Weekly Roundup: Beneath the surface

Hello podheads, this was a slow week in podcastland. But, there were some important hot-button big picture developments. Here’s roundup #19.

That’s RAD!

NPR finally launched Remote Audio Data (RAD), an open-source project that enables publishers to measure listener metrics beyond the humble download. If the entire industry adopts RAD, publishers will have access to more data than the rudimentary download count, something they’ve been clamoring for.

How does it work?
Publishers by including the tracking URL can mark parts of an episode with RAD tags. Whenever a marker is hit, an app that can read these tags sends anonymized information back to the publishers URL.

This post by Ben Werdmüller is extremely informative.

Why the big deal?
Well, up until now, downloads were the only real metric that publishers could track. Sure, Apple and podcast hosts also provided some with stats, but standardization and centralization were an issue.

Who’s backing this project?
Led by NPR, over 30 companies were involved, according to the company’s blogpost announcing the launch. Big names such as Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio, Voxnest, Wondery have supported the initiative.

Is everybody adopting this?
Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital, WideOrbit and Whooshkaa have committed to implementing RAD. Apple and Spotify are noticeably missing. But these are still early days.

I’d recommend listening to this conversation between Bryan Moffet, the CEO of National Public Media speaks and Ed Ryan of the Podcast Business Journal.

But not everyone seems to agree with the initiative. Marco Arment, creator of Overcast, the popular podcast listening app voiced his opinion on Twitter:

Here’s what Pocket Casts, an app owned by a collective including NPR had to say:

How will this all turn out? Let’s revisit this question say, after an year?

Getting te**ed over!

The Washington Post published a revealing piece on the plight of temp workers at NPR. Depending on which source you believe, temp workers make up anywhere between 16% to 22% of the public radio giant’s work-force. These silent worker bees toil away in the background unnoticed and most often than not, ill-treated. They are responsible for things ranging from booking guests, editing, research, pitching and assigning stories to producing them, all without a guarantee that they’ll have a job the next morning.

Here’s an excerpt from the article of what Julia Botero, a temp working at the firm had to say:

“The only person I felt I could trust,” she said, “was the person I was dating, who was in the same position I was.”

Here’s a Tweet thread from Sam Sanders, host of the NPR show, It’s Been a Minute:

Temp workers make up a big chunk of the American workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alternative workers which include, contractors, temporary contract workers, and on-demand workers made up 10.1% of the workforce.

NPR isn’t the only company to build an organization on the backs of temp workers who toil away in most cases, for less than half the pay of permanent workers, fewer benefits and more workload. The Guardian published another damning story based on internal Google documents that show how the company’s employees are trained to treat temp workers. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Google staff are instructed not to reward certain workers with perks like T-shirts, invite them to all-hands meetings, or allow them to engage in professional development training

In a particularly egregious case of discrimination, the company sent real-time security updates only to its permanent employees during the shootout at the YouTube campus this year.

At this point I can’t help but wonder, What THE Fuck?

Here are some surprising numbers from a study by Edison Research on the gig economy:

  • 24% of Americans earn some income from the gig economy.
  • For 44% of gig workers, their work in the gig economy is their primary source of income.
  • For 53% of gig workers aged 18-34, their work in the gig economy is their primary source of income.
  • 45% of those who rely on gig work as their primary source of income have an Anxiety Index Score over 50, compared to only 24% of those employed but not in the gig economy.
  • 80% of gig employees whose gig work is the primary source of income say that an unexpected expense of $1,000 would be difficult to pay.
  • 28% of those who rely on gig work as their primary source of income say they are not financially secure compared to 20% of those employed but not in the gig economy.
  • 51% of gig workers say they work harder for their income than those in traditional jobs.


But, this whole line of thought leads to a rather important question in today’s day and age – the future of work. But, this is beyond the scope of this roundup. Before I start rambling about automation, AI, and the future of jobs, I’d recommend you check out this Quartz Series – Future Of Work.

Also read: How to Make Employment Fair in an Age of Contracting and Temp Work.
The Gig Economy and Alternative Work Arrangements by Gallup.

Laugh riot

The Los Angeles Daily News published a story on the rise of comedy podcasts. The piece has some interesting quotes from Scott Aukerman, the host of Comedy Bang! Bang! and the co-founder of Earwolf, the comedy focussed podcast network.

Never before have comedians had as many opportunities to build audiences and perform so widely.

Scott Aukerman

An analysis of ~390,000 shows in the Apple podcast directory by Dan Misener of Pacific Content found that comedy is the third biggest category, both by the number of shows and episodes.

If you are a comedy fan, you’re spoilt for choice. WTF by Marc Maron and the Joe Rogan podcast at this point are household names. The roster doesn’t end there. Right from the big names such as Amy Schumer, Bill Burr, Tom Segura, Jeff Ross, Hannibal Buress, Andy Zaltzman to up and comers like Cy Amundson, podcasting is home to some incredibly talented comedians.


More voices

Every year Neiman Lab publishes predictions about the future of media from some of the biggest and brightest names in the space. If you track the media industry, the series is a treasure trove of insights. This year, there were a couple of interesting opinions on podcasts.


LaToya Drake from the Google News Lab writes that 2019 will be the year when we see well-crafted podcasts from minority podcasters.

The need for stories from diverse voices is particularly important on platforms where audiences are growing. What this requires is a toolkit some untapped voices find as an insurmountable barrier to entry: Money, expertise, training and mentorship. 

LaToya Drake

That’s a nod to the Google Podcast Creators Program which aims to increase the diversity of voices in podcasting. For all it’s growth, diversity has remained a pressing issue in podcasting.

Of men and goldfishes

That people have short attention spans is an oft-repeated opinion, one that is pervasive across the board. Well, John Biewen, audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University disagrees!

He opines that listeners are quite hungry for deep and well crafted podcasts.

It turns out that people — well, lots of people, anyway — are hungry for substance. Our attention spans are quite intact, ready, and willing.

My prediction: More podcast series in 2019. (No kidding.) They’ll keep getting better, smarter, deeper, and more varied. Thank god and the inventors of the podcast. Bring ‘em on.

John Biewen


19% of US adults listen to podcasts each week. This is from the Nielsen Total Audience Report Q2 2018:

24% of US households own a smart speaker and 45% of them listen to podcasts:

Also read: Reuters research on smart speakers.

A study of 2000 UK motorists by Nissan found that 1 in 6 (15.4%) drivers now prefer listening to a podcast, audiobooks, downloaded or streamed music behind the wheel. This number was 1 in 12 (8%), five years ago.

Media perspectives

Why should you give a shit about media trends you ask? Because everything is interconnected. Podcasting is media and what happens in the media affects your craft.


The list of industries that are getting Amazoned is ever growing. Now it’s the turn of the advertising industry. According to estimates from eMarketer, Amazon is slowly eating up marketshare.


In the previous issues, I had written a little about the dominance of the duopoly of Facebook and Google in advertising.

eMarketer estimates that Google and Facebook will capture 56.8% of the U.S. digital ad market this year. That’s down from 58.5% last year.

Amazon is capturing most of the ad revenues that did not go to the duopoly. According to this Axios report, Amazon is expected to take in $4.61 billion in ad revenues.

Sign of our times

More American adults now get their news from social media than print newspapers according to a study by Pew Research.

Okay, this is freaking scary. But I am guessing this is fantastic news for the Russians and the Macedonians.


Wilshere Studios, part of NBC Universal is adapting Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the popular NPR podcast into a TV Series. [Deadline]

Steve Pratt, co-founder of Pacific Content reviews the various podcasting predictions made by industry experts. [Pacific Content]

Phil McGraw popularly known as Dr. Phil is launching a podcast in partnership with Stitcher. The first podcast titled “Phil in the Blanks” is set to launch on Jan 8th. 3 other projects are also reportedly in the works. [BC]

Posted by Bhuvanesh

A podcast junkie on a mission to make podcasts great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *