Good for Rogan & Spotify. But don’t forget about the real problems in podcasting

Podcasting has real problems we should be trying to solve.

Welcome to the FWIW newsletter about tech, media & audio written by David Tvrdon. 🌐 Read it online and 👉 be sure to subscribe, if you were forwarded this newsletter.

In this edition

🎧 The real problems in podcasting

🏢 Is there a real push for WFH and how likely it is to win

💬 Other tech & media news

Joe Rogan solved his own problem, now it’s time for the podcasting industry to wake up

📷 by on Unsplash

I have read too many takes on the Joe Rogan and Spotify deal that I cannot even address the issue anymore. Is it important for podcasting? Kind of. Is it important for Spotify? Sure.

This article by Ben Thompson came out before the deal was announced and somehow touches several points I like, here is a quote:

Dithering is another effort driven by Publishers Ben and John; if we are to maintain a thriving podcast ecosystem that is open, we must figure out monetization, and from my perspective, that means subscriptions. The fact that Spotify won’t even allow Dithering to be played on their app only increases the urgency: if the choice is free and closed versus for-pay and open I will always push for the latter — three times a week, 15 minutes per episode.

Thompson and Gruber launched a new paid-for podcast, this was an introductory article and it also listed all the major platforms - Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, where this is not possible (this meaning adding manually a feed to the app).

Podcasting must figure out monetization

I have written about this before in the previous edition of FWIW (audiobooks vs. podcasting). Podcasting really needs to step up the monetization game. Ads will take you only thus far.

Thompson thinks subscriptions are a viable option and that they are sustainable. The tricky part is to figure out just how to put your podcast behind a paywall. And then how to convince someone with Spotify, Google Podcasts or Stitcher player to switch their default player for one that enables adding feeds manually.

In my opinion, there is not a clear path forward yet, not a go-to app or service and podcasting will have to experiment as an industry with this going forward. (FYI - Substack offers free podcast hosting and also private RSS feeds for subscribers)

Also, it’s worth mentioning the 1,000 True Fans vs. 100 ideas. More and more creators are looking towards a loyal fanbase to earn a living (Ben Smith of the New York Times has a nice deep dive on this topic).

Podcasters should definitely consider this. Think of it as creating value for a niche audience and only that audience has access to it. So while Patreon might be an easy way out, it’s not what I am talking about.

And don’t get me started on other problems of podcasting: content discovery, clumsy social sharing options, who is the audience, how many subscribers does my podcast have, getting new listeners…

WFH? More like work outside of the office

📷 by kate.sade on Unsplash

The last few weeks have been full of the topic of whether this and that company is switching to WFH (work from home) mode permanently. Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft…

Over at Protocol, they put together a list of names used by different parties:

  • Work from home

  • Remote work

  • Hybrid offices

  • Digital by default

  • Distributed work

  • Digital nomad

  • Work from anywhere

Ok, enough fun.

This is from a piece from Harvard Business Review on remote work:

Even as working from home (WFH) becomes relatively commonplace, a new form of remote work is emerging: working from anywhere (WFA), in which employees can live and work where they choose, typically within a specific country, but in some cases, anywhere in the world with a reliable internet connection. While many companies are just starting to consider allowing employees to work from anywhere, developed WFA programs can be found at firms such as Akamai and SAP.

Employees value the option to work remotely. A 2017 study even found that the average worker was willing to accept 8% less pay for the option to work from home.  This indicates that workers assign monetary value to the flexibility provided by a WFH policy. And with a work-from-anywhere policy, employers add even more value to employees by granting geographic flexibility.  It’s a significant difference: while a WFH employee can choose to pick the kids up from school or spend lunch hour walking the dog, a WFA employee can do all of those and also relocate closer to aging parents or to a location with a lower cost of living.

It was written back in 2019, but it sounds super timely now, right?

The article goes on to cite different studies that showed increased productivity by employees working from home. Still, new hires need to be taken care of personally.

I guess the authors of that piece never imagined things speeding up the way they did due to the pandemic.

Anyway, WFH or WFA (like many tech employees leaving Silicon Valley to relocate somewhere they could actually live very comfortably with that pay, no more super high rents and expensive services in the Bay Area) is here to stay and we should take advantage - both companies and employees.

In other news


⚔️ Facebook has known it polarizes users. In-kind of a bombshell investigation, reporters from WSJ found out that back in 2016 an internal research found that '64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools’, that 'our recommendation systems grow the problem' and ‘our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness.' The article says that some managers tried to address algorithm changes and were allowed only partly. This is well worth your time to read. Here is Facebook’s response. [Wall Street Journal]

🧑‍🚀 SpaceX launch moved to Saturday due to weather. This is nothing new in space travel, NASA and SpaceX decided to postpone the Wednesday afternoon Demo-2 launch as unfavorable weather conditions in the region posed risks to the equipment and crew. Originally scheduled for 4:33 p.m. ET Wednesday, the liftoff is now moved to the afternoon of Saturday (May 30). [New York Times, CNBC

🦾 You should read this explainer on the virtual economy. The gaming industry is growing and is bigger than most other industries you tend to follow. It might be a good idea to understand it better. [L’Atelier


💸 Instagram will share revenue with creators for the first time through ads on IGTV. Ads will begin showing up next week in IGTV for only around 200 approved creator partners from a handful of major advertiser partners like Ikea, Puma, and Sephora. Creators’ cut will be 55%. The initial round of ads will be vertical videos up to 15 seconds long. Other monetization options within the social network for creators: selling badges and Live Shopping coming in the next months. [The Verge]

🎙️ Amazon & podcasting, round no.2. Amazon invested into original audio shows (did not call them podcasts) in 2015, but axed the efforts in 2018. Now Bloomberg reports Amazon wants to get back to the podcasting game. Also, Amazon is looking to invest in localized podcast content, like news and sports, per Axios. Especially sports content is essential for the tech giant as the company plans to buy up more TV rights and have adjacent audio content for users. The tricky part is, and there is already a debate internally over whether the podcast content will live within Amazon's audiobook company Audible, Amazon Music, Amazon Alexa, or all three. Good luck with that. [Axios]

📺 HBO Max is here to win, but will it? First a quiz - can you tell the difference between HBO, HBO Now, HBO GO and HBO Max? WarnerMedia (owns HBO) parent company AT&T wants to have 50 million subscribers on the service by 2025. Theoretically, they should be able to easily convert the current 30+ million subscribers to all the different services. For $15 a month, HBO Max promises around 10,000 hours of programming - Game of Thrones, Warner Bros. properties like Friends and the Harry Potter movies. HBO has been historically very good at picking the best content (see Twitter thread below by Matthew Ball), will see how it fares with the most expansive OTT service on the market currently. [New York Times]


🤙 Remember Clubhouse? The app that only a few hundred people have seen and raised $10 million dollars. Well, this time Facebook did not wait long.

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