This is Hot Pod, The Verge’s newsletter about podcasting and the audio industry. Sign up here for more.
Hope everyone is well rested after the holiday weekend. Today, I have a Q&A with two of the founders behind Good Tape, a new biannual print magazine that is aiming to tell the untold stories within the podcast industry. The publication hopes to feature a mix of journalism and cultural criticism about audio storytelling — with a focus on lesser-known creators and independent modes of production. The first issue is scheduled to be released in the fall.
There are precious few outlets focused on the podcast industry (this obviously being one of them), so I wanted to find out what the founders hope Good Tape can add to the current discourse on audio — and why they think print is the right medium to do it. I connected with the magazine’s publisher, Dane Cardiel (who is also the VP of creator partnerships at Gumball), and journalist Alana Hope Levinson, who is shaping the publication’s editorial voice. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our Q&A, which was conducted over email.
Also, I take a look at an Acast survey of podcast ad buyers and a curious new Spotify job listing.
Why Good Tape thinks the conversation needs to change around podcasts
Can you tell me more about what sparked the idea to launch Good Tape? In your announcement, you mentioned the lack of “dedicated cultural writing” that covers the audio industry.
Dane Cardiel: You know, I suspect many creators don’t see themselves represented in most media coverage of our industry. And more than that, there aren’t many dedicated resources being provided to writers to cover the industry from a cultural perspective. So with this as the backdrop, after attending On Air Fest in LA last year, I felt the urge to explore a magazine concept and rather quickly came up with the name Good Tape — which I really love. I didn’t feel like I had any option but to see this through.
Can you give me your theories on why there’s a lack of writing about podcasts — as well as what that coverage would look like?
Alana Hope Levinson: Vice, which built a global news empire on “cutting edge” cultural journalism, filing for bankruptcy after being valued at $5.7 billion in 2017 says it all. The business model of mainstream media companies has failed, and it means that there are way less places for writers to write. Editors at existing outlets with shrinking budgets don’t want to take chances on anything that doesn’t produce viral numbers — even if it’s important or interesting culturally. I also think that journalism about culture now has to compete with stuff made by influencers, which gets far more views because it has none of the ethical concerns our work does. Scary stuff! Dane and I are building this very slowly (and starting small) so we can make something sustainable that is somewhat protected from these forces.
In terms of what our coverage will look like — I’d like to see stories about podcasting that aren’t just about the business side of things. What is it like to make a hit podcast or even one that fails? I’m thinking cultural histories that analyze influences and sounds, essays that say what everyone is too scared to, profiles of people who are doing things differently. Think what I did for men’s media at Mel, but about audio.
What’s the most important story about the podcast industry that the tech and entertainment media is missing right now?
DC: Readers are missing stories that profile the craft, artistry, and livelihoods of audio makers behind our favorite shows. We tend to pull focus on the A-list talent involved while disregarding the writers, editors, producers, engineers, and composers that make these projects sing. Podcasting has such a profound impact in people’s lives — and it’s not always positive. I’d love to give a platform to these stories we aren’t seeing represented in mainstream media.
Why a print magazine? And what can that medium capture that isn’t possible with online media or a podcast? You’ve talked about readers seeing Good Tape as an “art object.”
DC: Our digital consumption habits have left younger generations fatigued and overwhelmed. As our lives are increasingly mediated by digital interactions, there’s something restoring about engaging with physical media and analog technologies. And truthfully, print is a differentiator for us. We don’t think Good Tape could break through as a newsletter or podcast — and with either form, our interest wouldn’t be sustained in the same way.
By only publishing twice a year, Good Tape becomes more than a new source; it’s a limited edition object to covet. We are printing the magazine on traditional newspaper, too, which gives us so much room to explore our ideas in compelling and fresh ways while keeping our costs low.
Ad buyers think business podcasts deliver the most bang for their buck
Podcast ad buyers think that business podcasts — more so than true crime, comedy, or any other genre — generate the strongest return on ad spend, according to a recent survey on podcast ads by Acast. Roughly 38 percent of those surveyed said business podcasts offered the strongest ROA (return on assets), a larger group than movies and TV (16 percent) and sports (9 percent). Even popular genres like true crime (4 percent) and comedy (5 percent) seemed to draw strong returns for a tiny fraction of ad buyers.
Wallets, and not the number of ears, seem to be a key factor in why business podcasts reign supreme in ad returns. “When specifically measuring return on ad spend, a high performance in the Business category isn’t really surprising because we know those audiences tend to be more affluent,” Gabriella Gregoris, group business director of national performance at Acast, told Inside Radio.
Spotify may have hired a copy lead for its podcasters platform
Spotify’s podcast division has seen many high-profile exits and reshuffling this year, which arrived just as the platform tries to cut down on spending. But the company is still trying to court podcast creators and market its in-house podcasting tools.
Up until recently, Spotify was searching for a new employee to guide the voice and messaging behind Spotify for Podcasters, the platform’s in-house podcasting tool. The new hire would build the brand’s voice across all the company’s owned channels, including social, editorial, paid acquisition and creator programs. The listing was first spotted by Digital Music News. According to the job posting on Linkedin, Spotify is no longer taking applications for the position — which may mean they found the right candidate.
Back in March, Spotify for Podcasters folded the podcast creation service Anchor into its platform and expanded the tools available to creators. It looks like this new employee will take on the challenge of getting the message out about the tools to Spotify’s podcasting community — as well as come up with solutions to any problems. Spotify’s podcast layoffs and axing of several shows signaled a tightening of purse strings — but this new hire seems to indicate it’s still making an effort with podcast creators.