Radio Continues to Show Strong ROI

Google steps up to podcasting…

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GoogleMThe Download on Podcasts: Google steps up to podcasting, but not enough

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Brad Hill


The announcement from Google that it would add podcasts to its Play Music interactive music service shines a light into the gloomy and under-competitive realm of podcast discovery in Android devices. But it’s a relatively dim ray of light compared to the bold discovery paths that Apple provides to its audio users.

Most podcast listening is mobile. Most podcast discovery, downloading, and streaming occurs via the podcast category in iTunes, which is carved out in the Podcasts app which appears on all iOS mobile desktops. Apple’s gigantic first-mover advantage with podcasts has widened its lead in the mobile era.

This column has complained before of Android’s gaping lack in this department. Android is, by far, the global leading mobile operating system, and offers no built-in acknowledgment or discovery of podcasts. Existing third-part apps like Pocket Casts and Podcast Addict provide solutions, but users must seek them out, download and install them — in other words, they are already podcast fans with some fluency in how discovery and acquisition work.

While the podcast category has grown dramatically, with 33% of the 12+ U.S. population having listened to a podcast at least once, and 10% listening weekly, according to Edison Research, consumption is dramatically skewed to Apple products.

Back to Google’s announcement, posted by Elias Roman, who headed Songza when it was acquired by Google, and now is Product Manager of Google Play Music. Adding podcasts to Google’s music subscription product is a smart move, roughly in parallel with Deezer’s acquisition of Stitcher, Spotify’s intent to add podcasts, and Rivet Radio’s recently announced build-out of podcast shows. Elias Roman’s unique selling point is that Google Play Music will leverage (Songza’s) content discovery algorithms to recommend podcasts based on user habits.

This is all good for Google Play Music subscribers, but is not the solution that the immense population of Android users needs. The competitive thrust is aimed at other music services, not at Apple. It is the Android operating system which needs a podcast solution, not a Google app within the operating system.

So, while we’re eager to see how Google Play Music’s podcast library develops (and happily, loading in a podcast is much easier for podcast owners compared to Apple’s daunting set of requirements), we’re doubling down on our memo to Google: Make a podcast portal, and bolt it into Android. Help bring podcasts into the mainstream.

Pandora gets exclusive streaming distribution for Serial’s 2nd season

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Pandora gets exclusive streaming distribution for Serial’s second season

Posted on November 2, 2015 by Brad Hill

Pandora announced today that it will be the “exclusive streaming partner” for the second season of hit podcast Serial. In 2016 the agreement will extend to This American Life, the public radio program which distributes its shows as on-demand podcasts, and which is the creator of Serial.

This initiative is a new programming dimension for Pandora, and a potential source of new audience for Serial. “Pandora reaches millions of people who never listen to public radio or download podcasts,” said Ira Glass, host of This American Life. “This’ll get our shows to them.”

Because long-form narrative podcasting is so different from the normal song library of Pandora tracks, the service will carve each Serial episode into five-minute bites. Pandora calls this “chapterized” content, and promises it will make it easier to listen in portions, and return to a previous leave-off point. The chapters will play continuously for those who want whole episodes.

The launch date for the second season of Serial is undisclosed in this announcement. Season One will likewise be poured into Pandora on November 24, for binge listening over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Serial will still be downloadable from iTunes and other podcast aggregators, while Pandora enjoys the exclusive pure-streaming rights.

Without question, the partnership has unique value for all stakeholders. Pandora jumps on the podcast train. Serial gets exposed to an audience of 78-million monthly users, some of whom have probably heard of Serial but have never figured out how listen to a podcast. And those users get the benefit of easy discovery and playback in an environment they know and love.

Interestingly, this agreement also gives Pandora a block of interactive content that can be accessed and heard on demand, unlike its entire non-interactive music library. Users just add the “Serial” station, and can listen to as much as they want. When users create station based on a music brand, the first track is usually that artist or brand, and then the Music Genome kicks in with a playlist of which the user has limited control. Spoken-word podcasting is free of music licensing restrictions, and can be thoroughly interactive and on-demand.