My six-month dive into podcasting’s very chaotic year


That is Sizzling PodThe Verge’s e-newsletter about podcasting and the audio business. Enroll right here for extra.

Effectively, this can be a bizarre electronic mail to put in writing — right now is technically my final day at Sizzling Pod. However you’ll nonetheless see my byline round every so often as a result of I’m becoming a member of The Verge’s information crew in November. Beginning subsequent week, the e-newsletter will completely be again within the very succesful fingers of lead Sizzling Pod reporter Ariel Shapiro. Though I’m unhappy to go away, I’m additionally actually excited to see her take the reins once more and proceed to churn out the protection that Sizzling Pod is understood for. 

It’s in all probability not a shock to most of you that I knew little or no about podcasts earlier than taking this job again in April — a time that additionally coincided with some seismic adjustments within the podcast business itself. Though my background is in tech reporting, I’m usually recognized for writing tales like this and tales like this. Weirdly sufficient, I additionally covered Spotify’s acquisition of Podsights and Chartable method again in 2019 for Engadget — a narrative that I’ve no reminiscence of really writing. I realized a ton in a brief time frame by counting on the work of my Sizzling Pod predecessors, which embody Ariel, Ashley Carman, and Nicholas Quah — in addition to the assistance of my editor, Jake Kastrenakes. However I additionally relied on the ideas and experience of quite a few Sizzling Pod readers. So thanks to your assist over these previous a number of months — in addition to trusting me to inform your tales. 

A few individuals at Podcast Motion famous that the entire Sizzling Pod writers have had very distinct kinds. Clearly, we’re all totally different individuals — however all of us took over throughout very distinct durations for the business at massive. In my opinion, Nicholas and Ashley lined the guarantees and failed hopes of the “golden” period of podcasting and the push of dumb cash that made it attainable. For me and Ariel, our problem appears to be methods to doc an business that’s in the course of a contraction — but in addition determining methods to survive and reinvent itself. 

Throughout the time I used to be accountable for Sizzling Pod, Spotify laid off lots of and successfully killed its in-house podcast manufacturing items, Gimlet and Parcast. It appeared like each entity, from public radio to news publishers, made cuts to their podcast items. Firms folded, and left their creators hanging. The movie business successfully went on hiatus this summer time as each the unions for screenwriters and actors went on strike, which, residing in Los Angeles, I noticed firsthand. The lack of Hollywood advert {dollars} led to actual penalties for public radio — each WNYC’s president LaFontaine Oliver and former Southern California Public Radio chief Herb Scannell cited it as a think about layoffs. A couple of celebrities misplaced podcast offers — however it looks like day by day, a brand new well-known individual will get a podcast. 

To that finish, it’s nonetheless a thriller to me why hottest podcasts bought that method. I don’t know why Joe Rogan’s weekly drop of three hours of unedited babble is all the time one of many prime podcasts within the nation. I don’t know why so many individuals like Morbid or Alex Cooper. Once I have a look at the highest podcast charts, I see a mixture of disposable true crime, information podcasts from main media shops like NPR or The New York Occasions, and buzzworthy celebrity-led efforts like Strike Pressure 5 or SmartLess or that one hosted by Taylor Swift’s boyfriend and his brother. However whereas the titles which have huge enchantment could also be a thriller to me, they clearly resonate with others.

I used to be heartened to see Heavyweight, a former Gimlet podcast hosted by Jonathan Goldstein and now made by Spotify Studios, do effectively now that it’s obtainable extensively on all gamers — it at present ranks quantity 36 on Apple Podcasts. Nevertheless it was additionally type of stunning, provided that many interpreted Spotify letting go of Gimlet and Parcast as an indication that narrative podcasts had been over. I’m certain Goldstein’s ties to the early days of Gimlet and This American Life little question performs a think about its success. 

However on the finish of the day, I do suppose individuals nonetheless have an urge for food for good tales. It’s straightforward to overlook that, I suppose, throughout an age the place “every part is content material” and virality is the important thing to survival. The variety of views or streams on a video or information article or a put up typically looks like the one factor that issues. Whereas algorithms might be tweaked — I do suppose sure ideas are timeless. 

YouTube’s unsure podcast future

Can audio-only podcasts really thrive on YouTube? Regardless of an ongoing effort by YouTube to cater to conventional podcasters this yr, the reply to that query remains to be unsure — and YouTube’s idiosyncratic method to advertisements and RSS stays the massive purpose why. 

Google sundown Google Podcasts this yr and introduced plans for these customers emigrate to YouTube Music, which can successfully double as each a video platform and a traditional audio podcast participant by including RSS help later this yr. Many in style conventional podcasts have already made the transition to YouTube and YouTube Music, with very combined outcomes. 

Rob Walch, vp of podcaster relations at Libsyn, advised Sizzling Pod that he considered a webinar on Thursday that YouTube Music hosted for podcasters. He stated that because the webinar progressed, a Slack channel he was part of for podcasters “stuffed with expletives.” The general response was very unfavourable.

“Nobody I talked to goes to suggest [YouTube Music] to podcasters,” stated Walch. 

A sizeable dilemma for audio-only podcasts is how YouTube will deal with their advertisements. Neither YouTube nor YouTube Music permits dynamically inserted advert spots. YouTube’s phrases of service explicitly state that podcast content material can’t contain ad formats that compete with YouTube’s personal. Technically, there’s an exception that applies for host-read advertisements or baked-in advertisements — podcasters can disclose them by checking the paid promotions field. However even when podcasters are in a position to maintain their unique advertisements, YouTube will still run its own ads in opposition to the movies, splitting income with the creator, relatively than the dynamic ones a podcaster might want served and that will pay out solely to themselves.

“No person will settle for advertisements on their content material that they haven’t any management over,” stated Walch. 

It’s not a shock to many within the podcast business that “placing your podcasts on YouTube” is tougher than it sounds. “It’s all the time been a little bit unusual to me that folks perceive that video-only platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok work in essentially other ways, and that content material between them is just not interchangeable, however nonetheless anticipate podcasts to robotically work on YouTube,” famous Bikram Chatterji, CEO of Most Enjoyable in an electronic mail to Sizzling Pod. Max Enjoyable has experimented with placing a few of its podcasts like FANTI on YouTube however notes that YouTube’s observe of inserting its personal advertisements “may very well be an issue” for them on YouTube Music. 

There’s a rising sentiment within the podcast world that YouTube’s podcast imaginative and prescient is (maybe unsurprisingly) designed for video-first content material creators.

There’s a rising sentiment within the podcast world that YouTube’s podcast imaginative and prescient is (maybe unsurprisingly) designed for video-first content material creators. The corporate’s messaging doesn’t jibe with the day-to-day actuality of most individuals who make audio-only podcasts, in addition to the quite a few internet hosting, distribution, and monetization providers that kind the normal podcast ecosystem in place for many years. Surveys from Edison Research and others that concluded that YouTube was the primary platform for listening to podcasts didn’t seize what type of podcasts these individuals had been listening to.

Sizzling Pod reached out to a lot of totally different podcasts and podcast networks to see what their plans had been for YouTube Music. Some nonetheless plan on making their podcasts obtainable on YouTube and YouTube Music, if just for discovery functions. Others are taking a “wait and see” method for now. 

“We have now requested for more information, and gotten little or no so removed from our YouTube rep,” wrote The Vergecast’s supervising producer, Liam James, to Sizzling Pod in a Slack message.

The Vergecast solely makes use of YouTube’s advertisements for now — however needs to ultimately bake advertisements into its movies. The podcast solely began publishing on YouTube to start with of the yr. “Proper now we make peanuts on YouTube. It’s a loss for us general however we’re taking a look at it as an funding,” wrote James. 

Betches Media plans to place its audio-only podcasts on YouTube Music when it rolls out RSS ingestion. “We see any new distribution platform as a possibility to succeed in new audiences, however as YouTube’s technique turns into clearer, we’ll proceed to guage and see what is true for Betches and our podcast community,” wrote David Spiegel, chief income officer of Betches Media, in an electronic mail. Betches at present depends on YouTube to run pre- and mid-roll advertisements. 

“Whereas YouTube’s resolution to not enable podcasters to monetize their advertisements immediately isn’t what we’d choose, it’s not stunning in any respect, on the finish of the day, proscribing podcaster’s means to monetize will have an effect on their curiosity in selling the platform,” famous Spiegel. 

However the challenges with YouTube Music and RSS ingestion — in addition to YouTube and podcasts extra broadly — transcend simply advertisements. 

“YouTube makes use of a unique language than us,” Bryan Barletta, the founding father of podcast analysis group Sounds Worthwhile, advised Sizzling Pod

One instance: when YouTube talks about podcasts on YouTube, what it’s speaking about is a cached video that’s audio-first that may have a full video element or static video. And even when YouTube provides RSS help, it received’t work as a standard podcast participant. “They’re pulling out of your RSS feed, caching it, so it’s one name from YouTube and that’s it,” stated Barletta. 

If a podcaster needs to alter the audio after an episode is revealed, they solely must replace the audio file on their internet hosting platform — which robotically carries over to all podcast gamers. Besides, it seems, for YouTube. Podcasters must manually update the audio on YouTube Studio. 

Listener stats are one other subject with YouTube podcasts. In a video titled “Why YouTube Music ingesting podcast RSS feeds may very well be an enormous mess,” Justin Jackson, the co-founder of internet hosting platform, highlights a few of these issues. Each time a listener presses play in a podcast participant like Spotify or Overcast or Apple Podcasts, it requests the RSS feed from a internet hosting platform. Internet hosting platforms, subsequently, maintain a ton of information on who listeners are and the place they’re coming from. However YouTube is doing one thing very totally different from different podcast gamers in that it’ll actually host the audio — as a substitute of redirecting listeners to the internet hosting platform. 

This additionally means internet hosting platforms received’t have the ability to entry any of a podcast’s YouTube listener stats. Whereas it’s true that you could see listener stats on YouTube Studio, the information provided by internet hosting platforms is way more detailed. 

“This may make it tougher for podcasters to research the place their listeners are coming from, which episodes are hottest, and the way episodes carry out over time,” wrote Jackson in an electronic mail. 

Lightning Spherical

Jon Stewart and Apple are reportedly parting ways over artistic variations, together with the host’s intention to cowl matters resembling AI and China. I’ll be curious to see what occurs with the podcast, contemplating it carried out so a lot better than the TV present. 

Talking of former Every day Present hosts, Trevor Noah’s podcast on Spotify is set to launch on November 9. The present, which is hosted and distributed by Megaphone, shall be launched throughout podcast platforms as a part of Spotify’s shift away from exclusivity.

Audioboom remains to be making offers, saying yesterday that it has signed exclusive partnerships with Women Subsequent Degree, The Bulwark Podcast, We’re Right here to Assist, and Out of the Pods.

On October 26, Serial will debut The Kids of Rutherford County, a brand new investigative podcast that examines how a juvenile courtroom in Tennessee abused its energy. The present was produced in partnership with ProPublica and WPLN Nashville Public Radio, and is hosted by WPLN reporter Meribah Knight.

Suge Knight is making a podcast from jail, and in response to TMZ, it’s all about personal beef

Triton launched its September podcast ranking, with Dateline NBC ranked primary. Two caveats to the rating, which is that NPR is excluded briefly due to an information migration. The second is that it additionally doesn’t embody Spotify podcasts, so Joe Rogan (the actual primary) is just not on there.

Spotify experiences earnings on October 24, and shall be adopted by Cumulus Media on October 27 and SiriusXM on October 31 (spooky!).


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