Month: March 2021

Podstruck #5, March 29, 2021

What is the most popular podcast in America?  Is it The Daily from the New York Times?   NPR News Now from National Public Radio?  Crime Junkie by Audiochuk? MANslaughter from Wondery/Amazon? Joe Rogan (exclusively on Spotify)?  Or, maybe, Lost Hills by Western Sound and Pushkin Industries?  Could it be all of the above?

Sure!  Since there is not a single authoritative, inclusive, “official” ranking/rating for podcast audiences, then, depending on what you consult, it can be!  For podcasts, there are no Nielsen overnight TV Ratings, no Arbitron, no Billboard Chart, and no Hollywood Box Office.  

In terms of popularity, there are a handful regularly published rankings including:

For more read the rest of the Podstruck Newsletter on Substack, and, better yet, Subscribe to get the newsletter delivered to your inbox!

Podstruck #4; March 15, 2021 (aka The Ides of March Edition)

Vincenzo Camuccini, 1806, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


  • Entercom acquired Podcorn for $22.5M ($14.6 cash with a performance earnout).  Podcorn calls itself an “influencer marketplace” and provides a self-service platform for podcasters to connect directly to advertisers. Marketers can either self manage as well, or work directly with Podcorn employees.  Podcorn charges a 10% platform service fee.Podcorn is a relatively modest way for Entercom to bolt on some podcast ad tech on top of their previous content acquisitions.  The platform exploits the long tail – brands can find niche creators at scale and smaller creators can find advertisers.  
  • Podchaser acquired Podcharts (cross app chart tracker) and Podrover (review aggregator) rolling together companies that provide marketing and data services to podcast creators, and, of course, start with the popular prefix Pod.
  • The Amazon/Wondery deal closed and Hernan Lopez exited the company.  While Wondery is officially an Amazon Music play, it also carries value for Amazon’s Audible business and Amazon Studios – not to mention Echo/Alexa.

Products and Content

  • Apple News:  Apple switches its labelling from “Subscribe” to “Follow” for podcasts.  Podnews broke the story and pointed out that several other significant players including Stitcher, Spotify, and Amazon (Music and Audible) already use Follow. Tom Webster of Edison cheers the notion that this change will clarify that these podcasts are free of charge, and will clear the way for the word “Subscribe” to apply to premium podcasts only.  I will attest to the importance of clear and simple labels — in the early 2000’s at Yahoo!, we changed a front page link from “Astrology” to “Horoscopes” and it drove the click rate through the roof!   
  • Apple slimmed it’s smart speaker line up to just the $99 HomePod mini by discontinuing the weaker selling $299 HomePod (which according to reviews had great sound quality).  While the HomePod Mini is cheap compared to the HomePod, it is premium priced compared to comparable products from category leaders Amazon (Echo Dot) and Google (Nest Mini).  According to Edison’s 2021 Infinite Dial Report (see below) the HomePod line carries just 1% of the smart speaker market.


Edison Research / Triton Infinite Dial delivered highly anticipated market research news this week. You can watch the full presentation here, and see the Slides); 

The 2021 Infinite Dial is drawn from a statistically significant survey driven from 1,507 phone interviews conducted primarily in January of this year.

Highlights include:

  • The Online Audio audience continues to grow:  68% of the US population, or 193 Million monthly consumers are online audio listeners;  91%, or 176M listen weekly for an average of 16 hours and 14 minutes per week; Both the weekly %/Monthly % and the time spent indicate significant engagement.
  • Audio Services:  Pandora has 83% brand awareness while Spotify is second at 76%;  However, When asked if they currently ever use a service: Spotify drew 31% and Pandora just 18%.  I would love to see the Net Promoter Scores for Online Audio brands.
  • Smart Speakers:  33% of Americans 12+ (94M people) own a smart speaker and its usually Alexa at 24% vs. Google Home at 13%; Apple HomePod rules the smart speaker roost in just 1% of households — but don’t discount the tens of millions of iPhone users talking with Siri every day.
    • A Majority (53%) of smart speaker households have two or more; and over a third (34%) have three or more.
  • Podcasting:  78% of, or 222 Million, Americans say they know what podcasts are; 162M (57% in total, or 73% of those aware of podcasts), identify as listeners at some point.
    • Podcasts have 116M monthly listeners, reaching 41% the US population;
    • 80 Million Americans (28%) listen weekly. Weekly listeners average eight podcast episodes drawn from 5.1 shows each week. Weekly listeners comprise 69% of monthly listeners 
    • Since 2018, weekly listening behavior has grown at a CAGR of 18%: from 17M to 28M

End Notes

A couple of music podcast recommendations to close the letter. They embody the best of both documentary and evergreen podcasting:

  • Final Sessions is a four episode documentary podcast leading up to the release of Harry Nilsson’s posthumous album Losst and Founnd. The Album and podcast were both released in November of 2019. If enjoy the series, you might also like the documentary film Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Podstruck #3 // Week of March 5

Deals / Companies

The Verge has a first look at Fireside.  Fireside appears to be a more thoughtful and evolved version of Clubhouse that includes podcast hosting, syndication and other services.  Mark Cuban is involved along with co-founder Falon Fatemi. I see Fireside as a host centric podcast and live conversation platform. It could move the space forward for a real number of creators and may set the next bar for minimum acceptable features from podcast hosting and live chat/broadcasting services.

Speaking of creators and Clubhouse, the New York Times declared that “The Era of Audio Creators has Arrived”.  The article covers the launch of a group called Audio Collective which will work with creators, agencies, brands, and studios on a variety of business and product/performance challenges and opportunities.

Square acquired Jay-Z’s Tidal music service for $297M, and Jay-Z will join Square’s board. Bloomberg ponders the reasons, but can’t really come up with a compelling case – concluding that the purchase isn’t necessary to accomplish Square’s music industry finance ambitions.


New privacy rules for third parties by Apple and Google have been in the news for a long time. These changes will impact the Ad Tech world broadly, including Podcasts.  Bryan Barletta of Sounds Profitable recently published a summary of how advertising attribution in podcasting works, and can adjust to the changing environment.




Nominees are out for The 2021 Ambies celebrating excellence in Podcasts active during 2020. Check the nominees out and you might find your next listen. The show will be streamed and winners announced on May 16th.

Apple is collaborating with Common Sense Media to create collections of kid friendly podcasts. The editorial is already up and running here (link opens Apple Podcasts).  Separately, over the weekend, the New York Times recommended 5 Music Podcasts for Kids.

Research and Strategy

Edison Research will be presenting its “Infinite Dial” study detailing consumer media and technology habits on Thursday March 11 at 2pm est.  You can register to Zoom-Zoom-Zoom-a-Zoom in here.

EMarketer and Insider Intelligence forecast that Spotify will surpass Apple Podcasts to become the #1 listening app in 2021.  They estimate both apps around 28M monthly listeners now, but then see Apple stalling at that level while Spotify adds 5M monthly listeners each of the next two years.

Soundcloud tried to create some thunder by announcing an experiment with how artists are paid on its platform.  The “user centric” model aims to more fairly compensate smaller artists for listener activity by calculating payments from each subscriber’s fees and activity vs. an aggregate pool.  This idea/model has been around for many years as detailed in this Pitchfork article from summer 2019 focused on European streamer Deezer.  Soundcloud will still use both the pro-rata method (with their major label licensed music), while layering in the user centric model for its large indie base.

Interesting / Curious / Buzzing

Tom Webster of Edison Research teases some upcoming Infinite Dial data revealing an “uptick” in survey respondents reporting they regularly smash the skip button on ads.  Webster points out that allowing ad skipping is unique to podcasts in the audio world.  

Skip-ability is tied to a basketful of important advertising and product decisions shaping the future of podcast user experience and monetization. On one end of the spectrum is a utopian vision of limited, gently integrated, highly relevant, host read ads with the listener still fully in control of the skip button. Conversely, at the dystopian end, skip-ability is abandoned, dynamically served programmatic advertising dominates an is intrusive, jarring, repetitive, loud, and cacophonous.

The reality will land somewhere in the middle, but exactly where will be important for the industry overall, and for each publisher. Keeping listeners engaged and maintaining a good user experience can be compatible with making money, but it takes hard work.

While the ideal condition is a blend of optimized monetization with optimized user experience, the resulting product usually involves sacrifices on one side or the other.  Aside from the issue of skip-ability, the equation includes ad position, ad load, ad quality, advertiser relevance, brand safety (for both publishers and advertisers), and more. This is not unique to podcasting or new – it’s a set of issues that has been part of electronic media since the first audio ads nearly 100 years ago.

Closing Notes

Acknowledgments:  In the early weeks of writing this newsletter I’m appreciating and leveraging the daily industry coverage from PodNews led by James Cridland, the insights of Edison Research’s Tom Webster (I Hear Things), and HotPod’s Nicholas Quah (paid newsletter).  Last but not least, Bryan Barletta’s Sounds Profitable has been a valuable resource on Ad Tech and Monetization.

What am I listening to this week (on top of the usuals)?

Thank you for reading.  Please follow Podstruck on Twitter