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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.


Tech


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.

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Content

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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

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