Weekly roundup: Matters of debate

We are a week away from pulling the curtains down on the year and it has been an eventful year, to say the least. I hope you guys had a good one. This will be the last roundup for the year and coincidentally the 20th roundup. A small little milestone 🙂 Thanks for reading my long rants, coherent and incoherent ones alike.

Thought of doing a list of year-end listicles and summaries etc. But the smarter folk have done a phenomenal job of that and I didn’t think I could do a better job. What I am instead going to do is talk to the people actually making the magic happen about the year that was and is going to be at the beginning of the new year so, stay tuned. Here’s roundup #20. See you podheads next year and happy holidays 🎅

merry christmas GIF

Deep thoughts

Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz wrote a masterpiece on how Chinese platforms have successfully adopted multiple business models. In contrast to US companies that are “part of either the eyeball economy or part of the wallet economy.” In the post, she analyzes the business models of bookselling, podcasts, and video platforms.

Let’s stick to podcast platforms and here’s an exceprt from the post:

The entire podcast market in the US in 2017 was $314 million, all from ads. Estimates for paid podcast in China, on the other hand, are $3-5 billion, and many individual podcasters are multimillionaires. It’s not a difference of talent; it’s a difference in business models.

The $3-5 billion number would be the wet dream of every podcasting platform in the US. Why such a disparity in the revenues? Well, you guessed it, it has to do with the business models the Chinese platforms have adopted. Subscriptions are the main revenue models as opposed to advertising the world over. A course on “How to sound better” on Ximalaya, a podcast platform has over 15 million listens and $1 million in revenues. In the post, Connie draws a parallel with Serial, which couldn’t cover the production costs from advertising revenues and had to rely on listener donations.

More shockingly:

The audio platform Dedao (“iGetGet”) essentially takes the MOOC format and applies it to podcasts. Below are two economics professors from Peking University. Xue Zhaofeng, the professor on the left, actually resigned after making $8 million in one year with his economics podcast series. The professor on the right has grossed nearly $5M in sales for her podcasts on financial literacy and wealth management techniques.

This would be every creators wet dream. This whole parallel reminded of this post by Steve Pratt on what podcasters can learn from the book industry. Also reminds me of a conversation I had with Rahul, the founder of Storiyoh about how we gladly pay for movies and music but not podcasts. I also understand the reticence on part of the creators, asking listeners for money can be daunting, especially if the podcasts are small or new. But hey, everything has to start somewhere. I also think that the proliferation of platforms and features like Patreon and in-app tipping will lead to some change. Oh, and guess what? Chinese platforms had long successfully integrated tipping into their platforms. Anchor and Radiopublic introduced the feature this year, limited only to the US of A.

Another dimension of the success of these Chinese platforms is a social one, which is a rather interesting one. Dedao, a Chinese audio platform has built a social network around the core audio offering. It allows users to share notes and leave questions and comments at the end of each episode.

But I am hopeful that we’ll see some bold gambits like Luminary Media when it comes to monetization and engagement in the years ahead.

More numbers:


Here’s an interesting opinion from Jake Shapiro, co-founder of Radiopublic.

Podcasting’s “bugs” — difficult to scan, share, comment on — are actually its features. With Facebook and YouTube’s ceaseless sneezing, publishers are very much in need of podcasting’s antiviral cure.


I’ve written a little about the issue of hate speech in podcasting in the previous issues. It’s going to become an increasingly important question given the politically toxic atmosphere around the world. It’s a good thing that the issue is getting a lot more attention.

Last week, HuffPost ran a story about a public school teacher who was running a white nationalist podcast. What’s more, she wanted more people to infiltrate the school system to surreptitiously spread these insidious beliefs. This is freaking scary!

The Daily Beast ran a story about two Republican candidates appearing on white supremacist podcasts. Man, this shit is getting serious. I think as we head into the new year, the issue of hate speech will be an extremely important one that podcasters and podcast platforms alike have to contend with. And it’s already begun. After the Alex Jones saga, Patreon last week kicked out noted right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who had created a page soliciting funds for his “comeback”.

It also banned Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) because of a violation of the platforms hate speech guidelines. In this case, it was an interview of Carl on a YouTube channel. Excerpt from the company’s statement:

Some people worry that we are reviewing content not posted on Patreon. As a funding platform, we don’t host much content, but we help fund creations across the internet. As a result, we review creations posted on other platforms that are funded through Patreon. 

RAD watch

NPR’s RAD went live last week and there was a bit of a push-back from podcasters, most notably Marco Arment. Well, Adam Curry, the father of podcasting doesn’t like the initiative either. Here’s what he had to say:

Hat tip to Podnews for discovering this:

CJR also published a piece on the anxieties surrounding the initiative.

Indian voices

A 10000-foot view of the Indian podcasting scene by The Indian Express. Saif Omar, the host of the Musafir Stories and a friend of Podtalk is mentioned in the piece 🙂

Voices From India segment has been on a hiatus but I am figuring out a way to bring it back in a better avatar so, watch this space. The north-star of Podtalk is to shine the spotlight on the people who make the magic happen and shine we shall!

Pray for Google

In the latest episode of Podcaster’s Roundtable, the group discusses what’s holding the Google Podcasts from taking off?

This question has vexed a lot of industry folk. According to some recent data released by Anchor, Google Podcasts accounted only for 0.9% of all listening vs Apple which accounted for 52%. Personally, I fall on “give it more time” side of the debate. Look, Google is notorious for mucking things up. Google’s tryst to build a messaging app is really informative in this case. It has tried desperately for a very long time to build a credible messaging app that can compete with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and has failed miserably. This particular road is littered with the corpses of Google Talk, Google Voice and soon Allo, and Hangouts.

I get it, the expectations were high when Google Announced that it would enter the podcasting space, again after a few false starts with Google Listen and Google Play. But, I think that fact that they are taking it slow should be taken as a good sign. Zack RW, the product head of Google Podcasts seems like a really smart and sensible person who knows what he is doing. I think podcasters have to recalibrate their expectations and give it some time. The app has been adding some features, although, again, not the pace everyone is expecting.

Hat tip to Inside Podcasting for discovering the podcast.


I can’t get enough of these stories. This year has seen a spate of podcasts being adapted into movies and TV shows but this one’s the other way around. Cable network TNT is partnering with Cadence13 to launch “Root Of Evil” a companion podcast to the network’s upcoming limited series “I Am The Night”. The series directed by Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame and starring Chris Pine delves into the Black Dahlia Murder.

The real-life daughters of Hodel, Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro, will host Root of Evil, telling their family history through interviews with other family members. The podcast is executive produced by Cadence13’s Zak Levitt. 


Here’s the trailer of the series:

The Black Tapes is getting the TV treatment. According to this story by Deadline NBC is turning the hit podcast into a TV series.


Podcasts generate 4.4 times better brand recall than digital ads according to a study by Nielsen commissioned by Midroll. – Adweek

In a Q&A with Digiday, Mark Thompson, the CEO of The New York Times had this to say:

We’re incredibly excited about what we’ve achieved with The Daily. We’ll look to scale the number of podcasts and the way we think about podcasting.


UK based radio broadcaster Communicorp launched Communicorp – an internal podcast to foster learning and developments amongst its employees. This is a really cool of way of using podcasts. Private podcasts in my view are an interesting way of using podcasts. Quite a few big corporations such as Fidelity and Salesforce have demonstrated the successful use of podcasts to train employees and also communicate with them, especially given the global spread of these corporations.

Hosts such as Libysn, Podbean, and Blubrry have launched solutions to support private podcasts.

Blubrry is now IAB certified. – Podnews

NPR launched a new family of podcasts titled “Life Kit” to help you navigate your life. The new podcasts will cover topics such as personal finance, health & wellness, parenting and more. The first two shows based on money and health are now available for listening.

Oh and:

Posted by Bhuvanesh

A podcast junkie on a mission to make podcasts great.

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