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The business of podcasting

Data Scraping Is Officially Legal + 5 other stories for April 22, 2022

Today on The Download; data scraping is officially legal, recent Spotify purchases prove concerning for some, and what fiction podcasters can learn from their non-fiction cousins.

Collecting data just got legally less questionable in the United States. On a Tuesday news roundup for ExchangeWire, Hanna Dillion covered a huge decision by the US court of appeals. The suit, brought by LinkedIn to prevent a rival company from scraping their publicly-available data, has ended with the Ninth Circuit of Appeals declaring the act of data scraping legal. 

The act of scraping - using software to automatically collect data hosted on the public internet - is now legally defined as an act that is not classified as hacking with the court’s decision. Scraping, thus, does not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. 

The landmark ruling should come as a relief to academics, journalists, researchers, and archivists, for whom scraping publicly available information from the internet is an integral part of their day-to-day work. The decision, however, could also renew privacy and security concerns, as web scraping has been used for nefarious purposes in the past; in May 2021, several tech giants filed lawsuits against Clearview AI, a facial recognition startup which claimed to have scraped billions of social media profile photos, without the consent of users.

What does this mean for the podcasting world? One can legally scrape data, but what they do with it remains a legally gray area. Scraping publicly-available RSS feeds for academic purposes is fine. Scraping those same feeds for email addresses with intent to spam anyone who isn’t using a certain company’s hosting service with offers to switch to said service is subject to other pre-existing laws. For more on the state of data scraping, see our March 11th episode coverage of a story about a similar lawsuit.

Up next, in yet another recurring thread that has resurfaced: last Friday a Morning Brew article by Alyssa Meyers went live, titled “Spotify’s acquisition of podcast analytics firms has some in the industry concerned.” 

The piece acts as an industry reaction to the February acquisition of Podsights and Chartable (see The Download’s February 18th episode for our coverage at the moment). In the interest of full disclosure, we must note one of the industry voices quoted by Meyers is Sound Profitable’s own Bryan Barletta. 

The week after Spotify announced the acquisitions, Mike Kadin, CEO of podcast hosting and monetization platform RedCircle, told Marketing Brew it “had folks reach out to us from major publishers and ask if we have attribution technology. I’m not super worried about it, but it does sadden me to see more chunks of the ecosystem getting centralized.”

It’s no secret the official position of The Download is pro-third party analytics to keep the industry honest and prevent further walled gardens of information in adtech. The concerns continue to be real and the industry will continue to fret until more options exist.

Once again we return to highlighting the global nature of podcasting outside of English-speaking markets. On Saturday Luis Pablo Segundo, writing for Milenio, broke down the results of a recent study. The flashiest piece for our audience is the reveal that ad spending on podcasts in Mexico has risen fifty percent from 2019 to 2021, though it still represents a small market share in comparison to traditional radio. 

Traditional radio is expected to reach an advertising revenue by 2025 of $480 million, 10.6 percent higher than what was recorded in 2021, while podcasting will remain almost 11 times lower at $44 million, according to consulting firm PwC.

A quick note for our Spanish-speaking audience: this story, as well as every other story covered each week, is covered in our Spanish sister podcast La Descarga! Hosted by myself and Gabriel Soto.

Before we leave the realm of global podcasting growth, a small bit of news from Canada. eMarketer’s Paul Briggs shared last Monday data predicting almost two-thirds of the Canadian population will listen to some form of digital audio by the end of 2022. 

Last Thursday media critic and podcast producer Wil Williams guested on the Hot Pod newsletter with a column titled “What fiction podcasters can learn from nonfiction podcasters.” 

Their piece aims to provide fiction podcast producers, aspiring and existing alike, tools to build stories with techniques that are second nature to their nonfiction cousins. Over three sections Williams explores story flow, following a thesis, evocative sound design while providing three examples of existing podcasts that best embody these traits. 

But while fiction is finally getting its due, nonfiction is still considered the primary mode of storytelling in podcasting. This can cause some understandable contempt from fiction creators, but there's creative gold to be found in nonfiction. If you want your stories to have realistic goals, realistic sounds, and realistic characters, listening to real stories about real people can help you find those roots.

Their piece heaps praise on high-quality nonfiction podcasts while also identifying what they do to be high quality. Podcasting needs more successful shows made by well-read producers. Williams effectively provides an entry-level reading list covering everything from a critically-acclaimed episode of Radiolab to the pilot of the hyper-niche podcast The McElroy Brothers Will Be in Trolls 2. Consider their nine to be an extended version of The Download’s occasional suggested reading sections. Knowing why and how podcasts work is the key to making more podcasts that work.

For our final full story this week: Matt Deegan’s recent article “Tech Trying to Do Radio & Consistency.” 

Posted on Wednesday to his Matt on Audio newsletter, Deegan circles back to the topic of live audio and interrogates why the trend has swiftly fallen out of public favor despite multiple platforms. A consistent trend Deegan notes, similar to that of Facebook quietly abandoning podcasting endeavors, is a lack of follow-through and consistency.

The vast majority of radio’s success comes from consistency and I’d argue that most successful podcasts are consistent too. If you take out the short-run documentary series, the vast majority of podcasts at the top of the Apple Podcast charts are long-running shows (and that’s with an algorithm that focuses on new).

Meanwhile, the majority of flagship podcasts and content creators meant to push new services, such as Spotify’s forgotten Podcasts with Music feature, have faded away months after launch. Flashy tech does not make a successful long-standing platform.

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.

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