Issue 232,  published October 29, 2019

Tracking: October 29, 2019

Luminary gets new CEO, raises more money. The news came out last Thursday: former HBO president and chief revenue officer Simon Sutton replaces founder Matt Sacks as CEO, who will now assume the role of executive chairman. The company also announced that it has raised an additional $30 million in Series C funding from “existing and new investors.” A spokesperson declined to comment when asked about the identity of those investors; as the dude Peter Kafka over at Recode/Vox notes, the lack of identification is a “departure from standard practice.”

*thinking face emoji*

Anyway, that the new CEO is a television and cable veteran — and not, say, an audio programming veteran — is an interesting twist, though not terribly so. Shouts to the kicker on Variety write-up of the matter:

Sutton said he first became familiar with podcasting listening to NPR programming on long drives around California. He declined, however, to reveal what podcasts are his favorites.

“I’m going to be meeting a lot of podcast creators who are going to be upset if I don’t name their shows,” he said. “I can only lose by answering that question.”

Additional shouts to the Hot Pod reader who slid this into my DMs: “Sounds like a guy who has definitely heard a podcast before.” 

This Week in Spotify.

(1) Barry McCarthy, the company’s Chief Financial Officer who oversaw its unconventional direct listing, is retiring. Here’s the Wall Street Journal on the matter. And for good measure, here’s what McCarthy said, also in the Wall Street Journal, about podcasts and the company back in the summer:

The investment in new content to drive growth for Netflix was in streaming content on top of the DVD content. For Spotify, the investment is in podcasts. Original podcasting content for Spotify comes with a fixed cost, just like the streaming investment for Netflix came with a fixed cost, and over time, as it became a large percentage of the business, it shifted the Netflix cost structure from variable to fixed. That had some profound implications for the evolution of that business model.

(2) Spotify’s third quarter earnings came out yesterday, and the corresponding shareholder letter made the following remarks about its podcast operations:

  • “We continue to see exponential growth in podcast hours streamed (39% Q/Q for 3Q19), albeit off of a small base. Podcast adoption has reached almost 14% of total MAUs. The U.S. accounts for the largest share of podcast streams but share of listening is higher and growing faster in several European countries.”

  • And perhaps more intriguingly: “For music listeners who do engage in podcasts, we are seeing increased engagement and increased conversion from Ad-Supported to Premium. Some of the increases are extraordinary, almost too good to be true. We’re working to clean up the data to prove causality, not just correlation.”

The reflexive framing here would be establish the narrative as a whole “Spotify’s on track to eat up Apple’s podcast market share” situation, but in reality, it’s hard to do a proper Spotify vs. Apple comp without the latter actually engaging in the disclosure of similar-to-comparable metrics. As far as I can tell, Cupertino remains opaque, which means Spotify gets to run the narrative however it wants right now — and you know what? This is, indeed, a narrative game at the moment, one that Apple isn’t doing much with… to the extent they seem interested at all. 

Apps, apps, apps. Tyler Falk over at Current reports that NPR is consolidating its two apps — the NPR prime app and the NPR One app — into one big fat squishy app-zilla, in a bid to help confused users… and maybe even boost the organization’s app prospects. The audience for both apps had apparently flattened out.

Continuing the thread from last week’s column on contracts. The Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) recently released a rate guide for audio engineers, recordists, sound designers, and composers. As far as I can tell, it’s the first such kind for this spread of audio workers. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Hit me up, or, perhaps more appropriately, hit them up.

Grandpa Grumps: Press releases describing its podcasts as “chart-topping”… GTFO.
Uncle Fun: The Hottest Take is probably… the most perfectly designed podcast in a while, after Song Exploder.