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Success — is it just around the corner?

Ok, it’s now 2021 which means it’s time to cast the eye forward over the next 12 months in podcasting. What will it bring? Will this be a tough year? Or are we finally about to experience the proverbial ‘big year for podcasting’?

Here are 5 predictions that you can hold over my head next December…

1) Apple Awakens 

This is an easy prediction to make because, to some extent, it’s already happened. They’ve done some work in original podcasting and I would expect that to continue, along with a few exclusivity deals.

But I’ll be more ambitious with this prediction and say that 2021 might be the year that Apple finally revamps the podcast UX for both creators and listeners, and tries to solidify its market position ahead of challengers from Spotify, Amazon and every other media company on earth. Their decline has been incredibly slow, given their total ambivalence, but I think there are enough bods at HQ who know that a few simple manoeuvres could put the brakes on Spotify’s charge. So that’s the first prediction for 2021: Apple will do something to show that podcasts are still part of its long-term plan.


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Another year with Spotify making the running

Oh God, I’ve been a professional podcaster for another year. I thought this was just a phase…

Well, that was a nice easy year. No drama, just steady consolidation for our growing industry. Bit of a snooze, actually. But for the hell of it, here’s a quick look at the big stories in podcasting from 2020 and some overall impressions of the health and vitality of our nascent industry.

Towards the start of the year — when the great clock that counts podcast feeds finally hit a million — I published a piece here on Pod Culture about what the next million podcasts might look like. …


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The Simpsons is available on Disney+

My life would be so much easier — and happier — if I could avoid getting myself worked up about stuff that doesn’t, and never will, affect me. I am the old man railing at the clouds, except I’m in my late-20s and I’m screaming at super-mega-corporations in adjacent industries.

This week I’ve been exercised by Disney, HBO and the discourse in between. There are basically two threads to this — firstly, at Disney’s investor event they announced a massive slate of projects that are almost all doubling-down on extant properties from the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars universe that they’ve brought together. …


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A message to Donald Trump, from M*A*S*H

There’s a meme — always good when Grandpa starts a story by describing a meme — featuring the protagonists of the film Withnail and I. In the scene, Richard E Grant says the famous line “we’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”, though in the meme version ‘holiday’ is replaced with whatever calamitous, hard-to-do-by-accident thing is topical. For me, the meme would read “we’ve created a hate group by mistake!”.

This story starts more than a decade ago, when, as a teenager, I got really into the hit 1970s TV show M*A*S*H. I won’t explain that any further: you know what teenagers are like, always getting obsessed with classic television. Because it was approximately 2008 (the reason it is hard for me to fact-check this will become apparent later on) almost all social interactions played out on the stage of Facebook. …


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2020: a terrible year for humanity, a great year for podcasts

It is a magazine tradition, at least here in the UK, to publish an annual list of Books of the Year in these twilight months. Yet, despite podcast consumption ever more totally outstripping the appetite for literary fiction and non-fiction, I’ve yet to see the a Podcasts of the Year feature in the hallowed pages of a British magazine or newspaper. So here, without further ado, is the Pod Culture attempt at a Podcasts of the Year feature, packed with recommendations from some brilliant podcasters, journalists and writers.

Leon Neyfakh, host of Fiasco

I nominate Constellation Prize by Bianca Giaever. It’s hard to describe but roughly speaking it’s a series of stories about loneliness. She finds this totally unique cadence/tone that feels just familiar enough to be legible and immediate, and just destabilizing enough to be exciting and fresh. …


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The Lesser-Spotifyed Pig

Every once in a while, someone comes along and thinks they can crack podcasting’s data problem. They believe they have the tools to unlock dynamic, personalised and highly-targeted messaging delivery. But each time one of these radical propositions emerges, it’s scuppered against the same rocks: every party involved in the process of making a podcast has a different set of priorities, and every party is financially disincentivised from streamlining that process.

For example, I might make a podcast called The Nick Hilton Show (fyi, I don’t, though if the price were right…). I’d be the first party involved in that show, as the production company (and that may come with internal divisions, though, for clarity’s sake, let’s say this is a self-hosted show made by my own company, in which I am the majority shareholder). I do a deal with, let’s say, Acast, to sell advertising on that show — suddenly I have a second party who share my interest in the show’s success but have a totally different set of priorities to me. And even though we’re working together, that relationship cannot be transparent — they can’t share analytics and they can’t share leads — otherwise I might be inclined to circumvent them and take a 100% cut of revenue, rather than a 67% cut. …


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This is the story of a podcast. My podcast. It’s not a universal story, it’s a personal one. But I can’t pin your podcast to the lab table and dissect it like a frog; I can only do that to mine. In the years I’ve spent working professionally in the podcast industry, I’ve consistently wished that more people wrote/spoke on the behind-the-scenes grind that is making a podcast, so now that I have a discrete, finished case study, it’s time to gut that amphibian.

The Background

I am, predominantly, a current affairs podcast producer. I run a small company, Podot, and make a number of big(ish) British politics podcasts, like the New Statesman Podcast, A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard, and Polling Politics. I previously worked at the Spectator magazine. …


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So, the BBC has a new Director-General: Tim Davie. Davie had previously eld the job in an interim capacity between George Entwhistle and Tony Hall, his predecessor, so this was a hire from well within the corporation’s recruitment wheelhouse.

Davie is a BBC man, through and through. He’s spent the past 15 years there in various capacities, so is, presumably, aware of its organisational successes and failures. His first speech as the new DG made headlines for its attempts to shield conservative voters from the barrage of left-wing comedy that the BBC has become known for (whatever: I’m not sure I agree with the specifics of this case but it’s one, noisily distracting, point in a longer manifesto of change for the BBC). The BBC has a fundamental and intractable problem, that it is both a public service organisation bound to impartiality but also the collective brain of its thousands of employees. In news and current affairs, those employees are political nerds, political junkies; and most people arrive at that state of being through partisanship, vague or obsessive. …


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Please use this conversion chart responsibly.

There’s a scene in the US version of The Office where the boss, Michael Scott, asks the receptionist, Pam, to keep track of the scoring at the company’s ‘beach day’ Olympiad. After several different events, he asks Pam who’s in the lead. “I think they’re even,” she responds. “At various times you gave Jim 10 points, Dwight a gold star, and Stanley a thumbs-up. And I don’t really know how to compare those units.”

“Well, check to see if there is a conversion chart in the notebook,” he replies.

This is the scene I think of when I hear companies trying to compare their audience data across print/online/newsletters/blogs/podcasts. There’s a lazy temptation to assume that one gold star and one thumbs up are the same, when they very obviously are not. …


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The high street in East Grinstead

This is the concluding episode of The Town That Didn’t Stare and I’m quite exhausted — so forgive me if this blog post is perfunctory!

I wanted to find a way of wrapping things up and not just opening up more threads to this story. So I basically stole the approach of a 1994 Channel 4 documentary about the town, also titled “Why East Grinstead?”. This episode opens with an interview with that film’s director Ian Sellar, and basically spins off from the fact that their answers were very inconclusive (more like non-existent). …

About

Nick Hilton

Writer. Podcast entrepreneur. London. Interested in politics and the media. Co-founder podotpods.com Email: nick@podotpods.com.

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