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Hello! It’s Tuesday. Have we all enjoyed And Just Like That…, I hope? Did we all relish its podcasting angle, which has Carrie Bradshaw moving on from being a sex columnist and becoming a sex podcaster? Appropriately 2021! I hate to admit it, but I teared up at the first episode’s twist ending we all know by now. Carrie was finally going to be happy! Anyway, today’s a lighter one, other than my apparent emotional tie to a show I only watched as reruns. We’re talking about Quentin Tarantino’s new podcast, the great promo code ‘pocalypse (sorta), and moderation of live audio spaces. Off we go.
SCOOP: Quentin Tarantino is recording a podcast
The headline says it all. Quentin Tarantino, famed director of Django Unchained and the Kill Bill films, as well as seller (slash defendant) of Pulp Fiction NFTs, is hosting his own podcast. From what I understand, per a source with knowledge, the show will involve Tarantino going through his media collection, like his CDs and DVDs, and discussing their significance. Earwolf, now part of SiriusXM, is producing the show and just started recording. It doesn’t yet have a title or release date. I’ve reached out to Earwolf for comment and will update if I hear back. But this continues our theme of stories around Hollywood coming to podcasting.
EXCLUSIVE: The podcasting industry’s consolidation and waning of promo codes
Earlier today, I published a story on The Verge about a broader sentiment I’m hearing (and reporting) from direct response advertisers: as the podcasting space consolidates — often in blockbuster, multimillion-dollar deals — they’re increasingly finding themselves in less accommodating partnerships and being asked to pay way more for their usual ad spots.
These direct response advertisers are the folks whose goals focus on moving product, typically by relying on a promo code. Hosts might no longer be willing to read ads and instead rely on producers to do so; companies won’t swap out ad copy unless they spend more; and the prices are skyrocketing. A headline in itself is a source telling me Joe Rogan’s show used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to advertise on, which also allowed for an unlimited number of impressions because the ads were baked in. Now, Spotify requires a minimum spend of $1 million to even touch the show. The CPM costs more than $60.
Spotify commented, for what it’s worth, and said: “We believe the many innovations taking shape will benefit the entire marketplace, including creators and advertisers, and we’re confident that advertisers of all sizes will continue to find immense value in the space.”
You can — and should! — read the piece for the full context and reasoning behind this shift. (As you can imagine, lots of investment doesn’t come for free. You gotta make something in return.) But a couple ideas stayed in my notebook during this reporting that I want to discuss. They aren’t fully baked, like these ads (heh), and include more questions than answers, but regardless, I want to put them into the world. One thing I’m thinking through is how these higher prices, which broadly seem to be industry-wide, impact cross promotion. We all know a tried-and-true podcast marketing strategy is to swap, or pay for, podcast promotion on other shows. I wonder if these CPM prices will affect that market, whether it’s podcast networks having to pony up for higher CPMs and being unable to afford it, or fewer swaps happening because ad space is saved for paying customers. My hunch is yes and yes.
The second is the growing market of companies trying to address the podcasting middle, or shows with some following that maybe aren’t at the level or scale to interest the major tech companies. Spotify has tried to do this with Anchor sponsorships, aka Ambassador Ads, as they’re now called. That is apparently ongoing. Meanwhile, Gumball is trying to scale the host-read ad, and places like RedCircle are attempting to monetize smaller shows. This will probably become critical to advertisers trying to stay one step ahead of the big platforms in identifying shows that work for them.
Overall, the story I wrote and the ideas I’m thinking through all have to do with ~scale~. I hate to hit you with a buzzword so early in the morning but alas. Investment comes when folks see an opportunity to make cash, and that cash-making opportunity only happens when you can seamlessly sell and distribute lots of ads at a time. So the little shows tie themselves to bigger networks, bigger networks tie themselves to even bigger sales teams, and bigger teams suck up all the major shows. Scale!
I’ll re-emphasize that we here at Hot Pod care about tracking how the podcast industry is changing as more money and tech companies flood the space. That includes big brand advertisers coming in, too. We’re watching the ripple effects, one of which is rocking the direct response advertisers’ boat and seeing how they keep it afloat. We’ll keep on reporting these stories.
Twitter Spaces’ live audio chats have zero moderation, literally
Last week, The Washington Post published a story about the moderation mess that is Twitter Spaces. The headline says, “racists and Taliban supporters have flocked” to the live audio feature, which, yes, is bad. But the more damning discovery is that Twitter apparently has literally zero moderation in place for these live spaces. “These chats are neither policed nor moderated by Twitter, the company acknowledges, because it does not have human moderators or technology that can scan audio in real-time,” the reporters write. A spokeswoman says tech doesn’t exist to scan live audio, and if it does, it’s too new to work properly. She does add, however, that the team tries to detect “problematic keywords” in the titles of Spaces. Lol.
This stuck out to me because last February — I’ve been linking to this piece a lot lately, jeez — I wrote about how tough it is to moderate any audio, not just live. I called it the “impossible problem of moderating shows.” Transcripts are unreliable because nuance is difficult to discern, and in some cases, human review will be necessary. Podcasts also face the tricky issue of RSS feeds. It’s hard to deplatform a URL, unless you refuse to host it. In relation to Twitter Spaces, however, we might have an even bigger issue. The platform’s algorithm could take over, propelling these terrible rooms into people’s feeds, which becomes a whole new type of bad that has yet to really hit podcasting. Scaled, problematic content. Of course, if podcasting apps decide to task software with making recommendations, the same fate could play out. I don’t have a solution or anything helpful to add here, but rather, use this as a foreshadowing of things to come. Live social audio only took off over the past year and a half, and already, we’re in problematic territory.
Call Your Girlfriend is ending, part deux
Our buddy Nick Quah, who also happens to be the podcast critic at Vulture, interviewed the Call Your Girlfriend team about their decision to end the show. Insider subscribers know the show is ending, as Aria pointed out in our Friday edition, and today we have more context. I’ll leave you with this choice quote from Aminatou Sow, who uses today’s buzzword: scale.
“So we own every part of our company, farm to table. There’s a reason for that. We could have sold if we wanted to. Those opportunities came. The reason we kept the company the way we did is because we have really strong values around how we do capitalism. Capitalism isn’t great. I don’t love it. In order to sleep at night, there are rules we like to play by.
I’m really proud of the business we built. I know what it’s like to pay everybody a fair wage. I know what it’s like to say, ‘These ads are not great. We’re not going to run them.’ So it’s hard not to roll your eyes at people who tell you it can’t be done. That it’s inevitable there will be union busters. That any kind of accessibility captioning is so hard to do. We know how hard it is. That’s why we kept the company at the scale it was at.”
That’s all I have for you today. I’ll encourage you to subscribe for our Thursday and Friday editions if you enjoyed this one. I promise you’ll know more about the audio industry than you ever could have dreamed, and you’ll get all the knowledge ad-free. Bye!