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Jeff Umbro: SiriusXM, Spotify, Amazon, and the New York Times Announce Earnings

This guest column is by Jeff Umbro, CEO of The Podglomerate, and was first published in his weekly newsletter for LinkedIn called Podcast Perspective. The Podglomerate produces, distributes, and monetizes podcasts. You can learn more and connect at www.thepodglomerate.com.


Note from RAIN News: We carry Jeff Umbro’s weekly industry newsletter in this space. Jeff also produces a monthly newsletter about The Podglomerate, his podcast network, that includes case studies and information about ad sales. You can sign up here.

Podcasting News & Views

Chartable’s Year in Review

Chartable, the company known for podcast analytics and attribution tracking, have released their 2020 Year in Review. Chartable operates by tracking downloads across shows using an RSS prefix, and is used by much of the industry, i.e. they have lots and lots of data to sift through and are restricted only by opt-ins, not (usually) by platforms. They also have several other services / features, including ad attribution, link tracking, and smartpromos, which are becoming a must-have for a lot of marketing campaigns.

In the report, Chartable says they saw a 180% increase in downloads from 2019, and that there were 17,000 new podcasts launched per week in 2020 (885,000+ new podcasts in the year). There’s also all kinds of data points surrounding where new podcasts are being launched, which categories, and more.

Particularly interesting was the growth or decline of various podcasting apps by total listeners – let’s just say that it looks good for Spotify. Anyway, I don’t want to strip mine the whole report, but I encourage you all to read and review.

Omny’s Big January

Our friend’s over at Omny had a great month. The Triton Digital owned hosting platform announced that they’re getting the business of 2(!) of the top 20 podcast publishers (as measured by Podtrac). Kast Media and All Things Comedy are both moving to Omny’s platform for hosting and measurement, and who knows what else in the future. I *think* that both Kast and All Things Comedy were previously with Art19.

You can look at both of these moves as just another press release, but I see it as an interesting play in the hosting wars. It may not be apparent on the surface, but there’s been a quiet rumbling for years about who gets which publishers. Outlets like Omny, Megaphone, Libsyn, Simplecast, Art19 and a dozen others are all in the business of selling ads for their publishers, but you need publishers and inventory to sell those ads. Anyway, something I’m keeping an eye on.

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SiriusXM, Spotify, Amazon, and the New York Times Announce Earnings

There was a big earnings week in podcast world! I’m certainly no expert (and include all disclaimers here), but this is what I’ve gleaned from the earnings reports of these four companies who are heavily invested in the podcast space.

Jan 1 2020 – today
  • SiriusXM: SiriusXM owns Simplecast, Pandora, AdSwizz, Stitcher (which has Midroll and Earwolf), SiriusXM’s properties, and a stake in Soundcloud. Here are some takeaways from the call from RAIN. In short, SiriusXM had nearly 1M new paying subscribers in 2020 (nearly half of which were in Q4) and revenue of $8.04B in 2020. It seems like the main SiriusXM app is exploring a potential free and ad-supported version of the app in the near future. Pandora has a drastically declining listenership but a strong ad department. The company also said they have plans for utilizing all of their various assets for their Stitcher and Simplecast offerings, i.e. new content and integrated marketing, distribution, and monetization, but from what I gather they didn’t detail what those plans are.
Jan 1 2020 – today
  • Spotify: Spotify owns Gimlet Media, The Ringer, Parcast, Anchor, Megaphone, and has a dozen (dozens?) partnerships and licensing deals with the likes of Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian, the Obamas, the Royals, Tik Tok Stars, etc etc. You can read the transcript from their earnings call here. In short, Spotify now has 345M MAUs, 155M paying subscribers, brought in $1.9B in premium subscripts dollars in Q4, $281M in ad revenue for $2.2B total revenue in Q4 (about $9B on the year), all with a $69M operating loss.
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  • Amazon: Amazon operates Audible and Amazon Music, and recently agreed to purchase Wondery. You can read about their latest earnings here. The company is aggressively pushing into the podcast market with both originals and the recent Wondery acquisition. It’s also possible that podcasts are one more tool that will be used to increase the dominance of their in-home smart speakers, Alexa. It’s tough to parse any financial data associated with podcasts due to the size of Amazon, but there’s a lot of pipeline opportunities here (Amazon Prime Studios, The Washington Post – kind of). Worth noting that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO, which presumably means over time things may change.
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  • New York Times: The New York Times operates a very successful audio department and has recently acquired audio startup Audm and podcast royalty Serial Productions. You can read about their latest earnings here. The company is aggressively expanding its audio department (technically multiple departments, but we’ll look at the NYT today as one entity), which currently features shows like The Daily, Serial, Rabbit Hole, and hosts like Ezra Klein and Kara Swisher, and the sales rights to This American Life. It’s also very clear that the company is using their audio department to make celebrities of some of their writers (see Maggie Haberman, Michael Barbaro, Kevin Roose, Taylor Lorenz, etc). The company added 2.3M digital subscribers in 2020 for a total of more than 7.5M subscribers across their suite of products. it looks like the earnings have folded podcast news into “Cooking, Games, and Audio products”, but it claims this is responsible for a 36.8% revenue increase. Worth paying attention here, as there has been some commotion in the audio department in recent months.

Future notable earnings include iHeart (I think next week), Libsyn (I think next week), Cumulus (Feb. 19), and Entercom (Feb. 23).

Grab Bag

  • You can register for 2021’s Infinite Dial presentation here, taking place on March 11th. For the uninitiated, this is more or less accepted as the big annual report on podcasting – it’s what most folks pull from for the decks. It will also be available after the fact and I’m sure we’ll report on the results here.
  • Squadcast’s Arielle Nissenblatt has a new podcast newsletter called Podcast Plunge, which you can subscribe to here.
  • The Joe Budden Network has moved its operations to Patreon. Budden very publicly broke with Spotify in August over contract negotiations. Honestly, great get for Patreon.
  • The lede sentence says it all: “Acast, the global podcast giant, has announced 215% year-on-year growth in programmatic ad sales revenue for 2020.” Big time congrats to everyone over at Acast.
  • Pacific Content’s Steve Pratt breaks down Clubhouse and the potential impact on podcasting vs. talk radio. I joined Clubhouse a couple week’s ago (@jumbro), and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I do think that the most applicable description someone has used for it is that it’s more of a virtual conference than anything.

Easy Listening 1: Soraya Nadia McDonald on Storybound

My picks this week is extremely self-serving, but that’s the benefit of running a newsletter. On this week’s episode of Storybound, Soraya Nadia McDonald reads her essay “Wandering In Search of Wakanda”, with sound design and music composition from Marco Pavé. Soraya is the culture critic for ESPN’s The Undefeated and was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Marco Pavé ’s has forged a twin identity as a champion of indie Southern rap and as an educator working to stimulate community activism and entrepreneurship through the lens of hip hop music and culture. “Wandering In Search of Wakanda” is a moving essay about what select Black cultural performances and broadway plays meant for Soraya, and it’s amplified and elevated by Marco’s music. This is a great way to kick off Black History Month. Storybound is hosted by Jude Brewer and brought to you by The Podglomerate and Lit Hub Radio.

Listen here.

Jeff Umbro

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