Why Building Scale is Essential to Podcast Success

I was somewhat taken by a line in the press release announcing that Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible has been acquired by SiriusXM’s Stitcher unit. He says:

I want to be with the company that launches new projects, and Stitcher provided us a unique opportunity to focus on the art of creating, developing and producing content we know our listeners will love, while freeing me of constantly thinking about the business of podcasting. (emphasis my own)

Whilst I’m sure it’s not the only reason, I can imagine there’s a certain amount of relief in cashing in your business chips and returning back to the thing you love (the audio) rather than holding out for something that may never come, or worrying about being left behind whilst your medium changes around you.

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Apple’s New Subscription Podcast Features

We’ve talked about it a fair amount here over the past few months – the rumoured plan for Apple to introduce pay-options for podcasts in Apple Podcasts, and, well, it’s finally here. At the top of yesterday’s Keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook dedicated 78 seconds to revealing the new features.

I mention the time partly to be mean, but also to point out the revenues of Apple’s hardware and services business are huge cash generators and no matter how important audio is to us, the big boys have much bigger fish to fry. What they’re introducing today in Apple Podcasts is eminently sensible, pretty well thought out and a great opportunity for some creators, but the reason it’s taken so long is that Apple have always had a better way to make a wheelbarrow load of dollars.

What’s spurred this on now? I imagine it’s the huge competition that they face in the audio space, and a need to reenforce podcast consumption on the iPhone and their other devices when Spotify is running amok in the sector.

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Facebook’s New Audio Features

The people behind eight paid-for subscription newsletters – Platformer, Culture Study, Newcomer, Hot Pod, Deez Links, Garbage Day, Galaxy Brain and Zero Day – have joined forces to collaborate on a Discord server – called Sidechannel.

Discord is basically Slack but for non-work things and started off life catering for gamers and streamers. It’s grown to 250million users who use it for a whole variety of things.

For the newsletter folks it’s an interesting member benefit. I’m a subscriber to Hot Pod and I now get exposed to a bunch of cool people chatting and sharing. It adds some friction if I feel I want to unsubscribe, if it does a good job, so has the potential to be positive for all concerned.

It’s first proper day was today and they kicked off with an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Not a bad get!

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The Mood of the Nation

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh meant significant, instant changes, to the output of hundreds of radio stations and websites. With consumers used to choice and their favourites, many were surprised to be left without them on Friday afternoon.

‘Obit’ – the obituary policy – tends to get activated by most UK stations on the death of a category one royal (the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh) or that of the Prime Minister. The plan tends to be to cancel or regular programming and replace it with content suitable for the mood of the nation

Much of this is steeped in history – and for the days when there was only a handful of TV and radio stations, what all good citizens were glued to.

It went hand in hand with the monopoly driven analogue media world. The stations reflected the mood of the nation, that they themselves had probably created.

Today’s Obit genuflecting is perhaps more driven by a fear of what the Daily Mail will say, rather than what it should be, which is reflecting the tastes of listeners or viewers.

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Permission to Break Format

Commercial radio gets a lot of unfair criticism. I grew up professionally in it, so perhaps I always feel that chip on the shoulder.

Many of the things that are spoken about negatively are conversely the things that can make stations successful – tight music rotations, speed links and research-driven content policies.

Much of why these things work on the radio can often get misconstrued as unbreakable rules. Even people who work in the sector often do the things – but don’t understand why they’re there in the first place.

These tactics are just some that are used to achieve the strategy, they’re not a means to an end.

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