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Video killed the radio star, or so goes the famous Buggles tune. Maybe a more current update would ask if podcasts will kill what’s left of radio.
It seems the humble podcast, once the realm of rambling hosts and public radio personalities, is getting seriously into business. Sure, there are loads of great podcasts already, but total ad revenue in the market was just $314 million last year versus almost $14 billion for commercial radio. Now everyone from Spotify to Amy Schumer is jumping in, and the revenue growth should be rapid.
At one end of the new podcasting era, you have the big companies. Google just introduced its own podcast app for Android a few months ago—complete with a program library, suggestion engine, and search function. Just as important, or maybe more important, Google also started a program to train and incubate new podcast hosts from diverse backgrounds. Called the Google Podcasts creator program, the effort is accepting applications through December 2 overseen by an advisory committee headed by two podcasting heavyweights: Jenna Weiss-Berman, co-founder of Pineapple Street Media, and Amit Doshi, the frequent startup player whose new venture, IVM Podcasts, obviously focuses on this space. Winners will get seed funding, training, and likely some pretty heavy promotion.
Apple has been obviously in the game since before the iPhone. The most recent wave of business interest comes after Apple introduced sophisticated analytics for producers starting at the end of 2017. The 2018 data shows a growing audience with advertiser-desired demographics that is devoted to their favorite podcasts—and rarely skips commercials.
Other big movers lately include Spotify, which added a podcast section with thousands of programs to its app a few months ago and is sponsoring a lineup of its own shows, as well. Pandora, soon to be part of Sirius XM, is rolling out a podcast recommendation engine that’s based on its famous Music Genome Project, but with a roster that’s limited to shows from partner publishers such as NPR, The Ringer, and Gimlet. “Inclusion depends on a series of discussions and negotiations,” notes Nicholas Quah, whose weekly newsletter Hotpod is a must-read if you want to follow the industry.
But it’s not just big companies. As you may have read in the recent New Yorker article on podcasting that was one of our recommended weekend reads last Friday, this is a genre that doesn’t require huge backing to succeed—at least not yet. Weiss-Berman’s company, Pineapple Media, gets the profile treatment in the New Yorker, but there are many other startups. Plus, a growing number of celebrities are monetizing their fame, and often large followings on social media, via podcasts with notable examples including Gwyneth Paltrow, Anna Faris, and Dax Shepard. Of course, the large and small players can also cooperate. One of Spotify’s first deals to sponsor a podcast was with Schumer, who was recently a guest on Shepard’s show, Armchair Expert.
All the attention and investment will hopefully bring more quality programming, but it’s no guarantee. Most of the video that killed the radio star wasn’t so great. It took decades for our golden age of television to arrive. But there’s no stopping the powerful forces now getting into the podcasting business. Or as The Buggles might say: “In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.”
The continuing story of a quack who’s gone to the dogs. Two ongoing crash stories from last week. More evidence is emerging that Apple is cutting production of new iPhones as sales possibly fall below expectation. Apple shares are down another 2% in premarket trading on Monday and the company’s stock market value is plummeting close to a mere $900 billion. Digital currencies also continue to suffer. Bitcoin was down to $5,173 on Monday, about where it was last fall and three-quarters below its all-time high last December.
I’ve done my best with that frog, now’s the time to do my worst. In the world of cybersecurity, you win some, you lose some. Amazon said last week it would make it easier for its cloud storage customers to lock down their data, preventing the all-too-common information leakage via unsecured AWS buckets. But Instagram disclosed that its new “Download Your Data” feature was leaking user passwords. Popular Instagram accounts are also attracting more interest from hackers, who take control in order to send out fake phishing posts and harvest followers’ personal data, The Atlantic reports.
There is no one on the planet to compare with moi. Fans of fine films mourned the demise of streaming service FilmStruck under new owner AT&T. But on Friday, one of the top distributors of classic movies on disc, The Criterion Collection, said it will launch a new classics-focused streaming service in the spring. Plan to shell out another $10 a month or so.
They don’t write the old songs anymore. Europe’s planned “link tax” could spell the end of Google News on the continent. Google News vice president Richard Gingras tells The Guardian his company may have to close the service, as it did in Spain in 2014 after the country imposed a similar levy. “We would not like to see that happen in Europe,” Gingras told the newspaper. “Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.” Meanwhile, without all the hullabaloo of HQ2, Google may build a second campus not far from its Mountain View base. The company is close to buying 21 acres in San Jose for $110 million.
Not eat drums, beat drums. Most computers have lost their disc drives, and now Microsoft is planning a new version of its Xbox gaming console without one. The move could shave $100 off the entry level price of the box. Customers would be able to trade in old discs for digitally downloadable versions.
(Headline reference explainer video, if you need one.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
An episode of the scary satire program Black Mirror seemed to be coming to life in parts of China, amid reports that citizens were receiving a social ranking score that could impact job opportunities, borrowing limits, and more. Scholar Jamie Horsley, writing in Foreign Policy, says China’s efforts have been dramatically overblown. In a piece titled “China’s Orwellian Social Credit Score Isn’t Real,” Horsley tries to clear up the confusion.
The government does assign universal social credit codes to companies and organizations, which they use as an ID number for registration, tax payments, and other activities, while all individuals have a national ID number. The existing social credit blacklists use these numbers, as do almost all activities in China. But these codes are not scores or rankings. Enterprises and professionals in various sectors may be graded or ranked, sometimes by industry associations, for specific regulatory purposes like restaurant sanitation. However, the social credit system does not itself produce scores, grades, or assessments of “good” or “bad” social credit. Instead, individuals or companies are blacklisted for specific, relatively serious offenses like fraud and excessive pollution that would generally be offenses anywhere. To be sure, China does regulate speech, association, and other civil rights in ways that many disagree with, and the use of the social credit system to further curtail such rights deserves monitoring.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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BEFORE YOU GO
Allergies have become so serious that exposure to even a minute amount of peanut dust can be deadly for some children. Help may be on the way, as positive results emerged from a clinical trial of a new drug called AR101. After a year of treatment, most severely allergic kids found their tolerances increased significantly, meaning small, unintended exposures would no longer pose a life-threatening risk. That “can really change the lives of patients who are peanut-allergic,” says co-author Daniel Adelman.