Weekly Roundup: The good, bad, and the ugly

Hello podheads, here’s the weekly roundup #14. 

Are podcasts, well…bad?

Media critic Steven Smith penned a post on his thoughts about the medium of podcasting in the Folio Magazine. The article was ever so provocatively titled “Please Fix Podcasting Before It Jumps the Shark“.

In the past couple of months, there has been a steady drumbeat of podcasting bubble articles, most of them utterly pointless. This article if not anything demands some self-introspection. Given the strong opinions the writer has expressed, I think you may either like this article or call it pointless. But one thing is for sure, it will make you think! Well, read on and make of it what you will.

Some responses

Senior producer of the Slate Podcast Network

This original acolyte of on-demand audio is increasingly frustrated by its creaky mechanics, content clutter, mixed ad experience and sometimes borderline-hegemonic style.

Steven Smith

In the same vein, Anthropologist and Author, Grant McCracken wrote a small post titled “Are podcasts an intellectual wasteland?” questioning the intellectual chops of podcast hosts.


Anchor released data on the top podcast listening apps last week and surprise, surprise, Apple Podcasts accounts for 52% of all listening. That’s bigger than all the other apps put together. Here’s the breakdown:
1. Apple Podcasts – 52%
2. Other apps – 21%
3. Spotify – 19%
4. Sticher – 4.6%
5. Overcast – 1.4%
6. Pocketcasts – 0.9%
7. Google Podcasts – 0.9%

The other apps category was the surprising one.

It struck us how big the “Other” category turned out to be. This category includes apps, websites, direct RSS feeds, cars, smart speakers, and many other experiences whose share of listenership is too small to be listed in the pie chart. But, in aggregate, they make up a huge portion of listening.

The other nervous thought I had was about Google Podcasts. It has been about 5 months since the app was launched and for a Google product, 0.9% is an awfully small listening share. But, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Fingers crossed! Spotify is now the de facto #2 podcast listening app. They have been making some smart moves when it comes to podcasts which do seem like they are paying off. We’ve covered their podcasting moves extensively in our earlier editions.

It will also be interesting to see what’s in store for Pocket Casts now that it’s part of the public radio collective.

Podcasts on wheels

Too lame a title? Anyway, Waze, the popular community-based GPS Navigation app last week announced the launch of its audio player. With this feature, Waze users can now seamlessly listen to music and podcasts while navigating without having to switch between the apps. How cool is that? The company is rolling out the feature to beta testers and said that it would be available to all users in a couple of weeks. The new feature is being launched with 7 audio partners: Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, NPR One, Scribd, Stitcher, and TuneIn. This makes it 8 in total including Spotify with which the company had already partnered with.

Ironically, Google Podcasts wasn’t part of the list considering the fact that the company is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Go figure!

Why is this a big deal? 

According to the 2018 Edison Podcast Consumer Report, 26% of all podcast listening took place in cars/trucks. The same report showed that 58% of the respondents said yes when asked have you ever listened to a podcast in a car or truck? 

Waze also boats of a massive audience of over 100 million users. Having used Waze about 5-6 years ago when the app was still a work in progress, I can attest to the awesomeness of the app.

Google Maps, earlier in October had announced the integration of Spotify, Apple Music and Google Music.

Money well spent!?

Digiday had a piece on the ad measurement travails of direct-to-consumer brands. In 2017, DTC brands were the second biggest category of advertisers accounting for 16% of all ad spend just behind financial services brands which accounted for 18%. 

This is nothing new. The ghost of ad measurement has haunted the podcasting industry ever since it started grabbing the headlines. But with newer players entering the space and the adoption of IAB 2.0 measurement guidelines, we are on the path of progress. Or…so I hope.

 Luke Droulez, CMO at the bedding and bath company, speaking at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s first DTC brand summit, held this week in New York. “I was approached by 20 agencies today,” he said. It’s still hard for Parachute to judge how well podcasts perform, though, Droulez said. 



Ok, this might be big news. Financial Times ran a story last week that Apple is exploring some kind of a partnership with debt-laden terrestrial radio giant iHeartmedia. If something substantial does pan out, it would be a lifeline for iHeartmedia which is in bankruptcy protection. 

The article notes that the talks are still in the preliminary stage and so far haven’t resulted in anything substantial. iHeartmedia is betting big on podcasts for its revival and acquired Stuff Media (How Stuff Works) recently. 

prayer GIF
iHeart top brass be like

In the spotlight

This week we had a Q&A with Gautam Raj Anand, founder and CEO of Hubhopper. It was a fascinating conversation, check it out:

Mini roundup

BBC finally launched the much hyped and much discussed BBC Sounds app. The Guardian has a nice write-up on this.

The Guardian launched its new flagship daily news podcast Today in Focus. The show hosted by political editor Anushka Asthana will delve into the biggest stories of the day. 

ESPN podcasts had a record-breaking month with 39.9 million downloads vs the previous record of 36 million set in May 2018.

Slate had an interesting piece on the growing popularity of smart speakers. There was one surprising data point in the article: 

68 percent of smart speaker owners admit to chatting with their Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri digital assistant just for fun, while 53 percent report a similar activity, asking their assistant “fun questions.


What is the world coming to?!

It was just a matter of time. Ever since the election of trump (moronically), there has been an intense debate around the world about the role of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others in amplifying hate speech and fomenting violence. 

Now, it’s the turn of podcasts. CNN ran a story titled “Podcasts help extremists get their message out

Podcasts are one of the most understudied platforms, yet they affect political discourse in big ways, said Alice Marwick, an expert in extremism and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There’s a sense of immediacy and authenticity with podcasts, she said.

This is a serious issue and deserves considerable introspection. As podcasts grow in popularity, the industry will have to grapple with dark side. Given how little we know about podcasts outside the US, their societal impact will become ever so relevant given the polarizing times we live in. 

A profile of Curry Podcasts, by The Hindu.

Sam Esmail, director of the TV show Homecoming based on Gimlet’s podcast of the same name talks to The Hollywood Reporter

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 *