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The irresistible draw of the rewatch podcast

The irresistible draw of the rewatch podcast


Plus, Crooked Media unionizes, and Google sunsets a podcast search feature.

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Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

Hey, everybody! Nice to be back, though I do miss the sunshine and sick waves (that I did not ride) of Hawaii. I also, quite literally, ate too much tuna. It was worth it. Thanks to Jake for covering on a particularly busy week.

Anyway, on to the news: Google alters its podcast search, Crooked Media forms a union, and Disney Channel stars are back en masse for rewatch pods. 

Google is sunsetting its podcast carousel

“Podcast carousel” may sound like some technodystopian theme park ride, but it’s actually that featured bar of podcast episodes you get when you search for a show. When you click on episodes, they direct automatically to the Google Podcast player. It’s a pretty intuitive functionality, so it is curious that Google has announced it will get rid of the feature.

Podnews grabbed a screenshot of a Google notification that reads, “Google Search will stop showing podcast carousels by February 13. As a result, clicks and impressions in How people find your show will drop to zero after that date. Consider downloading any historical data that you want to keep.”

I do wonder if it is an indication that podcast operations at Google will begin to further center around YouTube. Google Podcasts actually does okay — it’s the fifth-most-used podcast platform, according to a study by Cumulus and Signal Hill. But it is far behind YouTube, which, in survey after survey, takes the top spot

Freakonomics comes to YouTube

Can’t escape it! Freakonomics Radio Network has struck a deal with YouTube to bring its shows to the platform. It’s the latest traditional audio outfit to establish a presence on the platform. Like NPR, which set up shop on YouTube last summer, Freaknomics’ shows are still audio-only, featuring title cards rather than videos.

Even if YouTube is still a kind of awkward format for podcasts, it continues to lure publishers with its search capabilities and audience reach. “One of the challenges for podcasting has been discoverability, and Google and YouTube have been leaders in search for years now,” said Freakonomics general manager Neal Carruth in a statement. “We can’t wait to see this strength in search help get our shows in front of new audiences.”

Crooked Media has unionized

I am actually a little surprised they were not already unionized? Though better late than never. Following organizing efforts at studios like Gimlet, iHeartMedia, and Pineapple Street, the liberal political network has unionized with Writers Guild of America, East. (Disclosure: WGAE also represents the Vox Media Union, of which I am a member). 

Citing Crooked’s recent expansion, including an ad and distribution deal with SiriusXM and a hefty investment from Soros Fund Management, employees are looking to bargain for pay equity and overtime regulations. “As the company continues to grow, retain more stakeholders, and implement large structural changes, we want to have a seat at the table of these discussions,” the union said in a statement.

Management at Crooked Media voluntarily recognized the union the same day. Voluntary recognition is normal in the podcasting space, but there was perhaps a greater expectation placed on Crooked based on its political pedigree. The network was founded by former Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor, who host top liberal podcast Pod Save America. “At Crooked Media, we have consistently supported and amplified the power of organized labor and welcome our employees’ efforts to unionize,” the company tweeted yesterday. 

Podcast listening up 7 percent in January among top publishers

The holiday slump passed, and podcast listening is back on the rise, according to data from Podtrac. They reported that among the top 20 podcast publishers, which includes the likes of NPR, Wondery, and The New York Times, the number of monthly listeners increased by 7 percent between December and January. That follows a 9 percent decline in monthly listeners Podtrac previously reported between November and December. 

Former Disney Channel star Christy Carlson Romano gets in on the rewatch podcast craze

This is really only going to be of interest to readers born after 1990, but that includes me, and I write this newsletter. You are likely familiar with the boom in nostalgic rewatch podcasts, such as Office Ladies, Pod Meets World, and Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald, that give former TV stars a new chance at relevance (and an opportunity to earn some ad revenue). It’s a proven formula that, if uninspired, has managed to strike a chord with listeners. Christy Carlson Romano of Even Stevens and Kim Possible fame has taken note and is launching a slew of new rewatch shows through her podcast network.

Romano recently reentered the spotlight with her chaotic viral YouTube videos where she hikes around LA and spills tea in episodes like “Why I Don’t Talk To Shia LaBeouf” and “How I Lost Princess Diaries To Anne Hathaway.” She then made the now-inevitable YouTube-to-podcast pivot, best exemplified by Emma Chamberlain and MrBallen, last fall with her show Vulnerable. The show does fine for its category, if not amazing. But the expansion into rewatch podcasts is a shrewd one — with shows recapping Even Stevens, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Romano is upfront about playing to the nostalgia of a demo very active in podcasting. 

That’s all for now! I’ll be back next week with some sweet Hot Pod Summit updates.