All posts by Jen Thorpe

Apple Launched Apple Podcasts Spotlight, Considers a Subscription Service



Apple Podcasts has launched Apple Podcasts Spotlight. The first podcast to be featured is Celebrity Book Club Podcast which is hosted by Chelsea Devantez.

Mac Rumors posted this quote:

Apple Podcasts Spotlight helps listeners find some of the world’s best shows by shining a light on creators with singular voices,” said Ben Cave, Global Head of Business for Apple Podcasts. “Chelsea Devantez has created a fun, vibrant space with Celebrity Book Club for listeners to gain new perspectives on the celebrities we thought we knew. We are delighted to recognize Chelsea and Celebrity Book Club as our first Spotlight selection and look forward to introducing creators like Chelsea to listeners each month.

Mac Rumors reported that Apple will announce new Spotlight creators on a monthly basis. The feature will represent a wide range of podcast genres, formats, and locations, with a focus on independent voices.

The announcement of Apple Podcasts Spotlight comes after The Information reported that Apple is discussing a new subscription service that would charge people to listen to podcasts (according to people familiar with the matter).

The Information noted that Apple’s subscription service “could pose a threat to Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon, and other big companies that have in the past couple of years swallowed up podcasting production firms in an effort to gain more control of the podcast ad market.” The Information states that Apple charging for individual podcast could potentially give podcast creators a way to make money.

Bloomberg also reported that Apple is working on adding a subscription service with its partners (again, according to people familiar with the matter). Apple reportedly talked about stepping up funding for new shows and marketing.

It is unclear to me whether Apple Podcasts Spotlight would have anything to do with Apple’s subscription service. My concern is that people who listen to podcasts on Apple Podcasts will lose access to the podcasts they love – unless they buy a subscription. Will Apple Podcasts become yet another “walled garden”?


Tencent Music Entertainment Group Announced Acquisition of Lazy Audio



Tencent Music Entertainment Group the leading innovative online music entertainment platform in China, announced that it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 100% equity interest of Shenzhen Lanren Online Technology Co., Ltd (“Lazy Audio”, “Lanren tingshu”), a well-established audio platform in China, for a total consideration of RMB2.7 billion, payable in cash, plus certain post-acquisition equity-settled awards to Lazy Audio’s team.

The existing shareholders of Lazy Audio include China Literature Limited, Lazy Audio’s management team and other financial investors. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2021 subject to closing conditions.

Founded in 2012, Lazy Audio is a comprehensive audio platform providing entertainment in the forms of audiobooks, Chinese comedy, podcasts and other radio shows to customers. It monetizes via different channels, including pay per title, subscription payment for content, and advertising. Lazy Audio has developed into a thriving community with strong user interactions and engagement, providing superior content and services to audio users across China. Lazy Audio has a highly-scalable user base, making it one of the leading audio platforms in China.

“We are delighted to welcome the talented Lazy Audio team to the TME family, and expect this strategic acquisition to significantly deepen our presence in the fast growing long-form audio industry in China,” said Mr. Cussion Pang, Chief Executive Officer of Tencent Music. “As a leading provider of audio entertainment, Lazy Audio can be seamlessly integrated into our existing long-form audio strategy, enabling us to further monetize the extensive library of high-quality literature IPs that we have access to through strategic partnerships with China Literature and others.”

“Lazy Audio’s catalog is set to expand our audio content library, and its recording capacity will significantly boost our production of audiobooks. We believe this partnership will help us cater to the increasingly nuanced needs of our customers, strengthen our brand recognition in this segment, generate considerable operational synergies, and accelerate our journey to become a leading audio entertainment platform in China.” Mr. Pang added.

Mr. Bin Song, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lazy Audio, said, “We share the same vision with TME that China’s audio industry is a less-penetrated area with great potential. Merging with TME will benefit us to strengthen our competitiveness, establish a stronger connection with Tencent portfolio and bring Lazy Audio to the next level.”

Lazy Audio will maintain its independent operations while being an essential component of TME’s overall long-form audio strategy. Upon completion of acquisition, TME will consolidate the investment in Lazy Audio, and enable Lazy Audio to have full access to TME’s expertise, leading technology, and strong promotional capabilities.


Wow in the World Wows with 100 Million Downloads



Tinkercast, the stand-out leader in audio-first children’s media, is celebrating its 100 millionth download. Founded in 2017 by three media veterans, parents and storytellers (Meredith Halpern-Ranzer, Guy Raz, and Mindy Thomas), Tinkercast’s mission is to provide screen alternative content that engages the minds and imaginations of the whole family and inspires today’s kids to become the tinkers and thinkers that will shape tomorrow.

While Wow in the World has seen steady growth over the last four years, the changing media habits of kids and families brought on by COVID-19 has accelerated the growth tremendously, increasing downloads by 94% since March 2020. That increase is due in part to the overall rise in media use for children as well as the increase in content Tinkercast rapidly created during the pandemic. Just six days after the coronavirus caused worldwide school closures affecting almost a billion children in March, Tinkercast launched a second podcast, Two What’s And a Wow, as an interactive game show for the whole family.

“The state of social and civil unrest in the U.S. coupled with the overabundance of screen time for kids and families motivated our team of tinkerers to double-down on our mission to create “cartoons-for-the-ears” about amazing things happening in the world,” said Meredith Halpern-Ranzer, CEO at Tinkercast. “Reaching 100 million downloads this week is a testament to the fact that there is a demand for well-told stories that inspire hope, joy and agency – the exact things we want more than ever for our own kids and families to feel.”

Tinkercast’s podcast continually top the kids & family podcast charts and have won numerous awards including iheartRadio Award, Parent’s Choice Gold Award, Mom’s Choice Award, KAPI Innovation in Children’s Media Award, NYF’s International Radio Award and National Science Foundation’s SBIR Award. Wow in the World has been recognized by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Washingtonian, NPR’s All Things Considered, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.


Hopin Acquired StreamYard



Hopin announced that it has acquired video platform StreamYard. Hopin describes itself as “the first all-in-one event platform optimized for connecting”. StreamYard is “a live streaming studio in your browser” where you can interview guests, share your screen, and simulcast to platforms like Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Hopin has a blog post on their website about the acquisition:

This acquisition combines the beautiful video production quality of StreamYard with the full end-to-end live events experience of Hopin. The result? Hopin organizers are able to create events that dazzle their attendees—across every aspect of the experience.

Together, we aim to provide a seamless, high-quality customer experience that makes people, not places, the heart of events.

Going forward, both StreamYard and Hopin users will continue to be able to use the services they know and love as they always have — no abrupt or sudden changes will happen. Only once we begin learning the best way to make the customer experience better will we begin to create a roadmap to bring both product experiences closer together. We look forward to listening and learning together with our communities.

Finally, this is a win for our industry as well. As one company, Hopin+StreamYard will deliver an unrivaled value proposition in the global events market and will help us achieve the ambitious growth goals we aim to achieve in 2021 and beyond.

To me, it sounds like this acquisition could be a good thing for new podcasters who don’t want to purchase equipment or software that can be very useful for recording and editing an episode. Those who want to do roundtable events, with many guests, can use Hopin + StreamYard to do it. It could be an interesting – and much simpler – alternative to Twitch.

TechCrunch reported that the deal is with $250 million, paid in a mix of cash and stock. StreamYard will retain its brand and in-market product so that it can integrate StreamYard’s streaming tech into Hopin’s marquee product. StreamYard will become the default Hopin streaming option.


Clarification is Always a Good Thing



Things move really fast in the podcasting industry – and outside of it. The speed of information makes it difficult for many of us to figure out what really happened. People sometimes make mistakes, misunderstand what was said, or fail to clearly state what they intended to say. When this happens, clarification is always a good thing.

It appears there has been some confusion about what Rob Greenlee (VP of Libsyn’s Content and Partnerships) said when he was interviewed on Season 1, Episode 6, of Podland News, which is hosted by James Cridland (editor of Podnews) and Sam Sethi (editor of Sam Talks Technology).

On January 7, 2021, Podnews posted an article titled: “Greenlee to step down as Podcast Academy Chair”. The article includes the following: Speaking on an episode of the Podland podcast to be released later today, Rob Greenlee has announced he is to step down as Chair of the Podcast Academy this month, as part of significant changes in the board of governors. “The board has decided to re-elect all new officers,” he explains.

The article goes on to state: Greenlee also announced in his Podland interview that Libsyn has decided not to support the new Podcasting 2.0 namespace at this time. Podnews posted a link to their article on Twitter on January 7, 2021.

In response, Rob Greenlee tweeted: “To clarify, I did NOT step down from thepodcastacademy.com Board or Chair role. The board elected ALL New Officers yesterday, is true that a New yet unannounced Chairperson has been selected. I remain in the TPA Board of Governors”.

The Podnews account responded by tweeting: “Rob’s exact words – “I’m actually going to be stepping down from the Chairpersonship this month” – at podnews.net/listen. We highlighted new board was being set up. We believe we reported this story accurately.”

On January 7, 2021, the Libsyn’s Twitter account tweeted: “Context” (with a smiling face emoji after it) and a link to Libsyn’s blog post titled: “What did Rob Greenlee Say?

Here are some key points from the blog post:

  • …Some recently published statements regarding Rob Greenlee about Libsyn’s support of the Podcast Index and his involvement in the Podcast Academy may have left some people thinking otherwise. We want to clear them up.
  • …It is important to distinguish between being supportive of the Podcast 2.0 namespace through conversation and advocacy, and integrated support of it’s associated tags on Libsyn.
  • In Rob’s own words in the excerpt below from Podland, you can see our team is supportive of the work they are doing. “And, and I think that as a team, we are very supportive of what Adam is doing over there, with trying to come up with some new ideas in the medium. And I do believe that we will probably ultimately wind up, supporting most, if not all, of what’s going on over there.”…
  • … The second headline that was reported on Rob Greenlee regarding the Podcast Academy was that he was stepping down as the Podcast Academy Chair. While this is an accurate excerpt from a statement from Rob Greenlee, it could be misleading in the spirit of what the Podcast Academy is doing and Rob’s level of involvement going forward.

Libsyn’s blog post included a response the headline by Podnews. The response was from Michele Cobb, Executive Director of The Podcast Academy: “The leadership change was a planned event and each year we will be appointing new officers at the January meeting (with a new term of February). And starting in 2022, we will be transitioning from the Founding Board of Governors to an elected board from the membership. Rob Greenlee continues as an active member of the board and an important part of helping us to grow and improve”.

In response to Libysn’s tweet, the Podnews Twitter account responded: “Grateful for this response. We believe we covered these stories accurately and do not believe we took any statements out of context. Clarification is always a good thing though.”


The Podcast Academy Announced Changes to Executive Commitee



The Podcast Academy announced that there will soon be changes to their Executive Committee. The organization’s by-laws direct the Board of Governors to appoint a new Executive Committee annually, beginning in February.

The by-laws also allow for up to 20 seats on our Board of Governors. And so, beginning this month, we are excited to welcome Kintan Brahmbhatt (Amazon Music), Amy S. Choi (The Mash-Up Americans), and DeRay Mckesson (Educator. Activist. Author) to the Founding Board of Governors.

The 2021 Board of Governors include the following Officers:

  • Chairperson: Rob Greenlee – VP, Content and Partnerships, Libsyn
  • Vice Chairperson: Donald Albright – President & Co-Founder, TenderfootTV
  • Secretary: Kerri Hoffman – President and CEO, PRX
  • Treasurer: Christy Mirabal – VP of Marketing, SonyMusic Entertainment

The 2021 Board of Governors includes the following Governors:

  • Kintan Brahmbhatt: Director and GM, Podcasts Amazon Music
  • Conai Byrne: President, iHeartMedia
  • Ben Cave: Global Head of Podcasts, Apple
  • Amy S. Choi: Co-Founder and Editorial Director, The Mash-Up Americans
  • Erik Diehn: CEO, Stitcher
  • Anya Grundmann: SVP, Programming and Audience Development, NPR
  • Courtney Holt: Head of Studios and Video, Spotify
  • Hernan Lopez: Founder & CEO, Wondery
  • DeRay Mckessen: Educator, Activist, Author
  • Christina Moore: Founder, Don’t Skip Media
  • Rekha Murthy: Independent Podcast Strategist
  • Liliana Maria Percy Ruiz: Executive Producer, On Being Studios
  • Oren Rosenbaum: Agent, Emerging Platforms, United Talent Agency
  • Lauren Spohrer: Co-Creator of Criminal and This is Love Podcasts
  • Alia Tavakolian: EVP of Content, Spoke Media
  • Jenna-Weiss Berman: Co-Founder, Pineapple Street

The Podcast Academy noted that beginning next year, and also per their by-laws, they will hold annual elections to fill seats on the Board of Governors. All Podcast Academy members will be able to nominate members for consideration, and vote on the Board Members.


Sewing Podcast for Black Women Surpasses 100K Downloads in 1 Year



Stitch Please Podcast announced a celebratory milestone, achieving “100,000 downloads in one year” as it continues to galvanize an online community of sewists while celebrating Black women, girls, and femmes in 6 continents and across 95 countries.

Created by Lisa Woolfork, a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast and antiracist community organizer in Charlottesville, Virginia, the vision for the podcast evolved after the deadly white supremacist attacks there in August 2017.

With a passion for racial justice and deep roots in the creative art of sewing, Lisa turned trauma and tragedy into a pathway towards hope and healing for Black women.

“Creating a space for Black women, girls, and femmes in the sewing sphere is a reclamation project. Though sewing, like other needle arts, is an African American ancestral practice, the sewing community, in general, fails to acknowledge Black women or prioritize our views,” says Lisa Woolfolk.

Stitch Please podcast fosters a restorative safe space where Black women, girls and femmes are prioritized and encouraged to embrace their whole creative selves. Weekly episodes cover a variety of topics including practical sewing tips and projects, frank discussions of racism, interviews with Black women sewists, printmakers, quilters, designers and more.

Stitch Please airs on Wednesdays @ 7:00 am EST on Apple podcasts, Catcher, Spotify and everywhere podcasts are found.


Breaker is Joining Twitter



Breaker announced that the Breaker team is joining Twitter. In the blog post, Breaker made it clear that they will be shutting down Breaker on Friday, January 15, 2020. There are some instructions on Breaker’s blog post about how to transfer your podcast subscriptions to another podcast listening app. They recommend trying Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Castro.

Here at Breaker, we’re truly passionate about audio communication and we’re inspired by the ways Twitter is facilitating public conversations for people around the world. We’re impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit at Twitter and enthusiastic about the new experiences that the team is creating.

Is your podcast on Breaker? The company has brief instructions on how to export it. “If you are currently hosting a podcast on Breaker, you can transfer your podcast to another hosting service by using the RSS feed. You can find your RSS feed link on the Distribution tab. We recommend trying out Anchor, Simplecast, or Transistor for your podcast hosting depending on your specific podcast needs.”

TechCrunch reported that the deal between Breaker and Twitter to help “improve the health of public conversation” on the service. Breaker’s team will also work on Twitter’s new audio-based networking project, Twitter Spaces.

I think it was a very smart choice for Breaker to give its users time to move their content elsewhere before January 15, 2020. I suspect that end date for Breaker might have been imposed by Twitter, so its possible that Breaker cannot extend that deadline.


Wondery Signed an Agreement to Join Amazon Music



Wondery announced that it has signed an agreement to join Amazon Music. When the deal closes, nothing will change for listeners, and they’ll continue to be able to access Wondery podcasts through a variety of providers. With Amazon Music, Wondery will be able to provide even more high-quality, innovative content, and continue their mission of bringing a world of entertainment and knowledge to their audiences, wherever they listen.

Wondery is an innovative podcast publisher with a track record of creating and producing top-rated podcasts that entertain and educate listeners, including Dirty John, Doctor Death, Business Wars, and The Shrink Next Door. Wondery is already delighting listeners with its collection of immersive podcasts, and the company is evolving this entertainment medium into a truly new and exciting experience.

Amazon Music launched podcasts in September 2020, and together with Wondery, Amazon Music hopes to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts by bringing creators, hosts, and immersive experiences to even more listeners across the globe, just as they do with music. This is a pivotal moment to expand the Amazon Music offering beyond music as listener habits evolve.

Amazon Music’s commitment to podcasts, their focus on high quality audio with the Amazon Music HD tier, and our recent partnership with Twitch to bring live streaming into the app, make Amazon Music a premier destination for creators.

Together with Wondery, Amazon Music will continue to bring more customers to streaming as they expand selection and ensure they are a destination for their customers to find, discover, and listen to the creators and artists they enjoy.

The New York Times reported that Hernan Lopez, Wondery’s founder, will step down as chief executive when the deal with Amazon closes, and Jen Sargent, Wondery’s chief operating officer will take over management, according to an Amazon spokeswoman. The New York Times also reported that Amazon would not “predict” when the Wondery deal was expected to close.