All posts by Shawn Thorpe

About Shawn Thorpe

Podcaster, freelance audio editor, WordPress enthusiast living in California.

SoundCloud (Probably) Needs More Funding



SoundCloud LogoThe topic of SoundCloud’s shaky financial future has been covered here often in the past. And the latest news to come out of the Berlin-based music/podcast distribution company doesn’t do much to improve SoundCloud’s outlook.

A Hacker News user known only by the username throwaway-sc posted this question to that website’s message board:

SoundCloud has deferred salary reviews until the next funding round is complete.
Over the last few years, travel between offices has been restricted to business critical travel only. More expensive food items have started disappearing from our kitchen.

Employees used to get a small bottle of champagne on their birthdays & employment anniversaries. This doesn’t happen anymore.

All of the above feels reasonable.

However, they recently announced that the July 1 salary review that everyone was promised will be deferred. There is no information about back pay or a date about when the next salary review will happen.

Salary increases are predicated on the next round of funding. They anticipate that the round will close over the next couple of months, if not weeks.

I’m sure that everyone here will have been in similar situations before.

What did you do? And, how did you decide whether to continue working or start looking for other opportunities.

It’s worth noting that this is an anonymous post on the internet. There’s no way to confirm its authenticity. In the replies that follow the original post, other Hacker News users condemn throwaway-sc for even mentioning his employer’s name.

But if this post holds any voracity, it proves what we probably already knew; SoundCloud is still struggling financially and will need to raise more funding in order to keep going. The company’s already gone thru multiple rounds of venture capital and debt funding. How much longer can SoundCloud continue to operate on borrowed cash?


Vote Now for Ignite Podcast Movement Presentations



Ignite Podcast Movement logoA new offering at this year’s Podcast Movement conference in California is the Ignite event that will be held the night before the conference officially opens. Ignite is described as a series of five-minute presentations (called Sparks) consisting of 20 slides that automatically advance every fifteen seconds. Sparks are designed to keep things moving so presenters stay on their toes and audience members remain engaged.

Spark submissions for Podcast Movement’s Ignite 2017 have closed. Now conference organizers are asking registered attendees of Podcast Movement to vote on the Sparks that have been submitted. On the voting form, attendees are shown a list of different Sparks with descriptions provided by the presenters who created them. Attendees are asked to select one of three choices for each Spark: Gotta See It, Sounds Okay, and Meh, I’ll Pass.

While the form is technically open and accessible to anyone, the form instructions stress that only registered attendees of Podcast Movement 2017 should be placing votes. These votes are limited to one vote per person. Spark submissions will be removed if Podcast Movement determines there has been cheating on any Spark’s behalf. There’s also a bit of advice for overeager self-promoters:

You cannot post this on your blog or share it in your podcast asking the public for votes, however, do encourage your fellow PM attendees to head this way and vote for their favorites!

The Spark voting form asks for an e-mail address, and that’s presumably how Podcast Movement will determine which votes are legit and which are not. The voting form for Ignite Podcast Movement 2017 can be found here.


Tung Podcast Player Goes Open Source



Tung logoTung, self-described as “a social podcast player,” has gone open source. Tung’s developer made the announcement via Reddit earlier this week:

Some of you may have seen my posts about tung.fm in the past. It’s a social podcast app I developed for web and iOS – “Discover podcasts by sharing comments, clips, and recommendations with your friends.” Well, now it is completely open-source…
I would like to invite anyone here who’s interested to contribute. I would especially love it if someone made an Android client.
I chose to make it open source so that it can have maximum benefit to the community.

Tung is a podcast consumption and sharing system that is currently available thru the web or as an iOS app. Podcast listeners can find their favorite shows on Tung and leave comments, share clips, and make recommendations. More from the Tung website:

Tung is a streaming podcast player designed to help you discover the best podcasts – the ones recommended by your peers and friends! With Tung you get a feed of what your friends are recommending, commenting on and sharing clips of.

While listening to a podcast, you can easily make an audio clip of any moment you find interesting and share it directly to Twitter and Facebook. And in the feed you can listen to clips your friends made of the most interesting or funny moments in a podcast.

Anyone interested in contributing to the further development of Tung as an open source project can do so via Github. The Tung app itself can be accessed thru the links above or on the iOS App Store.


Apple Podcast Announcement Wrap-up – PCN Show 043



PCN iTunes artworkApple’s announcement this week at the end of the Worldwide Developer Conference is some of the biggest podcasting news to happen in years. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate an entire episode to it.

Links:

 


New Features for Listeners, Stats for Podcasters Coming to Apple Podcasts



Apple logoApple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is wrapping up this weekend in California. While Apple made plenty of announcements during WWDC, the tech giant may have truly left the best for last (at least, if you’re a podcaster).

Today, Apple announced major changes to its podcast spec. The first such spec changes the company has made in years. Apple also announced that it will finally be providing at least some listener data to podcast producers.

Acknowledging recent trends in the podcasting space, Apple will now provide support for seasons, preview episodes, and bonus episodes within its podcast RSS feed spec. That means it’ll be easier for podcasters to organize episodes by season, so listeners can download and listen back to episodes in the correct order. The preview and bonus episode options will make it easier for podcasters and listeners alike to identify episodes that might not be part of a podcast’s regular production cycle.

There’s been a lot of industry pressure as of late on Apple to provide listener data to podcasters. Acquiescing to these demands, Apple will begin providing some actual listener data to podcast producers:

Apple said today that it will be using (anonymized) data from the app to show podcasters how many people are listening and where in the app people are stopping or skipping. This has the potential to dramatically change our perception of how many people really listen to a show, and how many people skip ads, as well as how long a podcast can run before people just give up.

While this might look like the holy grail to some in terms of listener metrics, it appears that this data will be limited to listener activity from the iOS Podcasts app only. Not the cross-platform iTunes desktop application. And of course, it won’t pull in data from any services outside of the Apple ecosphere.

It’s not yet clear when Apple will allow podcasters to access listener data. The full implementation of the new Apple Podcasts RSS spec will likely coincide with the release of iOS 11 later this year. If you’d like to see what the new RSS tags will look like, Apple has released a document that covers the changes it’ll be making to the spec.


iTunes Will Soon Be Available in the Windows Store



Windows Store logoMicrosoft’s new “streamlined” operating system, Windows 10 S, is being touted as the company’s attempt to compete more directly with Google’s Chromebook and Apple’s MacBook computers. Windows 10 S is aimed at the education market, and to a lesser extent, large businesses who are looking to minimize some of the headaches that can occur when users are allowed access to a full-featured operating system like the standard version of Windows 10.

The one thing that really makes Windows 10 S stand out from its predecessors is that the operating system will only allow applications to be installed from within the Windows Store. Taking a cue from other OS developers, Microsoft will fully vet all applications that are aded to the Windows Store, in the hopes that this will minimize operational problems like viruses and malware. Having this level of control will make it easier for hardware suppliers to sell and deploy computers at an institutional level.

And while the vetting process that comes with the Windows Store is likely to be a welcome change for system administrators, it may leave some individual users in the cold. Especially those who’ve been relying on the Windows version of Apple’s iTunes to consume media like music and podcasts. Fortunately, it was recently announced that Apple is working with Microsoft to bring iTunes to the Windows Store.

That means iTunes podcasts should be available on all modern versions of Windows for some time to come. Now that this has been taken care of, can Apple get to work on porting its Podcasts app to Android? It’s seriously overdue.


Podcast Subscription Code Discovered in Google Beta App



Google Play logoWhen Google announced it would be bringing podcasts to its Google Play Music app, many hailed this as the arrival of podcasting in the Googlesphere (including the Android and Google Home operating systems), likening it to the support Apple has provided for podcasting thru its desktop iTunes application and iOS Podcasts app. At the time, it felt like Google’s aversion to supporting podcasts had truly come to an end, and that having podcasts available thru the Google Play Music app would cause a massive stream of new listeners to come flooding into the podcasting space. But podcasting’s entry into Google Play Music came off with more of a whimper than a bang. Since then, very little has happened with podcasting and Google.

A recent teardown of the APK (Android application package) for the beta version of Google app 7.3 uncovered code within the app that appears to provide one-click style subscriptions to users of the app:

Last year, Google took a (half-hearted) stab at supporting podcasts with the Play Music app. The same day, in a much less expected move, it also became possible to listen to individual episodes right from a Google search. Fast forward several months and Google Assistant also gained the ability to play podcasts, which turned out to be a fairly natural feature for Google Home.

While Play Music allows users to subscribe to podcasts, listening to one through Google Search or Assistant meant asking for shows by name, and may also require a specific episode number if you want to hear anything but the most recent recording. Now it looks like Google is going to close that gap with built-in podcast subscriptions.

By all appearances, podcast subscriptions will be accessible in Google Assistant settings and will likely be treated much like subscriptions to news sources. The one obvious difference is that Google will track which episodes have been played so you won’t miss any or have to listen to repeats.

It’s unclear if this new functionality will automatically sync with users’ current Google Play Music libraries, or if it’ll be completely separate from that service. Regardless, it’s good to see some progress being made by Google in terms of podcast consumption.


No Need to Panic Over “Death” of MP3 Audio Format



mp3 logoIt’s generally accepted that podcasting began to truly coalesce into a recognizable medium in late 2004. Considering the timeframe, it’s no surprise that mp3 became the most popular choice for audio encoding of podcasts. Other formats were definitely available. But mp3 files were a ubiquitous part of the digital-music revolution that had taken place in the years leading up to podcasting’s beginning. Due to its widespread use by consumers, mp3 was an obvious choice for podcasters to use when encoding their shows.

Every few years, one group or another would make some noise about how podcasting needed a “better,” or more “modern” format for encoding audio. Despite those efforts, nothing came around that worked as a true replacement for mp3.

Fraunhofer, the German technology company that’s held patent and licensing rights for the mp3 format for decades, recently announced that its mp3 licensing program was terminated:

On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.

We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the defacto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades.

In its statement, Fraunhofer noted that there are more advanced audio codes available today, like AAC. This statement led to a chorus of “mp3 is dead!” cries from the tech press. Marco Arment, developer of the popular podcast app Overcast, took to his blog to shoot down the notion that the mp3 format was now over:

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year — the last known MP3 patents have simply expired.

So while there’s a debate to be had — in a moment — about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer’s announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format.

The “mp3 is dead” meme began to resonate at such a high pitch that Fraunhofer came back a few days later to clarify what its original statement actually means:

…does this mean that mp3 is really dead now, as we have read often in the last few days? Of course not! mp3 is a phenomenon, which changed our way of consuming music forever, and is very much alive in 2017.

The licensing program coming to an end is due to the fact that the last patent included in the program expired. In no way does that mean that the usage permit ends. The only ones deciding on the “death” of mp3 will be the users, who might switch to more modern audio formats at some point, such as AAC, which is included in almost every smartphone today.

It seems inevitable that some other format will eventually eclipse mp3 for both music and spoken-word audio. But that day is not yet upon us. If you’ve been concerned about this news and contemplating a format change for your show, relax! MP3 is likely to still be here for quite some time.


#2PodsADay is a 30-Day Campaign to Promote Independent Podcasts



2PodsADay logoSeparating signal from noise can be a challenging task in the internet age. There are so many outlets producing various types of media that it’s impossible for any one person to keep up. With an estimated 300,000 currently active shows, podcasting is still somewhat small in comparison to other digital mediums. But 300,000 of anything is more than one person could hope to process. That’s why it’s helpful for podcast listeners when someone steps in to provide a little guidance.

That’s just what podcaster Josh Hallmark is doing with his #2PodsADay project. #2PodsADay highlights two independently-produced podcasts, handpicked by Hallmark, and features them on the #2PodsADay website. The #2PodsADay campaign began earlier this month, on May 15th, and will run for 30 days until June 13th.

In a recent article on the campaign, Hallmark explained his inspiration for the #2PodsADay campaign:

When Josh Hallmark, the host of Our Americana and The Karen and Ellen Letters, started podcasting a year ago, he didn’t realize how hard it would be— both to produce a show, and to gain an audience. “It is very much a 1 percent industry,” he says. “ You go onto iTunes and everyone that’s featured is people who are associated with networks that have tons of money and tons of leverage. It’s really hard if you’re an independent podcaster to break through that.”

To keep track of the #2PodsADay campaign, click the website link above, join the campaign’s Facebook group or follow the campaign on Twitter.