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YouTube gets serious about podcasting

YouTube gets serious about podcasting


And Amazon prepares to get into the live audio game

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Hello, hello, and welcome back to the workweek. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, and shout out to those of you who attended On The Verge. It was so nice to see people IRL and actually meet face to face. I hope we can do it again soon! Anyway, today’s a busy one with a couple scoops and analyses. Off we go.

SCOOP: Amazon is building a top-secret live audio app

Earlier today, I published a story about Amazon’s work on a live audio app, codenamed Project Mic. The app takes bits from Anchor and bits from Clubhouse — users can host DJ sets, like they would a radio show, and intersperse songs with talk. The idea is to reinvent radio. (I feel like I should have put a trigger warning on that sentence for some of you — sorry!) 

The other highlights from my piece: the app will simultaneously stream content to Twitch, Amazon Music, and Alexa-equipped devices. Amazon is looking to bring A-list talent on board to help launch the app, along with regular people to keep the programming constant, and the app will be interactive, particularly through Alexa. The app will also be optimized for the car, whatever that means. Amazon didn’t comment on my story.

I’m mostly thinking about this in relation to the flurry of tech companies now creating and distributing radio station-like content — Apple Music, Sonos, Spotify, and, soon, Amazon. Apple and Spotify, in particular, are thinking about how their platforms can dominate the car either through car maker partnerships or hardware, and so is Amazon, which will be critical if they want to eventually usurp radio. I own a 2009 Honda Fit with an aux cable, and personally, the ease of turning on the radio is something I’d struggle to give up. I currently can listen through Spotify or any of these other apps, but instead, pressing the power button and clicking through my presets is my default. That’s hard behavior to change! We’ll see if Amazon or anyone else can pull it off.

SCOOP: YouTube finally has someone leading podcasting efforts

Another one exclusively for you Hot Pod readers: Google has hired someone to lead its podcasting efforts. A company spokesperson confirms to me that Kai Chuk has been hired to “manage the large volume of existing podcasts and relationships across the YouTube platform.” I’ve heard Chuk’s title is Podcast Lead, but Google did not respond to my request for confirmation on that. Per Chuk’s LinkedIn, he’s been at YouTube for nearly 10 years, focusing mostly on media partnerships, so I can see why the podcasting role was a fit. 

We here at Hot Pod have been following YouTube’s move into podcasting, or at least it’s angling to take on a stronger role in the industry. Bloomberg reported the YouTube team was looking to hire a podcast executive, which it seems is Chuk’s role, while the YouTube Music app in Canada is going to support background music listening for free users. The pieces are lining up, and we’ll presumably be hearing more.

The thing I don’t fully understand about YouTube’s possible podcast plans is what exactly will be changed or managed — podcasters already upload and host videos on Google’s servers, and Google monetizes those videos for them based on user data. Yes, YouTube could also start hosting audio and doing different ad things there, but I once again have to ask whether podcasters want to either fully migrate hosting providers or start using many at the same time just to take advantage of the platforms. (YouTube also already sells audio advertising for when listeners are playing videos in the background.)

As for the listeners themselves, in 2020, Google said 15 percent of people listening to music on the platform did so with it on in the background, so I wonder how greatly that percentage might increase when YouTube starts allowing background listening for free.

Speaking of ads, we’ve got some deals to cover.

SiriusXM will be the exclusive ad seller for Crime Junkie and Audiochuck

This is just breaking now: SiriusXM is partnering with Audiochuck, Ashley Flowers’ podcast company and maker of Crime Junkie, as its exclusive global ad seller. Along with that, Audiochuck and Sirius will coordinate on developing new programming. The press release notes that all programming will continue to be widely available and not exclusive to any Sirius-owned property. (UTA brokered the deal, representing Flowers and Audiochuck.)

“With three audio platforms as marketing vehicles that can reach the largest and most diverse audiences possible, [Audiochuck] can serve their most loyal fans and create new ones,” says Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer at SiriusXM, in the release. 

I’m flagging that quote because he notes marketing as an apparent selling point for Flowers’ decision to partner — Sirius owns its satellite radio business, of course, as well as Stitcher and Pandora, where Audiochuck shows will presumably get some love.

Audiochuck previously partnered with Cabana and the team at AdLarge Media, which, notably, doesn’t own a podcast player.

On to the next one...

Acast and BBC re-up their monetization deal

Acast and the BBC are renewing a deal that gives Acast the exclusive rights to sell ads for BBC shows outside the UK. The BBC doesn’t have ads in the UK because it’s a public service broadcaster, but everywhere else is fair game for Acast for the next three years. This seems convenient enough — the BBC doesn’t have to worry about staffing up and trying to sell ads for the global market but still benefits from its massive catalog and name recognition. The fight for ad dollars keeps on marching on...

Your Kroger grocery store data is helping launch a programmatic ad marketplace

This is arguably not podcast- or audio-related, at least not yet, but I had to share because, geez, grocery stores vacuuming up all the data to launch an ad network makes me sad! Last week, Kroger announced its plan to launch a private programmatic ad marketplace where brands can buy ads and target them to consumers based on their purchasing habits. Kroger collects this info through its loyalty program and says it captures data on 96 percent of sales. Right now, it seems this marketplace is specifically for display advertising, but how long until a tech company tries buying up or using this type of data for podcast advertising? (Ehem, Amazon and Whole Foods.)

Okay, I’ll end this one on a small note...

Clubhouse launches pinned links, hints at monetization features 

I interviewed Paul Davison, Clubhouse’s CEO and co-founder, and Maya Watson, Clubhouse’s head of global marketing, over the weekend at the On The Verge event, and they announced a new feature on stage: pinned links. 

Davison is billing this as a way for creators to monetize — they can now link out to their podcast, book landing page, Patreon, and so on — but it doesn’t yet help Clubhouse generate cash. Davison told me this is why the company raised private money, so they don’t have to worry about it. He also said we’d likely hear more about ways in which the platform itself will monetize, like through subscriptions and ticketed events, in the coming months. Now, for what it’s worth, Twitter already allows people to pin tweets to Spaces, and also, for what it’s worth, OnlyFans links aren’t allowed on Clubhouse. Will this feature move the needle for Clubhouse? I don’t think so.

Okay, we’re in and out today, and I’ll leave you to catch up on the motherload of Facebook Papers content you have yet to read. As always, my DMs and email are open and accepting messages, as is Signal, if you ask nicely. Catch ya Thursday!

Correction 10/26, 2:16 PM ET: This article initially stated the BBC could handle ad sales in the UK, but it doesn’t sell ads domestically because it’s a public service broadcaster. We regret the error.