I told you I was going to sob at that new MUNA song. I didn’t lie.
Now, more non-lies! In other words, news!
But first, here’s Jake with something to highlight for all of you:
What happened at Stitcher
Hi guys, I’m excited to share another Ashley Carman story with you – a piece she spent months reporting and wrapping up just before she left.
The story is a deep dive into SiriusXM’s acquisition of Stitcher – how it went, where it went wrong, and how it speaks to the broader podcasting landscape’s transition to consolidation and scale.
Former Stitcher employees say SiriusXM lacked a podcast strategy when brought on board, felt the company wasn’t allowing them to trade on their expertise, and clashed over basic things like cross-promotion and… … even the name “Spotify.” The strategy shift was especially evident with the comedy network Earwolf, where fans have noticed a flurry of departing shows and hosts in recent months.Many of the smaller titles that made Earwolf known as a vibrant space for comedy have since left the network, while the studio has prioritized titles with mainstream hit potential, such as Office Ladies and Storytime with Seth Rogen†
More than a quarter of Stitcher’s employees at the time of the acquisition have since left, including the C-suite CEO, CTO and others. The edge found it. As Ashley writes, “Combined with the x-factors of a pandemic, a new business environment and growing ways for shows to survive on their own without network support, the time was right for a talent reckoning.”
There’s a lot more in the piece itself, including details of how some of this tension started before the takeover. You can read the full story here.
Okay, back to Aria!
radio labs big commitment to accessibility
Earlier this month I told Insiders about a new radio lab episode – a story told by the writer Elsa Sjunneson about how her life compares to Helen Keller’s – that was produced in a way that deafblind audiences could see in its entirety.
radio lab has now released an ASL companion video for the episode, and it has also published a transcript specially formatted for loading into digital Braille readers. I spoke with the team about how and why this came about.
Creating these resources was done in stages and involved many people, both inside and outside WNYC, but once shared, the process becomes replicable. To create a compatible transcript, for example, they hired an outside braille coordinator, Sharon von See, to convert the copy into an official “Braille Ready File” using a computer program. The ASL video, produced by WNYC social media producer Kim Nowacki, took many more steps, including two rounds of translation with outside interpreters April Jackson-Woodard and Eboni Gaytan.
This is that process, as explained to me by radio lab sound designer Jeremy Bloom: He and Gaytan, who is not deaf, listened to the episode in 10-minute chunks; as she listened, Gaytan created a signed interpretation of what she heard, and passed it on to Jackson-Woodard, who is deaf; Jackson-Woodard then reinterpreted what she received from Gaytan, and it’s Jackson-Woodard and her translation that you see in the last video.
As Bloom says, Jackson-Woodard can “interpret the work in a way that is linguistically and culturally more fluid than if we were using a single auditory interpreter.” A third interpreter, Annie Dieckman, was also on hand to translate between Jackson-Woodard and himself, as Bloom does not know ASL. The resulting video was then edited to match the signature with the audio and capture the true essence of radio labit also featured specific written descriptions of the music and sound design, courtesy of the artist Shannon Finnegan (whose descriptions can also be read in the transcript).
These components are a big improvement over the existing delivery of this show’s content, but that delivery was actually quite robust already. For example, uploading visual counterparts to audio is an active practice for the team, which has published both episode captioned videos and more experimental content, such as a recording of a cassette (for an episode on cassettes) showing you the reels spinning. if you choose to look at it (but it’s fine to minimize to the background if you choose not to).
Getting inspiration from existing makers is part of radio lab‘s new approach, which I’m told is largely a result of feedback from the show’s audience; many fans rely on accessibility accommodations, and their experience with the show shouldn’t come at the expense of that. More recently, the team has worked directly with several people with disabilities as both paid contributors and expert resources. Looking ahead, I’m told more ASL videos are on the way and transcripts will always be available – yes, even if the larger audio industry hasn’t caught up yet†
“Last year I saw Christine Sun Kim’s incredible Pop-Up Magazine video and it helped me understand how much more lavish sound descriptions could be in transcriptions,” said Lulu Miller, one of radio lab‘s co-hosts. In this video, Sun Kim imagines the way subtitles can be read by writing them himself, combining literal descriptions of feet ‘clapping’ against floor tiles with more abstract descriptions, such as ‘the sound of shampoo scent floating among the mist’.
“Since then,” Miller says, “we’ve all been hungry to find a way to up our game in that area.”
EXCLUSIVE: PRX and Google’s new training program for less than new podcasters
The Google Podcasts creator program, last meeting in 2021, is entering its third iteration, with some notable changes.
This international training, powered by Google and PRX, was previously aimed at new podcast producers and sometimes offered funding for up to 20 recipients at a time. This time, only six small teams or individuals will be chosen for the program, which is aimed at producers who have been making audio for at least three years and who can help the program monetize and grow what they’ve started.
With this goal in mind, that represents another big change for the program: The funding each could potentially receive has increased by more than 60 percent since the last time it was up for grabs. Stephanie Kuo, director of education at PRX, says an increase in funding was in response to feedback from the program’s alumni.
“This year’s program is for those looking to take a current podcast and transform it from what may have been a passion project or sideshow into a business with revenue potential, while also continuing to refine their creative development skills,” says Kuo. “With the goal of seeing more successful independent shows in the ecosystem, we want to help both podcasters and podcasters evolve in this way.”
You can find submission and eligibility details on the program’s website, or you can tune in to the informational webinar PRX is hosting today at 2 p.m. ET.
More toys for Apple podcasters
Today, Apple Podcasts announced new capabilities for creators that offer subscription channels, while also teasing future listener stats for regular old podcasters.
Those who run premium channels can now do things like customize banners from show to show to advertise various paywall benefits. And starting in April, the listening stats of all podcasters will begin to differentiate between follower and non-follower activity, meaning those who choose to be notified about new episodes versus those who don’t. With the latter, the goal is to help determine how many listeners are really invested in a show (and may be interested in becoming paying subscribers later).
Apple Podcasts Connect, the dashboard where podcasters can see all these stats, was revamped last spring; this spring it seems to be blooming again.
Twitter Spaces Increase Shareability (and Asynchrony)
Some Apple users now have the ability to share audio clips from Twitter Spaces, a feature similar to what Clubhouse users got last September. With the Clubhouse version, if captured and posted quickly enough, clips can encourage people to join a conversation as it happens; Twitter, on the other hand, limits the clipping feature to Spaces that have already been recorded, according to the official “Twitter Spaces” Twitter account (Why). That way, this newer feature appeals to people with a waning interest in live audio.
The edge has more details on the announcement, although I have a fondness for this News9 article because there is a typo that swaps “clip” for “clop”, and now I can’t stop thinking about horses.
Anna Sorokin joins podcast from prison
Last week, Anna Sorokin (the scammer and subject of the recent Netflix series) invent Anna currently in ICE custody) appeared as a guest on the podcast call her daddywhich I’m pointing out for two reasons besides that it’s just an absolutely unhinged sentence.
First, it was purposely produced and marketed as a video episode, capitalizing on Spotify’s ongoing efforts to make video happen for its podcasts. The spectacle Sorokin beams in from a cell cannot really be ignored.
And second, at least this is the second time now call her daddy has produced sound-byte-friendly audio – last month, a quote from Julia Fox’s appearance on the show became viral TikTok audio. I don’t have high hopes for the potential of Sorokin’s appearance, mainly because the sound quality isn’t great, but host Alex Cooper had at least one good line. Responding to her guest disagreeing with the idea that she, as a con artist, is like an artist, Cooper cuts in, “You are. You are very confusing.” The silence that follows touches me each. only. time†
I hope everyone who goes to Podcast Movement in person enjoys it! I’m on the east coast and I’m freezing.