Hello again. Welcome to the Tuesday Hot Pod. Today, we’re catching up on all kinds of big moves in the industry, Spotify layoffs, and talking about what makes a podcast a success. Let’s go to it.
But first, one exciting announcement: On Air Fest announced its return in person last week with plans to acquire the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn on February 25-26. Here’s the latest news for us, though: Hot Pod Summit returns on February 24 As part of the festival. For those new here, Hot Pod Summit is an invite-only industry conference where we’ll discuss topics of the moment, interview the big names in the space, and network broadly with the people you want to know. We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks on how tickets will be submitted, as well as what we think of in terms of programming. If there’s something you think we should discuss, feel free to get in touch! I hope we can all gather IRL and get together. Fingers intertwined!
Also, a little housekeeping note that Aria will be taking over a whole bunch of issues next week – I’ll be out of the (home) office, and hopefully enjoying the sunshine. Nothing in the schedule will change, you’ll just get extra Aria time.
Now to the news.
SCOOP: Spotify Disrupts and Tops Its Spotify Studios Team
This morning, I posted the scoop on the edge Spotify is shutting down its namesake podcast studio – Spotify Studios – and laying off some of the team. You can read all the details here, but one thing to note, or at least to my surprise, is how often we hear about Spotify’s podcast endeavors, but rarely about this team in particular. Internally they are called Studio 4, and I could only find one generic reference to that name. That seems to be the crux of what went wrong here. A former employee told me that leadership has been constantly changing, with several bosses tasked with responsibility over only a few years, and although the team has worked on some highly regarded shows, such as Winds of Change, the successes were distributed to other studios, such as, in this case, Gimlet, which acquired the partnership with Pineapple Street Studios for co-production. Welcome to your imagination.
I don’t necessarily read this news as a deeper indication of the collapse of Spotify’s podcast dreams, but more that it maintains a chaotic corporate structure. Spotify has not commented on why this change was made, but in an internal note to employees, Julie McNamara, head of US studios and video, said it would help the company “move faster, make more meaningful progress, and facilitate more effective collaboration across our organization.”
That leaves only its acquired networks – Gimlet, Parcast and The Ringer – to carry out production of Spotify’s podcast, which seems…possible? But more makes me wonder why Spotify can’t effectively build and manage its own in-house podcast team. Anyway, if you have ideas, you know how to reach me. (oh, see Open Direct Messages.)
EXCLUSIVE: A group of podcasts converge to promote democracy
Podcasts Unite for Democracy. A range of programs, hosts, and networks, including many that you’re familiar with, such as Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia, Sporkuland Avery Trufelman and Dan Le Batard, uniting to protect and enhance the security of elections and other pro-democracy issues. The podcasts will promote program representatives, whose goals are to pass “strong state and local laws that fix our broken elections and stop political bribery,” and have all committed to doing so across their platforms and platforms through 2022.
The alliance came together because of Jodi Vergan 30 for 30 And FiveThirtyEight, who was actually involved with a non-profit, nonpartisan group. This is a “critical” moment, he says in conversation with me, and the podcast provides a powerful platform to spread the word about issues such as gerrymandering and voter rights.
“The alliance takes off as threats to American democracy mount,” the group’s website says. “States deny their citizens the right to vote, whether that is by manipulating electoral districts, passing laws that make it difficult to vote, or restructuring the way they conduct elections in order to circumvent the will of the people. It seems that many of our leaders completely reject the concept of inclusive democracy.
It is more about promoting ideas and issues rather than a particular political party or candidate.
Avirgan says the idea is that the podcast uses unsold ad stock for these PSAs and that this all happens on a voluntary basis; There are no hard numerical goals. Instead, he wants to “create a conversation” and hopes you’ll engage more shows. If you want more deets on how to do this I created a Google Form here.
Slate and Forever Dog team up for ad sales
Slate and Forever Dog announced today that they will be working together to sell ads on their Forever Dog offerings, which include Chaser race And after the island. They can also collaborate on new programming. I was wondering what’s new with Forever Dog, an independent comedy network, after several big shows left the network, including BodyBuilding And looking for a cure. Joseph Sileo, CEO and co-founder of the network, told me he’s planning changes according to “time” and expanding host functionality, but this partnership will allow the team to expand – our favorite word – and focus on creating IP for podcasts.
“We needed to expand,” he says. “Scaling up costs a lot of money in a lot of different ways, and I envisioned us partnering with this wonderful company that would like to partner with us, and they could do advertising sales. We will continue to develop the intellectual property, we will take care of the intellectual property development, and we will take care of the effective marketing of that intellectual property.”
Bloomberg asks where are the podcasts?
Twitter-oriented podcast band lit up yesterday in response to a Bloomberg Article: “The podcast hasn’t produced a new hit in years.” The story cites Edison Research’s Top 50 Podcasts list and notes that none of the top 10 shows have premiered in the past two years, all of which have an average age of seven years. The writer, Lucas Shaw, deals with all the pain points: More podcasts are being launched than ever before, which makes them hard to discern; Discover failures and underinvestment in marketing. It’s all true and something the industry is constantly talking about. (And when you invest millions, when can we expect to see something in return?)
But the main problem people face in the story is what is defined as ‘success’. Do you have to be the biggest show in the world to qualify? Personally, I am looking for financially viable programs. I’m thinking of a program like red dread Which brings in over $53,000 per month and was launched in 2018, or even the hub, which was launched the same year and charges $5,500 per participant for its upcoming conference. (To be fair, I have no idea how the event sold, but that sticker price!) It didn’t make it into the top ten list, but both, most likely, make a lot of money, or at least enough to warrant hiring a producer.
At the same time, I’m wondering what investment in podcasting seems like going forward. Yes, Spotify supposedly wants to find the next Joe Rogan in its sea of Anchor creators, but I also doubt that their ad technology goals are lofty. If it can make shows happen across all of the shows that aren’t in the top ten—although some are, too, due to their licensing deals—does it need to own the number one podcast?
I’ve heard from ad buyers that Rogan is the bait for the Spotify ad network. If you want to sponsor this offer, you also have to buy ads on the rest of the network. Perhaps that taste will be enough to attract ad buyers, and if Rogan isn’t revamped, Spotify will likely hope that ad buyers will only return for the massive inventory, not the single score. Basically, do you have to be the creator of hit songs, or do you just have to resell them?
However, I am also writing this after posting an article on Spotify layoffs. Mismanagement, or even just blindly seeking space in the industry without a clear plan, appears to be a potential problem. Even if the company wanted Blow, can they set themselves up to make it happen?
Audi Corniche will launch a new podcast and host a show on CNN Plus
To close the episode of last week’s discussion, the previous Cornish Audi All things considered host, announced this week that she will be hosting a new show on CNN Plus, as well as a new podcast. No other details were provided, so stay tuned for more. And for those who missed it, here’s my story from last week on NPR’s notable turnover.
That’s it for this week guys. There’s a lot of news that we haven’t gotten to, so we’ll likely have a lengthy one on Thursday as well. If you’d like to upgrade your subscription to our Thursday and Friday newsletters, you can do so here. Farewell!