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Alright, so I’m going to keep this one pretty short (I think).

So I spent much of Thursday and Friday at Hivio (pronounced “High-Vee-O,” interestingly enough), a peculiar conference-thing that ostensibly revolved around digital audio stuff, broadly speaking.

Some notes:

(1) Pandora on This American Life Partnership: “We’re pleased with the experiment.” Such was the tone of Pandora’s Lizzie Widhelm, the company’s SVP of Ad Product Sales and Strategy, when discussing the partnership that raised eyebrows when it first announced (with the confusing “exclusive streaming deal” language) and triggered a public radio donnybrook in the months since.

So here’s the thing about Widhelm’s conversation with organizer Mark Ramsay that stood out to me: she positioned the This American Life partnership as a move to keep its more engaged users from going off-platform in pursuit of spoken word content, something that they previously couldn’t find on the service before. It’s an articulated logic that can be applied to interpretations of Spotify and Google Play Music’s entry into podcasts as well, given that all three services — along with all other consumer-facing platforms more generally — benefit in proportion with keeping users persistently within their ecosystems, where they’re served more ads and generate more behavioral data for the platform.

(2) A Blumhouse For Podcasts. So there’s a company out here, Red Seat Ventures, started by two former execs of The Blaze, that media operation built around Glenn Beck (I know, trust me, I know), which is doing a bit of work with a rather unconventional and somewhat controversial film production company called Blumhouse. There’s a really good Planet Money episode on Blumhouse, actually, one that sketches out the company’s unique take on the notoriously high-cost, high-barrier film industry: a kind of spray-and-pray model pegged specifically to the horror and suspense genres, which in itself is a kind of throwback to the slasher/grindhouse films of yester-decade.

Anyway, one of Red Seat Venture’s partners, Chris Balfe, took the stage on Thursday and talked a bit about their work with Blumhouse to bring the latter into the podcast space. That partnership has so far yielded a whole new podcast network for Blumhouse Studios, which Deadline covered early last month, and its first offering, “Shock Waves,” got a solid endorsement from the AV Club’s Podmass.

That show’s a conversational film podcast, but I’m curious to see whether the network actually evolves into adopting the classic tenets of the Blumhouse model, which could fit well with podcasting’s strong horror contingent.

(3) NPR One, Emphasized. NPR’s VP of Programming and Audience Development, Anya Grundmann, took the stage on Thursday, and it was very interesting to watch her presentation position NPR One as central to their digital audience strategy with the kerfuffle kicked up by the now in-famous memo firmly in mind.

Anyway, Grundmann highlighted something that I missed earlier: the number of NPR listeners (across all platforms) over the age of 55 is roughly the same as the number of listeners in the 13-34 age group.  That data point comes from Edison’s Share of Ear study covering the first quarter of 2016. When I contacted NPR for verification, the organization’s senior director of media relations Isabel Lara was happy to add: “34% of our daily NPR/Pub Radio listeners are 13-34 and 30% are 55+.”


(4) Ad Spend. Hivio’s slate of presenters and audience pool was an interesting mix of commercial radio, public radio, online audio, podcasting companies, and assorted media types. It is interesting, then, to hear the $36.5 million number — which is the amount ZenithOptimedia projects podcast ad spending will be in 2016 — thrown around a lot by various players, on-stage and off.

Since that number was first published some months ago, several podcast operatives have privately disputed it, typically in the form of “if that’s the actual ad spend, then my company makes up 30-40% of that.” And intuiting from reported download numbers and CPMs that are publicly available, and combining that with the explosion in podcast supply over the past year, I’m inclined to agree that the projected number is way too small.

On Friday, Acast’s Sarah van Mosel provided a specific counter-number on stage. Basing her estimates on her work with Acast and previous experiences at WNYC (where she had served as VP of sponsorship), she pegs the range between $80-200 million for last year.

So there you go, a new estimate benchmark.

(5) A template for future Panoply shows? The Slate sister company announced their latest project yesterday: a 10 part mini-series with popular author Malcolm Gladwell, called “Revisionist History.” The announcement got a fair bit of attention (CNN’s Brian Stelter, in his Reliable Sources newsletter, kicked off his coverage with the line “A podcasting "tipping point?" — a pun one of Gladwell’s book.) It launches on June 16.

On stage, Panoply Chief Creative Officer Andy Bowers called the podcast a template for future projects. “A lot of podcasts we’ve done so far has been a simpler, conversational format,” he said, noting that the company will likely be developing more high production-value shows from here on out.

(6) Miscellaneous tidbits.

  • ESPN’s SVP of Audio, Traug Keller, drops a 40 million monthly download number for the company’s on-demand audio content. ESPN, by the way, isn’t a participant in Podtrac’s measurement system, so your mileage may vary.

  • Maximum Fun’s Jesse Thorn notes that the most popular show in his network is “Adventure Zone.” He also talked about the network’s unique conference/live events business, the “MaxFunCon,” noting that his team is developing a cheaper version in an effort to disrupt itself.

I’m going to recycle some of these for next Tuesday’s newsletter, so I’d like to preemptively apologize for the repetition.

Post Notes

It's too pretty in this city, guys. I'm not sure I'm buying a ticket back to New York.

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