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January 18, 2019
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Podcasting

Spotify’s increased focus on podcasts in 2019 includes selling its own ads

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Having established itself as a top streaming service with now over 200 million users, Spotify this year is preparing to focus more of its attention on podcasts. The company plans bring its personalization technology to podcasts in order to make better recommendations, update its app’s interface so people can access podcasts more easily, and broker more exclusives with podcast creators. It’s also getting into the business of selling ads within podcasts, as a means of generating revenue from this increasingly popular form of audio programming.

In fact, Spotify has already begun to dabble in podcast ad sales, ahead of this larger push.

Spotify, we’ve learned, has been selling its own advertisements in its original podcasts since mid-2018 year, including in programs like Spotify Original “Amy Schumer Presents: 3 Girls, 1 Keith,” “The Joe Budden Podcast,” “Dissect,” “Showstopper,” and others. With more exclusives planned for the year ahead, the portion of Spotify’s ad business focused on podcasts will also grow.

The company appears to be taking a different approach to working with podcasters than it does with it comes to working with music artists.

Today, Spotify gives artists tools that help share their work and be discovered – it invested in distribution platform DistroKid, for example, and now lets artists submit tracks for playlist consideration. With podcasters, however, Spotify wants to either bring their voices in-house, or at least exclusively license their content.

“Over the last year, we become very focused on building out a great podcast universe,” said Head of Spotify Studios Courtney Holt, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. “The first step was to make sure that we’ve got the world’s best podcasts on Spotify, and integrated the experience into the service in a way that allowed people to build habits and behavior there,” he said.

“What we started to see is that the types of podcasts that really were working on Spotify were ones where they were really authentic voices…so we just decided to invest more in those types of voices,” Holt added.

Spotify’s collection of originals has been steadily growing over the past year. Last August, for example, Spotify nabbed an exclusive deal with the “Joe Budden” podcast, which is aimed at hip-hop and rap culture fans, and launched its first branded podcast, “Ebb & Flow,” focused on hip-hop and R&B. Its full original lineup today also includes “Dissect,” Amy Schumer’s “3 Girls, 1 Keith,” “Mogul,” “The Rewind with Guy Raz,” “Showstopper,” “Unpacked,” “Crimetown” (Its first season was wide, second season is exclusive to Spotify), “UnderCover,” and “El Chapo: El Jefe y su Juicio.”

At CES, Spotify announced the addition of one more –  journalist Jemele Hill is coming Spotify with an exclusive podcast called “Unbothered,” which will feature high-profile guests in sports, music, politics, culture, and more.

In growing its collection of originals, the company found that podcasters who joined Spotify exclusively were actually able to grow their audience, despite leaving other distribution platforms.

For example, the Joe Budden podcast had its highest streaming day ever after joining Spotify.

This has led Spotify to believe that influencers in the podcast community will be able to bring their community with them when they become a Spotify exclusive, and then further grow their listener base by tapping into Spotify’s larger music user base and, soon, an improved recommendation system.

There are other perks for Spotify, too – when users come to Spotify and begin to listen to podcasts, they often then spend more time engaged with the app, it found.

“People who consume podcasts on Spotify are consuming more of Spotify – including music,” said Holt. “So we found that in increasing our [podcast] catalog and spending more time to make the user experience better, it wasn’t taking away from music, it was enhancing the overall time spent on the platform,” he noted.

While chasing exclusive deals to bring more original podcasts to Spotify will be a big initiative this year, Spotify will continue to offer its recently launched podcasts submission feature to everyone else.

With this sort of basic infrastructure in place, Spotify now wants to help users discover new podcasts and improve the listening experience.

One aspect of this will involve pointing listeners to other podcast content they may like.

For instance, Spotify could point Joe Budden fans to other podcasts about hip-hop and rap. It will also leverage its multi-year partnership with Samsung to allow listeners pick up where they left off in an episode as they move between different devices. And it will turn its personalization and recommendation technology to podcasts – including the ads in the podcasts themselves.

“Think about what we’ve done around music – the more understand you around the music you stream, the more we can personalize the ad experience. Now we can take that to podcasts,” said Brian Benedik, VP and Global Head of Advertising Sales at Spotify, when asked about the potential for Spotify selling ads in podcasts.

The company has been testing the waters with its own podcast ad sales since mid 2018, Benedik said. The sales are handled in-house by Spotify’s ad sales team for the time being.

Benedik had also appeared on a panel this week at CES, where he talked about the value of contextual advertising – meaning, ads that can be personalized to the user based on factors like mood, behavior and moments. This data could be appealing to podcast advertisers, as well.

But to scale its efforts around podcast ads, Spotify will need to invest in digital ad insertion technology. Benedik told us Spotify is currently deciding whether that’s something it wants to build in-house or acquire outright.

Spotify’s rival Pandora went the latter route. It closed on the acquisition of adtech company Adswizz in May 2018, then introduced capabilities for shorter, more personalized ads in August. By November, Pandora announced it was bringing its Genome technology to podcasts, which allowed for a recommendation system.

Now Spotify aims to catch up.

The addition of podcasts has reoriented Spotify’s focus as company, Holt said.

“We’re an audio company. We’re trying to be the world’s best audio service,” he told the audience at CES. “It’s a pure play for us. We’re seeing increased engagement; there’s great commercial opportunities from podcasting that we’ve never seen on the platform…And, obviously, exclusives are to give us something that makes the platform truly unique – to have people come to Spotify for something you can’t get anywhere else is the sort of cherry on top of that entire strategy,” Holt said.

Image credits: Spotify

News Source = techcrunch.com

The Rodecaster Pro is a perfect centerpiece to a home podcasting studio

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My podcasting rig is simple: Two microphones, a Tascam recorder, two XLR cables. I’ve upgraded things a bit in the past year — improved the mics, bought some foam windscreens and bought a pair of tabletop, foldable mic stands. But the principle is the same: take nothing I can’t fit into a laptop sleeve.

It’s served me pretty well in the five years I’ve been doing my show. While friends were building soundproof posting studios in their homes, I went with a rig I could take with me. It’s a lot easier to ask someone to be on your show if you’re able to go to them.

Here’s a picture I took of comedian Hannibal Buress after recording an upcoming episode in my hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. That’s my setup right there. It’s sitting atop my rolling luggage, which is turned upside down on a small hotel coffee table. Improvisation is key.

There are trade-offs, of course. Sound is a big one. The mics themselves are pretty crisp, but ambient noise is an issue. I’ve recorded a bunch of these in cafes, bars and restaurants. I tell myself it’s part of the charm. And, of course, with a Tascam, you don’t have the same sort of sophisticated control you get with a board.

Perhaps I’ve always secretly fantasized about what a home studio might look like. Cost has always been a factor, of course. These things add up like crazy. Also, the barrier of entry is needlessly complex. A handful of companies have looked to capitalize on the increasingly profitable world of non-professional podcasts. Blue has produced some pretty compelling USB-based stuff. For those who want to record multiple guests in the same room, however, things start to get much trickier.

I jumped at the chance to try out the Rodecaster Pro. From the looks of it, it just might be the ideal product to help home podcasters scratch that itch. The product is essentially a six-channel soundboard with self-contained production capabilities. The idea is to just record everything live to a single track that can be uploaded directly to your podcast server of choice.

That includes everything from live mixing to an octet of sound pads you can use to trigger music beds and sound effects. Better yet, you can patch people in remotely by connecting a smartphone via hardwire or Bluetooth.

It’s a really lovely piece of hardware. I showed it to a few folks during setup, and everyone was impressed by the look of the thing, from the pro knobs to the brightly illuminated sound pads with customizable colors.

There’s a small touchscreen display at the top of the board that serves both as a way to gauge levels and navigate various settings. Essentially it serves as a way to bypass the computer entirely, once you’ve finished the setup process. The Rodecaster operates on a similar principle as much of anchor.fm’s offerings, giving users the path of least resistance to bringing a podcast to life.

It’s an admirable goal, especially in the world of podcasting, where content democratization is supposed to be a guiding principle. And certainly setup is painless, so far as mixing boards go. I had to fine-tune and troubleshoot a few things to get it up and running, but within an hour or two, everything was perfectly set up and running.

The downside to that level of simplicity, however, is that it removes the ability to fine-tune some key parts of the process. The most glaring omission is multi-track recording. Sure, you can record four people on mics and a fifth on a phone call, but it all records to the same track. That’s fine and dandy if you want something quick and dirty (as, granted, some podcasters do), but I’m a proponent of editing.

If you’re trying to make it sound professional, you’re going to want to cut it down. Even as someone whose podcast often runs in excess of an hour, I still find I spend much more time chopping the show up in Audacity than I do actually recording. It sucks, but that’s what you need to do if you want it to sound half decent.

Even if you’re not editing for content, at least cut the “uhms” and “ahs” and all of those bits where everyone talks over each other. That’s a hell of a lot easier to do when you’re operating with multiple tracks. I realize not everyone feels that way, but the option would be nice.

Setup mostly consists of unboxing and plugging in cables. Rode sent up a deluxe edition in a giant backpack that also included a pair of its Podcaster microphones and large, heavy stands. You’ll need to go through a couple of screens to set up odds and ends like time and date and to pair it to your phone, if you plan to go that route.

I tethered the board to my laptop during setup, in order to customize the sounds. It comes preloaded by default with applause, laughter, a rimshot and the like — it’s the Morning Zoo Crew package. I tossed in an intro and outro song and a couple of custom effects for good measure (Reggaeton air horn and Nelson from The Simpsons, naturally).

There’s a total of 512MB of storage, so you can add longer tracks as well, associating them by dropping them onto the corresponding pads on the desktop app. Check the levels, pop in a microSD card for recording and you’re off to the races.

I’ll admit that I ran into a couple of hiccups with things like phone audio through the board. Also, the rear headphone jacks require an adapter if you want everyone to hear themselves and the sound effects. Seems like an odd choice, given the novice target audience. Especially since the front cans use a standard jack size.

Original Content records its weekly episode on Fridays, so the timing worked out perfectly to test the thing out. Anthony and I set up mics across the table from each other and we beamed Jordan in via phone.

I hit record, tapped the intro music and we were off. Somewhat annoyingly, the buttons can only trigger the sounds, but not turn them off. That’s great for something like the air horn (for ironic comedic effect only, I swear), but less great with music. You’ll want to edit that down to the length you need it, otherwise you’ll end up potting down the fader, effectively losing that channel until it’s finished playing. The ability to see how much time is remaining on each track would have been a nice touch, but it’s not crucial here.

Once everything was up and running, we didn’t run into any issues for the hour and change we spent recording (aside from me riding the sound effect board a little too hard, perhaps). We finished recording, popped out the card and transferred the files. Boom, podcast.

The sound quality on the Rode mics is really terrific — borderline studio-quality stuff. The episode will be up in a few days, so you can judge for yourself. The sound on Jordan’s phone connection isn’t great, but you can’t really fault Rode for the poor state of cellphone call quality these days.

The Rodecaster Pro does exactly what is says on the box — and does most of it quite well. As someone who operated a board back in my radio days, I got back into the swing of things almost immediately. I’d forgotten how much I’d enjoyed going through those motions in the intervening years. And the ability to actually do a show face to face brings a level of energy and understanding you lose when relegated to Skype.

Bottom line: $600 for the board alone is going to be prohibitively expensive for many novice podcasters. But for a select few looking to start down the path to serious podcasting, this will really hit the sweet spot and up your game with the press of a button.

News Source = techcrunch.com

What’s next for podcasting?

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The podcast market will discover the answer to a foundational question about its future in the next few years. Will it continue along the path of music streaming, where all podcasts are available everywhere on free, ad-supported tiers? Or, will it follow the path of streaming TV into paid subscription services with exclusive content?

Today, effectively all of the industry’s revenue is from advertising — at least in the United States. However, we’re seeing the first steps being taken toward paid subscriptions and exclusive content. Based on numerous discussions I’ve had with top figures in podcasting over the last month, it’s clear that popular shows are getting large offers for exclusivity on podcasting platforms, major Hollywood players are entering the market, and some top VCs are willing to back new streaming platforms taking a Netflix approach to podcasts (like Luminary Media which raised a $40 million seed round).

Many in the industry are deeply skeptical of that business model and for good reason: we don’t have concrete evidence that consumers in the US will pay for podcasts and ad revenue is becoming quite lucrative for the top shows as the format gains popularity. But that precedent has hardly been entrenched, as the sector is only just now gaining mainstream consumer interest and getting attention from Hollywood.

And, there’s a macro problem with betting on ads. The dominance of Facebook and Google over all digital ad spending has already driven a shift to subscriptions across music, video, and publishing. Even with dramatic market growth, podcasting doesn’t have a comparative advantage in competing against the scale and ad-targeting of the duopoly.

Subscription tiers and exclusive shows (akin to Netflix Originals) can, on the other hand, provide a virtuous cycle of quality content and stable revenue, generating recurring revenue directly from consumers who might ultimately pay for multiple streaming subscriptions to access different shows.

Could podcasting go the direction of streaming TV, with subscription tiers and original series? The breakout success of House of Cardsthe first Netflix Original—set the stage for Netflix’s dominance in streaming TV.

Podcasting’s future looks more like Hollywood than like NPR radio

The annual Infinite Dial survey by Edison Research tracked that the percent of Americans over age 12 who listen to a podcast in a given month grew steadily from 9% in 2008 to 26% (or 72 million people) in 2018. Fifty-four million Americans, or 17% of those over 12, are weekly podcast listeners with a mean weekly listening time over 6.5 hours.

The popularity of podcasts still exists primarily within a demographic niche, however. Roughly half of podcast listeners make $75,000 or more in annual income and a clear majority have a college degree (in fact, one-third have a master’s degree). This highlights how much potential for audience growth there still is. Podcasts are still mainly formatted like NPR radio shows, with hosts discussing politics, business, or society and a particular audience demographic tuning in as a result.

But podcasting is just a content medium and should be filled with shows that appeal to all different types of people, just like music, TV, film, publishing sites, and YouTube each have a vast range of content for everyone. Tom Webster, the SVP of Edison Research who co-authors that big annual survey on podcasting, highlighted in a recent blog post the discrepancy between the format and topics of the most popular podcasts and those of the most popular TV shows.

Addressing this gap in diverse show types is the thesis behind large new podcast production companies like Gimlet Media, Wondery, and Endeavor Audio. Endeavor Audio launched on September 13 as the podcast division of entertainment conglomerate Endeavor, dedicated to financing, developing, and marketing podcasts made for as diverse a set of topics and styles as there are in TV: scripted dramas, competition shows, documentaries, etc. that appeal to different audiences. Endeavor also owns WME, the world’s largest talent agency, giving it distinct advantage in creating new shows that draw on the skills of top creative talent in Hollywood. The upcoming wave of podcasts crafted to be more like TV shows than radio shows is what could bring tens of millions new listeners into the podcast market.

That will only be accelerated through music streaming services’ entry into the market and the rapid consumer adoption of smart speakers. Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and others have made podcasts a priority over the last year, promoting shows to millions of users who aren’t already into podcasting. Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home make it easier for people who hear about a podcast to try it (just ask Alexa to play it) and will likely increase podcast listening among those in age groups that have lower smartphone penetration (children and people over 55).

Advertising isn’t the best path forward

Last year the US market size for podcast ad revenue was only $314M and this year it will still be around $400M (according to the IAB). That’s extraordinary annual growth for an industry but it’s still tiny in absolute value. Justine and Olivia Moore at VC firm CRV crunched the numbers to show that podcasting makes 10x less money per hours consumed than any other major content medium. There’s a lack of monetization on the vast majority of podcasts: the minimum number of downloads per podcast needed to enroll in the industry’s ad marketplaces or start discussions with most advertisers is 50,000. As they noted, this is attributable to a range of issues like lack of programmatic advertising, lack of analytics, and lack of consistent measurement standards.

Life is admittedly getting good for the most downloaded shows now that the podcasting market is getting serious attention. One executive I discussed this with (who represents several top podcast creators) says there are a handful of podcasts generating eight-figures in ad revenue per year, a rapidly growing tier making seven-figures, and a large “middle-class” making six-figures. That’s before income from touring, merchandise, and book/film/TV deals. The going rate for ad spots is anywhere from $20-50+ CPMs and podcast ads tend to have a higher conversion rate than video ads.

As General Manager of Endeavor Audio – the new podcasting division of entertainment conglomerate Endeavor – Moses Soyoola is overseeing a group that’s bringing top Hollywood talent into the podcast space and financing new types of shows.

But near-term financial gains are not the primary reason that big names in Hollywood are getting interested in producing podcasts, according to Endeavor Audio general manager Moses Soyoola. When we spoke recently, he explained that while the income can reach into the seven figures on successful shows, that’s still less than what they can make in other creative projects. They see podcasting as a brand-building mechanism, however, and as an opportunity to understand a new storytelling format that could become even more lucrative in the future.

As with all ad-dependent content, the losers right now are those with passionate niche audiences and those producing big-budget shows that advertisers treat the same even if audiences find much deeper value in. A creator with a devoted fan base of 30,000 listeners cannot currently tap into advertising nor easily turn to subscriptions as an alternative. Listening to an hour’s worth of news discussion that the hosts record over a couple hours day-of generates roughly the same ad revenue as listening to an hour installment of a show that takes months to produce.

With the growing number of narrative podcasts being created by Endeavor Audio and others, the need to include numerous ad spots throughout them is disruptive, pulling audiences out of the story. It constrains the format and limits content within the boundaries of family friendliness that major advertisers are comfortable with. This is like the historic difference between network TV shows and HBO shows, which — freed from ad breaks and advertiser concerns — became the crown jewel of TV dramas and went on to consistently top the Emmy Awards winner list.

Would people pay for podcasts?

China is the inverse of the Western podcast market. The Chinese “podcast” market dwarfs that of the US because it is the norm to have paid subscriptions for shows rather than rely on advertising. To my understanding, the definition of podcast here may be broader than the scope in the US — by including audio courses — but the Chinese government estimated the market for paid podcasts alone as $7.3 billion in 2017.

We know consumers in the West are willing to pay subscriptions for film/TV and for ad-free streaming music, so why not for podcast streaming? New content formats often start free, have lagging monetization, then as the audience grows enough and creators experiment enough, premium content rises up that people are willing to pay for. Podcasts have been around for two decades but are just now going mainstream and seeing serious investment from Hollywood.

We saw with music streaming and satellite radio that many consumers are willing to pay in order to eliminate audio ads from music that’s otherwise free to listen to. Spotify has made a big push into podcasts over the last few months; it creates branded podcasts in collaboration with advertisers but can’t remove ads that are within podcasts it distributes. As podcasts turn to programmatic advertising — and large streaming services like Spotify push them there in order to serve up the ads — it would be surprising if Spotify didn’t make podcasts ad-free for its Premium tier subscribers and encourage podcast listeners to go Premium.

Most podcasts aren’t worth paying for, just like most articles on the internet aren’t worth paying for. Paywalled content has to be exceptional to stand out from the noise and get consumers to open their wallets. The freemium model is most likely to become the norm in podcasting, with most podcasts available free and ad-supported but some particularly high-quality shows restricted to a paid subscription tier that’s ad-free.

Streaming competition will drive exclusivity

If we’re being honest, the existing podcast streaming services — and there are many — are all the same. They are simple utilities for searching for and playing a show. No one has cracked the nut of discoverability in a differentiated way: making podcasts easy to discover based on topic and style and having a personalized recommendation tool that works as well as Pandora and Spotify music recommendations do.

Streaming services of any content format struggle to differentiate on user interface alone. Users are there for the content — that’s the product they’re after. So ultimately, the way to differentiate is via exclusive content that audiences eagerly want. That’s true whether the service has a paid subscription or not, but maintaining a profitable subscription tier is nearly impossible if one’s competitors are able to offer all the same content for cheaper. Differentiation requires differentiated content available in the subscription that can’t be gained elsewhere: high-quality original shows.

This past summer, Spotify launched its first Spotify Original Podcasts, including a $1 million deal with comedian Amy Schumer to develop “3 Girls, 1 Keith” (which it just renewed for a second season). Schumer’s podcast isn’t exclusive to Spotify but it’s easy to envision the streaming service signing future podcast deals as exclusives as its base of podcast listeners grows (it has rapidly become the second most popular podcast platform after Apple’s Podcasts app).

Each individual I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks who runs a leading podcast production company said they are getting approached by numerous streaming platforms about exclusive shows. Most aren’t taking the deals, at least not yet, but it’s clear the industry is about to run this experiment over the next couple years and see if consumers buy in.

A couple of the executives I met noted that the deals top podcast services are offering for exclusivity are quite lucrative, but when you factor in how much the reduced audience size that comes with being exclusive limits touring, merchandise sales, and potential for a book/film/TV deal, it’s a tougher sell.

That has been true, but I think it’s quickly changing. Given how much consumer adoption of podcasts is poised to grow, the top few podcast streaming services (by monthly active users) could each enable an exclusive podcast to still reach an audience in the millions of listeners. In particular, I’m talking about Apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio given their pre-existing install bases. It’s also a rational decision for each of them to overpay for exclusivity of hit shows in these early days of the market — the short-term loss on a given show is an investment in becoming the preferred streaming service for millions of new podcast listeners.

The streaming platforms don’t have the leverage to negotiate ownership over exclusive podcasts—there’s too much competition between them and optionality for podcast creators—so creators will retain rights to develop touring, merchandise, book/film/tv deals, and other revenue streams. As a successful TV producer explained to me, the consideration of turning a podcast into a TV show is the same as turning a book into a TV show: it’s about whether it’s a captivating story that engages the audience; the existing audience size will affect deal terms but a hit podcast only being on iHeart or Spotify wouldn’t inhibit it from getting a deal.

iHeartMedia

If one company is uniquely positioned to offer exclusive shows without a paid subscription tier, it’s iHeartMedia (which acquired the Stuff Media podcast network in September). In addition to its iHeartRadio streaming service, it can syndicate shows across its radio stations which reach 250 million Americans per month. That could generate more ad revenue than from a show existing solely across podcast apps and give it a bigger fan base to benefit touring and other revenue streams.

Looking at how exclusivity could impact consumers’ experience, it’s notable that people are typically on the hunt for just one podcast to listen to in a given session. With lengths typically 25-60 minutes, this is most similar to picking out a TV episode. Music services need full libraries of the world’s songs because people listen to a wide range of 3-4 minute songs in the same sitting and organize them into custom playlists of every imaginable combination. Having music divided between separate streaming platforms would be disruptive to the core experience of a music listening session. Switching apps to listen to a different podcast might not be any more inconvenient than doing so for TV shows on different streaming services.

Podcasting should embrace “listener revenue”

Direct “listener revenue” from paid subscription tiers enable a whole swath of niche content creators to make a living creating high-quality podcasts for a small, passionate audience and they enable worthwhile return-on-investment for big budget productions that audiences find deep value in. Importantly, subscription tiers across the major podcast streaming platforms would drive an industry-wide focus on shows that gain popular acclaim rather than shows that maximize initial downloads or streams (just like subscription publishing incentivizes quality over clickbait).

Breakout shows that receive pop culture buzz will be critical to any paid subscription tier in podcasting gaining traction, like the success of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were critical to Netflix gaining respect for its Netflix Originals and differentiating from competitors. Such breakouts will likely involve a big name from Hollywood whose existing fan base drives a critical mass of initial listeners, and whose name recognition lends credibility to a potential paid tier subscriber. And it will almost certainly be a narrative format rather than another talk show.

Incumbents moving into podcasting from music streaming (or that are operating systems able to pre-install their app) have a distinct advantage here over startups dedicated to podcast streaming. Established players can expose millions of existing users to their own shows and bundle premium podcasts into existing subscription plans. Podcast streaming startups hoping to break through will need a lot of initial capital to develop their own shows and will need to seek bundling partnerships with companies that already have distribution — like mobile carriers and subscription video platforms. Luminary Media in NYC, founded by Matt Sacks of NEA, might be the first to launch with this approach: with a $40 million seed round, it’s aiming for a majority of content on its upcoming subscription streaming service to be its own originals within 3 years. Don’t be surprised if a couple other VC-backed podcast apps take this route in the year ahead as well.

It is likely we will see a combination of exclusive shows and paid subscription tiers develop on several platforms over a period of the next 18-36 months. It won’t happen overnight, but looking at the precedent set in other content formats and having spoken to two dozen senior figures in the industry during the past month, we seem to be in the early days of this shift, driven by the growth of podcasting from talk shows into a broader entertainment medium.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Anchor brings podcast creation and editing to the iPad

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Following its relaunch earlier this year as a podcast creation platform, Anchor today is bringing its suite of mobile podcasting tools to the iPad. Like its iPhone counterpart, the iPad version of Anchor lets you record, edit, then distribute your podcast anywhere, including iTunes and Google Play Music. The new app is also customized for touch-based editing, and it takes advantage of iPad features like drag-and-drop and multitasking.

The company had originally been focused on short-form audio, but more recently realized it could better serve the growing audience of podcasters with a set of easy-to-use tools available right on their mobile device.

The iPhone version of Anchor lets you press a button to record your audio, record with friends, insert voice messages (like call-ins) into your podcast, and easily add music and transitions. The iPad app now offers a similar set of tools, with a few upgrades and tweaks.

For starters, you can opt use a real microphone by plugging one into your iPad’s lightning port, or by using a lightning-to-USB adapter.

You can also upload or even drag and drop audio files from other apps into Anchor for use in its episode builder. For example, you could pull in music from GarageBand, add a voice memo, or import other audio files saved in a cloud storage site like Dropbox.

The app support multitasking, too, so you can keep your notes open as your record.

And you can directly edit the audio files on the iPad itself using touch-based controls that are easy enough for anyone – even novice or amateur podcasters – to use.

The controls allow you to trim the beginning and end of your podcast, so you can cut out issues like false starts or other chatter. And you can split audio clips in order to insert transitions, voice messages, music, and other audio.

The clips can then be moved around or deleted as you put your podcast together.

Given the popularity of podcasting today, it’s actually fairly remarkable that no one else had yet introduced audio editing tools built with the needs of podcasters in mind.

The Anchor app is also another example of how the iPad can be used for content creation, not just consumption – and specifically, how it can be used as an editing tool for creative projects.

Anchor for iPad, like the iPhone app, is free to use as the company is currently living off its funding. But the longer-term plan is to offer monetization tools to Anchor’s podcasters, where Anchor itself would likely take a cut of revenues.

News Source = techcrunch.com

VCs like what they are hearing out of the podcasting sector

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Podcasts are television for the earbud generation.

And podcasts have been around for a surprisingly long time. If you’re one of the folks who got hooked on podcasts around 2014, when Sarah Koenig and other producers from This American Life launched the wildly popular Serial podcast, you might think that it’s a brand new medium. But podcasts — audio that’s packaged and syndicated over RSS — have been around since the early 2000s.

And although many podcasters make money, typically through sponsorships, the podcasting industry (such as it is) hasn’t received much in the way of venture funding until quite recently. 2017 was a pivotal year for venture investment in the industry.

A venture-ready industry?

In the chart below, we plot deal and dollar volume for venture rounds raised by companies that are either in Crunchbase’s  href=”https://www.crunchbase.com/search/organizations/field/organizations/categories/podcast”>podcast category or use the word “podcast” in their descriptions:

In charts like this, one typically expects a significant spike in dollar volume to come from one really big round, but that’s not what happened in the podcast world. Rather, there were several large deals struck with early-stage companies in the space. Here are some of the highlights from 2017:

So far in 2018, a number of other podcasting startups also raised venture funding, including West Hollywood-based podcast network Wondery, which raised $5 million in a Series A round. A company with a name that’s a little on-the-nose, The Podcast App, went through Y Combinator.

VC interest in podcasting: Why now?

Why has the podcast industry taken so long to appeal to VCs in a big way? In part, it’s a fairly decentralized industry. While there are some larger podcasting networks, most podcasts are still produced and promoted independently. But, perhaps more importantly, the business value of podcasts has been difficult to quantify until relatively recently. Unlike a web page or streaming video platform, where basically every user action can be tracked and optimized, historically it’s been difficult to analyze podcast listening habits and target ads.

But this is changing. Podcasts are now a mainstream medium for news and entertainment. And in December 2017, Apple, a longtime podcast booster and the largest distributor of podcasts, rolled out podcast episode analytics. This lets podcast producers and their advertisers know whether people actually listened to the entire episode and heard the ads. (Note: a few smaller podcast players offered similar analytics and ad monitoring features before Apple did.)

This leads some investors to believe they can achieve “venture scale” returns by putting money into podcasting startups.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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