April 17, 2021

Podcasting Is Booming. Will Hollywood Help or Hurt Its Future?

For 20 to 30 minutes each week, “What I’m Looking At” features Cross calmly describing random objects — her shoes, an apple, a box of toothpicks — in soothing detail, like a combination Zen relaxation ritual and conceptual art project. She earns no money from it directly (she has supporters on Patreon), but has built a small community of followers who email her comments after every episode.

Shows like “Slow Burn” and “What I’m Looking At” exemplify the power and charm of podcasting — an intimate, technologically simple medium that can help forge a connection with an audience over any topic, weighty or whimsical.

That power, and the lure of greater advertising dollars, has begun to draw big investment. In 2018, iHeartMedia, the broadcast radio giant, paid $55 million for Stuff Media, the studio behind hits like “Stuff You Should Know.” Last year, SiriusXM acquired Stitcher, a popular app and distributor, for at least $265 million. And in late December, Amazon agreed to buy Wondery (“Dr. Death,” “Dirty John”) at a price estimated at more than $300 million.

Over the last two years, Spotify has paid more than $800 million for a series of podcasting companies, like Gimlet, the Ringer and Anchor. Spotify has also struck content deals with the Obamas, Kim Kardashian West, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the comedian Joe Rogan, whose no-holds-barred talk — including with guests like Alex Jones — has made him podcasting’s closest thing to Howard Stern.

Spending has amped up competition among platforms, many of which have begun to protect their investments by keeping content inside so-called walled gardens, accessible only to subscribers. Spotify, which keeps some shows within its walls, has made it clear that it views podcasts as a way to attract new customers to its service. This month, Spotify said that a quarter of its 345 million customers listen to podcasts.

“There is no question that podcasting is helping drive more people to Spotify than ever before,” said Dawn Ostroff, the company’s chief content and advertising business officer. “That’s really our goal at this point.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/25/arts/podcasts-hollywood-future.html

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