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The business of podcasting

Unsavory Developments At Stitcher After Buyout + 5 other stories for Mar 25, 2022


Today on The Download; A new article shines light on unsavory developments at Stitcher after their buyout, Chartable is shuttering SmartAds, and this year’s edition of The Infinite Dial was unveiled at Podcast Movement: Evolutions.


Last Friday, Tom Webster published an installment of I Hear Things titled Podcasting’s Most Controversial Statistic.

The statistic in question relates to an experiment run by Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer Tracker. The parameters of the experiment were simple: discern how many networks an advertiser would have to buy run-of-network spots to reach at least half of weekly podcast listeners, accounting for unduplicated reach. Webster goes into great detail explaining unduplicated reach, something The Download’s writer does not feel qualified to condense further.

“When we ran these numbers a year ago, we discovered that you could reach 50% of weekly podcast listeners if you bought every show on the top seven podcast networks.”

Webster has run the same experiment again using Q4 2021 data and that number has now dropped to one only needing to buy out ad space on four podcast networks to confidently reach fifty percent of podcast listeners.

Webster stresses the importance of collective action for smaller, independent podcasters who don’t have the same ad-buying power of the bigger players in the industry.

“I have a day job (I am sure you do, too), but if indie podcasters don't find a way to organize and consolidate their buying power, some monetization options are just not going to be available for them. For you.”


On Tuesday The Verge published How SiriusXM Bought and Bungled a Beloved Podcast Network. **With extensive reporting by writer Ashley Carman and bespoke illustrations, the piece tells the story of SiriusXM’s acquisition of Stitcher from the founding of comedy podcast network Earwolf in 2010 to today.

The 2020 SiriusXM and Stitcher merger came with many beneficial changes for both companies. SiriusXM gets all the benefits of a successful podcasting company while the producers get access to SiriusXM-level budgets, enabling podcasts under the Stitcher banner to grow and improve.

“But according to 13 former corporate employees across Stitcher who spoke with The Verge anonymously because of nondisclosure agreements and fear of retaliation, the merger was marked by confusion, culture clash, and shifting objectives. Around 145 people worked at Stitcher when it was bought, and since then, more than a quarter of them have left, The Verge found through LinkedIn.”

Carman’s article continues at length to detail systemic issues plaguing all but the most successful content creators through the multiple buyouts that lead to SiriusXM’s difficult transition period. A period plagued with mismanagement and miscommunication to the point one Stitcher employee had to explain to a SiriusXM team member that RSS feeds aren’t constantly-live feeds. The piece is a masterclass in how not to handle merging two completely different companies.


A new post on the Chartable blog has announced the inevitable: Chartable has made the first step in winding down services available to users not on Spotify’s Megaphone. Chartable co-founder Dave Zohrob writes:

“With Chartable now a part of Spotify, we will be shifting our focus to building world-class publisher tools as part of the Megaphone platform. For our advertiser customers, that means that we will soon be deprecating our SmartAds product and will no longer be supporting advertiser campaigns on the Chartable platform.”

SmartAds campaigns can still be booked through April 21st. The final day for new impressions tagged with SmartAds will be June 30th. In the final paragraph Zohrob clarifies Chartable publisher products aren’t going anywhere, as these shutdowns only affect advertising products. For those wondering why this wasn’t a surprise announcement, we recommend checking out February 18th’s edition of The Download when we covered an article about the Chartable-Spotify acquisition.


Now for a pivot away from acquisitions: Nielsen has not been acquired by a private equity firm.

The original story, posted last Thursday to The Drum by Hannah Bowler, details the struggles facing the aging monolith and asks if a buyout would help. Neilsen, once synonymous with television monitoring, has been slow to adapt to the rapid evolution of what people watch and how they watch it. Now their older methodology combined with pending lawsuits alleging inaccurate counting and fraud by concealment threatens the company.

“For the industry to trust Nielsen again, president and chief executive at the VAB Sean Cunningham says it needs to deliver - here begins a nested quote from Cunningham - “deep disclosures and real transparency, commitment to the modernization that sharply increased competition demands and increased collaboration versus increased collision with their major clients.”

Then, this Monday, the story developed further. Frank Saxe, writing for InsideRadio, reported the proposed deal was dead in the water.

Nielsen referred to the offer as "unsolicited”. The company remains public. Even so, the near-miss of a buyout remains a sign of the times. We’re seeing the chipping away of a third party incumbent for measurement and research. With current trends there very well could be a future where a service even as big as Nielsen becomes a gated proprietary service.


And finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for: on Wednesday,Thursday Tom Webster took to the Podcast Movement: Evolutions stage to present the 2022 edition of Edison Research’s The Infinite Dial. Over the hour-long presentation Webster and Wondery CEO Jen Sargent covered the plethora of industry data, a lot of which continues to trend upwards.

“Seventy-three percent of the U.S. 12+ population (an estimated 209 million people) have listened to online audio in the last month, up from 68% in 2021.”

Casual engagement with podcast listening is up as well, with sixty-two percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 having ever tried a podcast, compared to just eleven percent in 2006.

The seventy-side pdf and fifty minute video of the presentation might sound like a daunting task, but the Infinite Dial remains an invaluable source of data for the podcasting industry.

Since The Download doesn’t have a must-read article recommendation segment this week, consider combing through the Infinite Dial to take up that space of three or four articles you’d have read otherwise.


The Download is a production of Sounds Profitable. Today's episode was hosted by Shreya Sharma and Manuela Bedoya, and the script was written by Gavin Gaddis.

Bryan Barletta and Evo Terra are the executive producers of The Download from Sounds Profitable.

Special thanks to Ian Powell for his audio prowess, and to our media host, Omny Studio.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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