Wow, we’re already halfway through February and Hot Pod Summit is next week. It’s been a marathon here, my . not included Love is blind binge time. Today we have several stories all related to the idea of money – making it and spending it. Let’s go right there.
Rogan check in this week
While Hurricane Rogan is mostly over, related stories continue to trickle out. The first comes from the guard, which reports that multiple Spotify playlists pushed listeners to anti-vaccine music after already listening to similar content. The songs “encourage people not to get vaccinated and say those who do are ‘slaves’, ‘sheep’ and victims of Satan,” the publication says. “Others are calling for an uprising and urging listeners to to ‘fight for your life’.”
Many songs were easily found by searching for “vaccine” and “mask”, and a user who listened to an anti-vaccine song received a “personalized playlist that led them to even more extreme songs. Of the 50 songs in that playlist, 19 explicit references to anti-vaccination and misinformation about COVID, including claims the vaccine is being used to microchip people.”
The company says it removed this music afterward the guard reached out as the songs promoted “dangerous, false or deceptive content about COVID-19” that could threaten public health.
This story interests me because it once again raises the question of how Spotify detected the alleged “more than 20,000 podcast episodes” it says it has removed due to COVID statements. In this case, yes, we are talking about music, but we can reasonably assume that whatever massive moderation effort is put into spoken word content, can happen for songs too. We have no idea how Spotify’s moderation works, and the company doesn’t seem interested in sharing, so for now the main line of defense seems to be media reporting. That’s not great for a company that has the ambition to become the next YouTube and recruit tens of millions of podcasters to its platform.
I also point out that the guardThe distinction between an algorithmically generated music playlist and Spotify’s star podcaster that is paid to create exclusive content is important. The algorithm that promotes songs may be what we’re more interested in, because software often amplifies and distributes content, and until now that hasn’t been a big deal in the podcast world. (I’m sure this is a spoiler warning for about a year from now.)
Then in Rogan land, one of my friends and former podcast co-host Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in The Atlantic Ocean about the idea of podcasts that once existed in relative privacy and conversations now under scrutiny as show archives become a landmine of regrettable and sometimes shocking comments. Don’t get too cozy in front of the microphone!
“As the company grows, and as more reporters or agitators invest time in going through all this content, the days of podcasting without consequences will be numbered,” she writes.
She also points out that moderating — or even just listening — to all of these podcasts is a full-time job, especially for reporters. She notes that podcasts often don’t have transcripts, which again I don’t understand. If not for the sake of accessibility, make them available for transparency! But something tells me that a written record of everything a controversial podcast host has said won’t do you any good. Now I’m the one conspiring.
We now turn to the money section of the newsletter, starting with Acast’s earnings. acast say it made about $119 million last year and has 40,000 shows on its platform. It also says it had more than a billion listens over its network in the past quarter. I don’t have much to add here other than keep watching Acast and I’m especially curious how the game fares for scale when it competes with SiriusXM, iHeart and others for ad sales deals, especially now that everyone is trying to consistently sign them and there’s much to spend.
However, it may not be that hard to make ad sales huge as more advertisers enter the space, which is what Magellan says is happening in his latest quarterly benchmark report. The company says podcast ad spend is up 14 percent quarter-over-quarter, with more than 2,200 brands showing audio ads for the first time in the fourth quarter. The team also says ad time went up slightly during shows, with podcasters spending an average of 5.98 percent of their time on them — another trend we’re seeing as companies try to cash in on smashing, expensive deals. (Will this be the radio again?)
One advertiser that doesn’t show up in Magellan’s report, but continues to spend on podcasting, is Squarespace, which The New York Times profiled ahead of his Super Bowl ad this weekend. One of the little tidbits is that: square space paid $100,000 to be the sole advertiser on Marc Maron’s Barack Obama interview episode in 2015. Midroll employees also reportedly gathered because senior officials feared Squarespace accounted for a third of its revenue. Dax Shepard has also been quoted as saying that he thought Squarespace ads helped “legitimize his show,” and he knows the ads by heart. “It’s a party trick.”
The piece touches on the notion that podcast client conversion rates are higher than web or social media ads, and it says that Rogan specifically delivers insane returns for the company. To come full circle, here’s why we probably will not see some sort of YouTube adpocalypse on Rogan or against Spotify – advertisers know what they are getting from him, namely lots of new customers.
Finally, Amazon and Spotify are reportedly considering acquiring Audioboomalthough these offers “may not be forthcoming”, Sky News† The company says it made $60.2 million last year and its shows are downloaded 116 million times each month by 32 million unique listeners. It’s not entirely clear to me what Spotify or Megaphone would gain from this acquisition, as both have already acquired hosting/monetization services in Megaphone and Art19 respectively, as well as content creation studios. I can see this being worth it to them if they want to quickly increase their ad inventory, which Spotify may want to do, or just take a company off the market because they can easily afford it. As always I am here for your thoughts and feelings!
That’s all for today, folks. I’ll be back Thursday, with Aria here Friday. Until then!