Hello, hello. I’m back! Welcome to the week from sunny Los Angeles. My trip through California had me disconnecting from the internet, spotting Michael Keaton at a Santa Barbara restaurant inside a furniture store, and, naturally, ending up in multiple conversations about Joe Rogan. Just the R&R I needed :~). Anyway, I’m happy to be back with you and the podcast news. Let’s get into it.
Hot Pod Summit is returning on February 24th to start On Air Fest. Hot Pod Summit is the invite-only industry conference for the people building the future of the audio industry. It will kick off On Air Fest, the audio industry’s premier cultural festival, featuring Jad Abumrad, Chuck D, Dr. Jane Goodall, and more. Buy your tickets here.
If you’re interested in applying for an invitation to the Summit, please let us know by filling out our lottery form here. You can also indicate if you’d like to be considered for financial support. Make sure to submit your name before the lottery closes on Tuesday, February 2nd.
Amazon buys exclusive ad sales and distribution rights for My Favorite Murder and Exactly Right Media
It was a matter of time. Yesterday, Amazon announced its purchase of the exclusive rights to ad sales and distribution of Exactly Right Media’s current and future podcast slate, which includes My Favorite Murder. This means My Favorite Murder, which is among the top 10 most popular podcasts according to Edison Research, will be available one week early and ad-free on Amazon Music, through both the Unlimited and Prime plans, as well as Wondery Plus. It’ll then come to all other platforms. No terms were disclosed, including when episodes would be windowed or how long the deal terms are in place.
Still, the deal highly mimics that of SmartLess, which Amazon acquired last year for up to $80 million, per Bloomberg. In that case, it also attained both the sales rights and windowed, week-long exclusivity. (UnJu Paik and Lex Friedman brokered the deal on behalf of Wondery and Amazon Music; Oren Rosenbaum of UTA and Ben Jaffe at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard did so for Exactly Right Media.)
Two things stick out to me here: one is the week-long timeframe, particularly in comparison to Spotify, which signed deals with Call Her Daddy and Armchair Expert over the past year and immediately shuffled them behind the platform’s wall. I already thought wholly exclusive deals would fall by the wayside this year — why limit an audience when ad sales are the end game — and this deal, combined with SmartLess, seems to suggest Amazon agrees. It might get the return it wants just within those seven days with diehard fans downloading the apps to get ahead, while the rest of the audience continues to consume and generate ad revenue elsewhere.
Spotify and Amazon have different incentives, of course, which factors into their different approaches. Amazon would prefer you listen on Amazon Music or Wondery Plus, but its business can thrive without you. Spotify, though, needs you to listen on its platform. The app is nearly its entire business currently, namely through subscriptions, while its touted podcast ad tech, Streaming Ad Insertion, hinges on a listener being on the app so it can properly target ads. Its show deals are designed to bring you inside its world while at the same time bolstering its ad business. I just wonder whether having them fully behind a wall actually ends up netting new listeners or, if my Joe Rogan story was any indication, only results in losing them.
The second thing to note is that with this deal, eight of the 10 most popular podcasts from Q3 last year have either now been acquired, licensed, or were already operating under a major media organization. The last ones standing are Pod Save America and This American Life — both of which are part of companies spun up because of the success of individual shows. Seems like a good bet either of them could be next.
I’m going to keep thinking about this deal, but if you have thoughts, reach out.
Speaking of Amazon’s ad ambitions….
Amazon wants to get more brands to advertise on its platform
Insider published a story yesterday about Amazon’s broader advertising ambitions, which mostly involve it trying to get more brands marketing on its platform.
From the piece: “Amazon wants to attract companies like movie studios or insurance companies that don’t sell on Amazon but are critical to the growth of its advertising business, which netted $23 billion during the first three quarters of last year — up from $13.5 billion in the same period in 2020.” The story also mentions a product that lets advertisers see who clicked on their ads and bought stuff.
The company is seemingly pitching advertisers mostly on its video products, including Twitch, Fire TV, and IMDb TV. Podcasting doesn’t come up in the story, but I have to imagine the company’s Art19 purchase has something to do with generating more ad revenue. And with Spotify and others pushing interactive podcast ads, well, I can only see Amazon considering it, too, especially if it means selling more stuff, which podcasts happen to be very good at doing.
Spotify is reportedly the top music streaming app
This isn’t wholly related to the podcast world, but we care about the platforms and who’s on top, so: A new report from Midia Research, a media and entertainment-focused research and analysis agency, suggests Spotify is the most popular music streaming app with 31 percent market share. Apple Music is in second place at 15 percent, and Amazon Music and Tencent Music are tied at third with 13 percent each. Also interesting here is Midia’s note that Spotify’s market share dropped from 33 percent in Q2 2020 to 31 percent in Q2 2021 with its growth being outperformed by both Amazon and YouTube Music, with the latter growing by over 50 percent compared to a year earlier.
And wouldn’t you know, YouTube Music also seemingly is starting to care about podcasts. Hmm…
Bill Simmons gets a YouTube channel?
In an oddly worded press release on Spotify-owned The Ringer, the company says Bill Simmons now has a YouTube channel, but it seemingly has been operating for over a year already? In either case, a new promo push is happening, with Simmons saying clips from the show will live on YouTube, as well as the entirety of the Book of Basketball 2.0. Normally I wouldn’t say much about a thing that isn’t entirely new, but the marketing interests me because of Spotify’s specific push to make its app a video podcast destination. The promo video for this YouTube page doesn’t even mention Spotify. Huh. Lots of mixed messages for me here, but my best guess would be someone inside The Ringer thinks viral YouTube clips make sense for marketing — a play from Joe Rogan’s own strategy — and is running with it.
And now, a few moves-related bits.
Laura Mayer leaves Three Uncanny Four to start her own company
Laura Mayer is leaving Three Uncanny Four, the company she helped found with Adam Davidson and Sony Music, to start a new venture. She tweeted the news last week, saying, “I’ve been working in Big Podcasting for a long time. I’ve happily made a lot of shows within big companies. Now I’ve decided it’s time for me to go independent. My podcast development studio has one employee — and that’s me.” The new company is called LRM Works.
Davidson left the company last February, and Mayer’s departure seemingly coincides with the finale of one of the network’s biggest shows – Bad Blood: The Final Chapter. It’s unclear who will take over at Three Uncanny Four, but a Sony spokesperson says in a comment that it is “becoming part of our Global Podcast Division.”
Mike Pesca relaunches The Gist and his own website
Mike Pesca is back to podcasting following his ousting at Slate. He’s relaunched The Gist, the show he formerly made at the network, along with a personal website. It comes with a political take, per the about section: “Mike’s unique and pragmatic, centrist point of view gives listeners an alternative to the polarizing commentary found almost everywhere else.”
A trailer for the relaunched show also teases discussions on the idea of condemnation in politics and for no “ideology [to] remain unquestioned.” Anyway, for those that need a reminder, Pesca and Slate parted ways after the host said using the n-word in certain contexts might be acceptable.
Libsyn hires John Gibbons, former Pocket Casts CEO
John Gibbons, who was Pocket Casts’ CEO during the platform’s Automattic acquisition last year, is going to Libsyn. He’ll be the president and chief product officer at the hosting company and will be assisting on its “market expansion strategy.”
That’s all I have for you right now, but I’ll be back Thursday with more for paying subscribers, and Aria has you covered on Friday. Bye!
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Amazon acquires the rights to My Favorite Murder – The Verge
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