of more to come.

Bonus: This wasn’t from LinkedIn, but warrants an eyeball emoji nonetheless: This American Life is hunting for an Executive Editor to “oversee the editorial operations of the program and lead the editorial vision for the show, in collaboration with the show’s Host/Executive Producer Ira Glass.”

Impeachment-palooza. CNN’s Brian Stelter, laying out the observation: “[America’s] leading news outlets are laying the groundwork for long-term coverage of the impeachment inquiry and all the potential fallout… newsrooms are launching newsletters, mobile alerts and other ways to keep people informed.”

Including, of course, podcasts. A few that were highlighted in the piece: WNYC’s pop-up daily podcast with Brian Lehrer at the helm; CNN’s own DC podcast, which has since been rebranded to explicitly focus on the impeachment stuff; and the NPR Politics podcast, which has converted into a daily publishing schedule.

All of this, once again, reminds me of an old Jody Avirgan quote from Feb 2016, which is turning out to be an all-timer: “There’s this perfect storm of people who think that podcasting is an easy money thing, and there’s big news cycle event coming, and so they just put the two things together… I’m sure if this was Brazil and the World Cup was coming up, you’d see a lot of World Cup podcasts.”

We are seeing an evolution of that equation, however. Where it was…

[pods] + [extended news cycle event] = [money?]

The emphasis now appears to be…

[daily pod] + [extended news cycle event] = [money?]

A variant on this thread: the myriad Jeffrey Epstein pods we’ve seen hitting the Apple Podcast charts — on the Top 200 right now: Three Uncanny Four, Wondery, Endeavor Audio; I guess that NY Times write-up came a little too early — which suggests a very [true crime pod] + [news hook] or book publishing-style thinking. Seems mildly effective at the moment… to the extent that Apple chart placement is the goal, of course.