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The business of podcasting

SmartLess Media Launch + 4 more stories for Feb 11, 2022

Today on The Download: Today: Amazon inherits a celeb-powered podcasting company, new ad revenue numbers forecast good news for podcast investment, and a new op-ed asks where has Facebook’s fervor for podcasting gone?

Celebrity chat podcast Smartless, hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, recently launched production house SmartLess Media. With former Jon Stewart-era Daily Show producer Richard Korson at the reins as president, SmartLess Media is poised to add multiple new stars to the relatively small constellation of Amazon-owned podcasts. 

The new company has sprung into existence following a prior deal in which the trio of celebs licensed the podcast SmartLess to Amazon Music and Wondery in a deal, as reported by Deadline’s Peter White, “thought to be valued at between 60 million to 80 million.” According to White, this deal also extends to shows created by the fledgling production house, meaning SmartLess Media’s promised slate of “weekly series, narrative, and limited podcasts,” are subject to first-look exclusivity with Amazon. 

It appears through careful future-proofing and investment during the licensing deal when SmartLess was just one podcast feed, the shopping and streaming conglomerate has inherited a celebrity-fronted production company wholecloth. And they continue to have rights to the original product’s momentum, which currently fuels a cross-country live tour set to wrap up this weekend. 

Speaking of Amazon: in a first for the company, Amazon has broken down its advertising revenue as a distinct category instead of bundling it with other earnings. The decision to do so now and not last year when they posted a ten billion profit increase from 2020 to 2021 remains unseen, but we’ll take it. According to Business Insider “at $9.7 billion in the quarter, up 32% year-over-year, ad revenue was one of Amazon's fastest-growing areas.”

With their fostering SmartLess from a simple podcast acquisition into a brand-new source of content production, Amazon appears to show no sign of slowing growth in media properties that can help fuel this advertising boom. Amazon’s continued heavy spending in podcasting could be an indicator they believe in the medium’s ability to help continue ad revenue growth.    

Continuing the theme of growth: eCommerce is on the rise globally. Sara Lebow of eMarketer provides statistics breaking down the top ten countries with the biggest increase in ecommerce made over any internet-capable device that excludes travel, bill payments, gambling, food service, or anything that falls under the “vice good” umbrella. 

To quote the article: “The Philippines and India will lead the world in retail ecommerce sales growth this year, with respective increases of 25.9% and 25.5%. Countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia will make up most of the top 10 list, while the last spot will go to the US, the only advanced economy to slide into the rankings, with 15.9% growth.” 

A significant portion of podcast advertising is still direct-to-consumer and significantly focused on the US. The country that’s coming in tenth out of the top ten. That, combined with emerging podcast markets or strong pre-existing histories with audio in countries represented in the top nine shows podcast advertising has room to grow. Growth that might shift to bucking the existing status quo of purely targeting North American customers. 

New podcasting app Fountain aims to make things easier for podcasters to receive tips from their audience in the form of Bitcoin Lightning, a system simplifying the process of transferring one hundred millionths of Bitcoin between users. 

The biggest barriers to entry for such a scheme have been the need of a digital wallet, the process of buying crypto for said wallet, and the ID of another person’s wallet to be able to transfer the crypto to an intended recipient. 

While those hurdles still exist for the person intending to send the money, startup Fountain solves the initial problems for podcasters on the receiving end of Value 4 Value transactions by creating a wallet on their behalf. Several larger podcasts have embraced the service, including Jack Rhysider’s Darknet Diaries.

In this week’s Hot Pod Insider, Ashley Carman published an op-ed about Meta (nee Facebook), their profit woes, and the question mark that leaves for Facebook podcasting. 

Carman writes: “I wondered if brands would start spending more money on podcast ads simply because Facebook’s aren’t as powerful. Maybe that’s worth another check-in, but instead, I’m now wondering how this tech informs Facebook’s decision to pursue podcasts on its platform.” 

With the social media giant reporting a decline in users for the first time in its existence alongside declining profits, a second “pivot to video,” and a full-throated commitment to rebranding VR gaming headsets as office supplies, Facebook’s previous interest in embracing podcasts seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Quote “I’m unclear where that team stands or what they’re doing. Did they pivot to the metaverse?”

The Download is a production of Sounds Profitable! Today's episode was hosted by Evo Terra and Manuela Bedoya. Bryan Barletta is the executive producer. Special thanks to Ian Powell for his audio prowess, and to our media host, Omny Studio.

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