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March 2017



Hot Pod Pro: SXSW Notebook, NYT Breaks into Podtrac’s Top Ten

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SXSW Notebook

I’ve never been to SX before — which is just as well, since I’m not particularly great with festivals, large crowds of people, and loud noises; I am, after all, a grumpy old man trapped in the body of a twig — so I can’t speak to how this year’s festivities stacked up against its previous iterations through any specific angle. I can’t say with any certainty whether the podcast industry, and podcasting, had a greater presence in Austin this year compared to the years before, and whether that means anything. But I can say there were certainly tons of podcast stuff all over Austin this year — tons of live shows (Headgum had a line-up, PRX/iHeartradio had a line-up, TuneIn had their own stage, Dropbox had something set up, Vox Media did a bunch of live tapings, etc.) and, or so I’m told by some of the more regular festival goers, a ton of panels and interest in panels about podcasts compared to last year. So if that shift indicates anything to you — that is, whether the increase in podcast-related programming suggests some increasing “validation” by the SXSW organizers operating as so-called cultural gatekeepers, or some similar Bowling Alone-style argument — there you have it.

A few quick things:

  • Do check out Kara Swisher’s interview with the Crooked Media guys over atthe Recode Decode feed. The standout quote, which is written up in the accompanying article package: “They were paying us enough for what was a part-time hobby… We wanted to do a full-time thing. And I said to Bill right after the election, ‘We want to start our own thing because we want to not just be partisan, but also activists, and I don’t think you want all this activism under the banner of The Ringer.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I totally understand.’”
  • Something that was mentioned by Market Enginuity’s Sarah van Mosel from the panel I moderated on Tuesday has stuck with me since: “We’ve been living in a premium world for podcast advertising and sponsorship, but we’re thinking about how that will scale.” And more importantly, how that scale will impact the listener’s experience, which has long been associated with high-touch, thoughtful executions.
  • Related: I had conversations with a couple of teams during my time in Austin expressing interest in building out podcast ad marketplaces. So that’s a thing that’s happening.
  • Also something I noticed: a lot more sass among podcast operatives about each other! I guess things are getting more competitive?

Anyway, let’s move on.

NY Times breaks into Podtrac’s top ten publishers list.

Podtrac pubbed their industry rankings for February 2017 a few days ago — as always, read them with full knowledge of all caveats involved, do be a good data consumer — and it features the introduction of the New York Times in the top ten publishers by unique downloads list (taking the seventh slot), bumping off the technology news network TWiT in the process.

The NY Times’ entrance into the list is presumably driven by The Daily, with its intensive daily publishing schedule, which of course raises the question: just how big is that podcast per episode, with the show sitting near the very top of the iTunes charts for a while now?

If you’re crunching the numbers, you might find these data points useful:

  • For reference, NYT Audio has eight shows in the roster, and published a total of 43 episodes in February.
  • The Daily published 19 episodes in February.
  • Four other podcasts in the NYT Audio network — Modern Love, the Music Popcast, Still Processing, and the Book Review — published 4 episodes last month.
  • It’s unclear to me whether Modern Love is counted both for WBUR and NYT; I suspect they are. Interestingly, Apple’s NYT page doesn’t include Modern Love at this writing. For what it’s worth, Modern Love was reportedly bringing in 300,000 downloads a week when I last reported on the show last April. It has presumably grown since then.
  • Inside the Times posted 3 episodes in February.
  • The Run Up is off-season, but pubbed a trailer for The Daily in early February.
  • The EP, with its unique drop structure, makes the count pretty complicated — to achieve its sequential track list, five episodes were formatted to have published in February.

Obviously, the move isn’t to cleanly divide downloads across the number of episodes. (But for fun: 6,187,000 global downloads divided across 43 episodes published across February yields a 143,883 global download average per episode.)

The move, of course, is to guess-timate the weight of each show. So, I don’t have any personal insight into the performance of any of these shows, so your guesses are as good as mine. However, I will say that I’m not personally weighting all that high an episode download number for Inside the Times, The Book Review, and the Music Popcast — as much as I’m a fan of the Popcast —and the lack of The EP’s presence on the iTunes charts suggest a relatively low uptake since that project launched last week.

Anyway, my own back of the napkin calculation suggests that The Daily is a monster, which I suppose isn’t a surprise. Also: kind of a funny thing to see NYT and CBS’ numbers matched up next to each other. Oy.


This Forbes article on the music industry’s growing dalliances with the podcast ecosystem doesn’t tread much ground that hasn’t already been covered here — and it makes the classic annoying “all you need is a microphone to be a podcaster!” argument — but there are bits of information that’s interesting to me: (1) it links to a short-audio experiment by Sony Music Entertainment that’s being distributed over 60dB, and (2) it makes mention of a platform called Pippa, which was accepted into the music program of Techstars, a startup accelerator.

I’m always interested in reading up on new platform companies — the Megaphone-Art19 landgrab fight is interesting and all, but it’ll be nice to see more entrants make that struggle more dynamic — and there’s a line in the company’s FAQ that stands out to me: “In a few months we will launch our ad marketplace, which will allow podcasters to sell ad spots to advertisers, if they choose.” Second mention of ad marketplaces in today’s newsletter.

Let’s see how this shakes out. (Why is a podcast hosting platform in a music startup program? *shruggie*)

The Hill and Techcrunch launch their own podcasts.

History-Cast” and “Equity,” respectively. If I ever get bored one of these days, I’ll sit down and build out a March Madness bracket for all these media company podcasts. (Hat tip to friend of the newsletter Noah Chestnut for the sweet idea.)

Over in the forums: Project Orange.

In the Water Cooler, long-time Hot Pod member and co-host of the really great food podcast Gastropod Nicky notes that her podcast has signed up for inclusion into the beta of something called Project Orange, believed to be a “social audio” tech platform by SiriusXM. “Any thoughts for or against?” she asks. Nicky also writes: “We took the plunge yesterday, so I’ll update this space as we go…”

Keep an eye out.