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Serial and the Importance of Content Curation & 8 other stories for September 22nd 2022


This week: Serial and the importance of content curation, Spotify launches audiobooks, Spanish-language TV is surging,  why Wonder Media Network won’t use programmatic, and SirusXM is no longer the biggest podcast network by reach. Let’s get started.


Serial and the importance of content curation. 

Manuela: Last week news broke that prosecution would petition for the release of Adnan Syed, whose case was the subject of the first season of Serial. Since then Syed has been officially released. In the interim conversation regarding the case and the part Serial played in popularizing it reached a boiling point on social media. On Friday the 16th attorney Rabia O’Chaudry, host of Undisclosed and the person who originally brought Syed’s case to the attention of Sarah Koenig, tweeted an analogy for how Serial fit into the narrative of Syed’s release:

“Imagine you ask someone to help renovate your house. Instead they set fire to it. The story about the fire brings thousands to your aid that rebuild your house.”

Media critic and true crime aficionado Rebecca Lavoie quote-tweeted O’Chaudry to start a thread with an important lesson to be learned from Serial.

“I have previously heralded Serial as a seminal piece of media and even made a podcast originally based on reviewing it. But given the facts of the case, Rabia’s analogy is precise. Serial doesn’t hold up. And its biggest crime is its abandonment of its own reporting.”

Lavoie details several sections of the popular podcast that contain outdated or inaccurate knowledge with seven years of hindsight that, due to the podcast’s popularity, are still being discovered by brand new podcast listeners with. No warnings or amendments have been placed on the original season of Serial

“I am not saying that Sarah Koenig et al have an obligation to report this story forever. But…the owners of the Serial feed (now [The New York Times]) have an absolute obligation to point news consumers to the latest… news.”

Lavoie points to dynamic ad insertion tech and how it could be used to retroactively place a warning giving context without having to manually update each episode’s file. Given last year’s scandal with Caliphate, the NYT is no stranger to retroactively adding disclaimers to its own in-house reporting.

Lavoie argues they have the same level of responsibility to maintain legacy feeds. Even the most popular true crime podcast in the industry is not above poor reporting or claims that were later disproven by new evidence. Despite being seven years old, Serial’s popularity means statistically it’s still someone’s first podcast in 2022.


Spotify Offers Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles 


Shreya: This Tuesday Spotify announced the launch of their audiobook platform.

“Starting today, Spotify listeners in the U.S. will be able to purchase and listen to more than 300,000 audiobook titles—making our platform a true all-in-one destination for everyone’s listening needs. And we’re excited to launch audiobooks with a brand-new user interface that’s geared specifically for listening to audiobooks and fits them seamlessly alongside the music and podcasts you already listen to and love.”

The new audiobook interface includes an in-app purchase screen to buy each individual audiobook. Most popular audiobook platforms, like Audible or Libro.fm,  use a monthly subscription system that gives users a set amount of credits to exchange for audiobooks at a rate that costs less than purchasing them retail. Spotify’s model requires a Premium Spotify membership for the ability to purchase audiobooks.

Press materials include a series of four screenshots depicting the purchase of Colleen Hoover’s novel It Ends with Us for $13.99, on sale from a normal listing of $17.99. This pricing is in lockstep with the average retail cost of the same book at popular audiobook providers Google Play, Kobo, and Audible if the user is not a subscriber.

With this addition Spotify is now a one-stop shop for the casual user. While it might not attract many users specifically for the audiobook functionality, any user who listens to music or podcasts with Premium has the ability to buy audiobooks and listen without leaving the app they’re already paying for.


Spanish-Language TV viewership surges despite mishandled metrics, lackluster representation. 

Manuela: As is becoming common on The Download, this segment will discuss two articles that are closely related. First off: Spanish-language TV Viewership is Surging by Kelsey Sutton for MarketingBrew. The headline leads into a subheader explaining the surge is accompanied by poor measurement leading to under-investing. Now things are turning around.

“We’re sure you’ve heard it about a million times: linear TV viewership is, on average, not looking good. But there’s one segment of old-fashioned TV whose outlook seems downright rosy.  Spanish-language TV networks, including mainstays like Univision and Telemundo, are on the upswing, growing daily audience reach even as many other major networks are seeing steady declines.”

Dan Reiss, EVP and chief growth office at TelevisaUnivision told MarketingBrew Univision has seen an increase of brands on-air of more than 200 over the past two years.

One of the benefits of podcasting being a younger industry than other media is it can learn from their mistakes and adjust earlier on when it’s easier to do so. Just last month Edison Research’s Latino Podcast Listener Report dropped, revealing 59% of the U.S. Latino population have listened to podcasts. Podcasting is a diverse field and should be treated as such from the ground up. To that note the final quote from an AdExchanger piece featuring Orci CEO Marina Filippelli:

““Gen Z can smell bullshit from a mile away – they know whether or not creative was produced by somebody like them,” Filippelli said. “Representation needs to take place not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes.”


Why Wonder Media Network won’t sell its podcast ad inventory programmatically

Shreya: This Tuesday Kayleigh Barber published a piece distilling an interview on the Digiday Podcast into article form. The interview features Wonder Media Network co-founder and CRO Shira Atkins enthusiastically explaining why the network refuses to carry programmatically-served ads, instead choosing a more bespoke approach. Not only are ads produced in-network, they’re permanently baked-in. 

“But on the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Atkins said she still believes that programmatic is “a tragedy for the podcasting ecosystem at large.” Her team does not sell any of its ad space programmatically. Instead, the podcast network uses its branded content studio to make bespoke audio ads, which Atkins said creates memorable ads that listeners are less likely to skip over.”

It’s worth noting the difference between content provided by programmatic methods and the tool of programmatic advertising itself. High quality memorably ads like those produced by Wonder Media Network for baked-in use can be served programmatically through direct deals that operationalize and improve the process for both buyers and sellers. 

NPR, for example, does this currently with great success. Programmatic distribution is a tool, not a particular flavor of advertisement. 

“We don’t [carry programmatic-sold ads] because the reason that we’re able to demand such high CPM [or sell flat rate deads] is that we’re selling embedded ads in perpetuity. It makes me feel like an old lady whenever people ask me about this, because they’re like, ‘I can’t believe you don’t do dynamic ad insertion.’ But it works for us.”

Host reads, baked-in, and dynamic ad insertion are all excellent tools that podcast audiences are receptive to, and companies like Wonder Media Network are an excellent example of how the power of the podcasting industry can allow individual facets of the industry to exist and thrive on their own. 

Sounds Profitable’s first research study - After These Messages - has the data to back up the efficacy of host-read ads. The study shows the audience preference for host-read ads over generic announcer-read ads, which Atkins conflates with programmatic, is much smaller than one would expect. 


Spotify hits the top of Edison

Manuela: For our final story I don’t have to summarize the info, as they do it for me.


“This week Edison Research publicly announced the ranking of the biggest podcasting networks through the second quarter of 2022, based on Edison Podcast Metrics survey of over 8,000 weekly podcast listeners age 18 and older.”

For the three years Edison Research has done this report on podcast metrics, SiriusXM Media has held the top spot of the U.S. Top Podcast Networks, By Reach report. This last quarter the top contender was unseated by the relative newcomer. As of Q2 of this year Spotify is the #1 network by reach. They’ve gradually risen up the charts over years, using a combination of acquisitions, licensing deals, original content, and a fertile walled garden to grow the platform.

As of this last quarter the top five now reads Spotify, SiriusXM Media, iHeartRadio, Audioboom, and NPR. 


Quick Hits: Recommended Weekend Reading

Shreya: Finally, it’s time for our semi-regular roundup of articles we’re calling Quick Hits. These are articles that didn’t quite make the cut for today’s episode, but are still worth including in your weekend reading. This week: 

Athletic Greens gives us the scoop on its podcast advertising strategy by Alyssa Meyers of Marketing Brew.The article features company CRO Jonathan Corne explaining their strategy of carefully selecting podcasts to sponsor with intent of establishing a long-term relationship. 

‘Gaming is very much here to stay’: Why Axe body spray is taking a bigger swing at esports marketing by Kimeko McCoy of Digiday. Axe isn’t a stranger to sponsoring esports outside the US, but the company is renewing its efforts at home and getting into TikTok. Which is to say influencer marketing, a thing podcasting is very good at. 

On that same note: Roblox will be one of the first major platform to launch in-game ads by Daniel Konstantinovic of InsiderIntelligence. For anyone without a kid: Roblox is a big deal. Arguably bigger than Minecraft. Allowing outside advertising without locking it to the game’s internal currency is a big step. 

RIP Broadcast TV? Legacy Broadcast Execs Say Not Just Yet by Alyssa Boyle of AdExchanger. A breakdown of the new trend of broadcast TV getting into streaming media by simulating traditional always-running broadcasts. 


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 Tom Webster are the executive producers of The Download from Sounds Profitable.

 

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