Weekly round-up: New horizons

Issue #36

Hey podheads, last week was a pretty interesting one. Most of the stories, as you will notice, are about new things, shiny too. Here’s issue #36.

New horizons

Arabian tales

Most of the coverage about the rise of podcasting is limited to the developed markets, save for an article or two. This is precisely what makes this piece by Miriam Berger on the rise of Arabic podcasts interesting. A few excerpts:

It’s a digital revival of a long-term tradition. People have realized that there is a thing called podcasts that can fill the most mundane part of your day and make it magical.

Hebah Fisher, co-­founder and chief executive, Kerning Cultures

Ramsey Tesdell, 36, one of Sowt’s co-founders, says about 50 per cent of their listeners come from Saudi Arabia. He declines to give the overall number of downloads, but says some episodes have been downloaded about 60,000 times.

He says Sowt has so far remained in a “weird no-man’s land” free from government pressure because traditional licensing regulations and other rules that govern media don’t yet extend to podcasts. Authorities have yet to take notice of podcasts, says Fisher. “That’s going to change as it becomes more mainstream.”

Chinese voices

Here’s a profile of Kou Aizhe, the creator and host of the Chinese storytelling podcast “Gushi FM,” by Ami Qin in the NYT. Ever since these articles by Marketplce and Connie Chan were published, there has been a lot of interest in the Chinese market.

Here’s the eye-popping number that led everyone to take notice of the Chinese podcasting scene:

Podcasts with subscription fees, interactive Q&A’s online with experts or celebrities and live-streaming lecture-sessions where the audience can participate and pay as they wish are what people in China refer to as the “pay-for-knowledge” economy.

It was estimated to be worth $7.3 billion last year, with the bulk of the revenues from paid podcasts. - Marketplace

Anyway, much like the other parts of the world, these are still early days for podcasts in China:

In a country of more than one billion people, the program attracts nearly 600,000 listeners and counting. Each month, the program gains about 35,000 new listeners, according to Mr. Kou.

One common theme between the podcasting scene in the middle-east and China is censorship.

The relatively limited number of listeners for a country of China’s size could be the reason the podcast is able to fly under the radar in an increasingly controlled media environment.

On monetization:

“Gushi FM” sells some ads, Mr. Kou says, but it faces a constant struggle for survival. Podcasts have yet to catch on in China as they have in the United States and Britain. Experts say part of the reason is the government’s monopoly on radio in China. Advertisers are still drawn to traditional broadcast stations that hire radio hosts to chat and play music.

Streaming giants watch

The Spotify beat

The big picture

Barry McCarthy, the CFO of Spotify, spoke to Anne Steele of WSJ. There’s a lot in here about Spotify’s podcasting strategy. Check out the full interview here.

Car thing

Spotify is testing a new voice-controlled hardware device called the “Car Thing” to learn more about people’s listening habits.

Americans spend 70 billion hours behind the wheel each year. That’s a lot of time spent on the road. So what you do—and what you listen to—to help you get through those long hours in the car matters. That’s why Spotify is trying to learn more about people’s listening habits and preferences to help create an unparalleled experience for our users.

The test will be limited to a select group of Spotify premium users in the US.

Storylines

Spotify is also testing a new feature called “Storyline” on iOS and Android. The new feature presents information about songs and artists in a format similar to Instagram stories.

Up a notch

Spotify also launched the web-based podcast production tool Soundtrap for Storytellers. Spotify had acquired the company in 2017. The tool makes recording and editing podcasts simple. One of the cooler features is the ability to edit out words just like you would in a text document and the changes will reflect in the audio.

The Pandora beat

It’s storytime!

Back in February, Pandora had launched Pandora Stories. The feature allowed artists and creators to add voice messages to playlists. For example, a playlist could contain a story from the artist explaining the inspiration behind a song. Pandora is now leveraging the guest list of SiriusXM to expand the lineup of stories. Pandora subscribers can now listen to stories from some of the biggest names in music such as Adele, Lady Gaga, Blake Shelton, P!nk, Twenty One Pilots, Queen, Fall Out Boy, Stevie Nicks, J. Cole, Mariah Carey, Darius Rucker, Mumford and Sons, Phil Collins among others.

Ever since Pandora was acquired by SiriusXM, the two companies have been working towards leveraging each others strengths. In April, Pandora had announced that SiriusXM talk shows hosted by Kevin Hart, Ricky Gervais among others would be available as podcasts on the platform.

Goldrush

Sony Entertainment has entered into a joint venture with veteran podcast producers Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer.

Leading podcast developers Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer and Sony Music Entertainment today announced a new joint venture that will find and develop original podcast talent and programming. 

Sony will hold a 50% stake in the venture while Davidson and Mayer will hold 25% each. Another case of an entertainment giant not wanting to miss-out on the podcasting action.

Also Read: Sony Music Jumps Into Podcasts, Forms Venture With Producers Adam Davidson and Laura Mayer (EXCLUSIVE) - Todd Spangler/Variety

Charting new horizons

Chartable, the podcast analytics company raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Initialized Capital led by Alexis Ohanian, Naval Ravikant, Greycroft led by Alan Patricof, Ryan Hoover's Weekend Fund, The Fund, Jim Young, and an AngelList syndicate led by Lukas Biewald.

Chartable also launched a new product called SmartLinks, essentially Bitly links for podcasts. The new tools automatically redirects listeners to their preferred podcast player while simultaneously collecting clicks and downloads. The new tool is free for all.

Alexis Ohanian on why Initialized Capital invested in Chartable.

Bytes

What Song Exploder Has Taught Us - James Parker/The Atlantic

RedCircle’s latest feature makes it easy to tip podcast creators - Anthony Ha/Techcrunch

Here’s the trailer of “The Weekly”, a documentary series by The New York Times in partnership with FX and Hulu.

Anchor’s Voice Messages, now from anywhere on web or mobile - Anchor

Inside Podcasting is launching a new podcast:

Rob Greenlee, the former VP of Podcaster Relations at Spreaker joins Libsyn as the new VP of Content and Partnerships - Yahoo Finance

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