Does The Spotify Gimlet Purchase Signal The End Of The Open World Of Podcasting?

from the hopefully-not dept

If you follow this kind of news at all, you probably have heard that Spotify has recently purchased two podcasting companies: Gimlet Media and Anchor. Gimlet makes a ton of high quality, highly produced podcasts (it's like the HBO of podcasting), while Anchor is a combination of a podcasting advertising network and a set of tools to let anyone create their own podcasts easily (it's like the SqaureSpace of podcasts). On the one hand, it's good to see podcasts getting some attention and interest, and Spotify is clearly one of the largest services for listening to audio files -- though much more so on the music side.

My concern, however, is about the potential walling off of the podcast world. The whole concept of podcasts from the early days was the idea that anyone could create them and anyone could access them. That's been changing a bit of late. There have been a growing number of exclusive and walled off podcasts, including on Spotify (but also on Stitcher with its Stitcher Premium and Slate with its Slate Plus program -- and likely others as well).

And obviously, it's nice to see experimentation around business models regarding podcasts, but as some are already pointing out, this could be another nail in the coffin for the idea of an open web.

In an interview about the Gimlet deal, Gimlet's co-founders insisted that they didn't think it was going to lead to this sort of fragmentation for existing podcasts, but future podcasts might be a different story.

Alex Blumberg: Yeah, I mean, well, Spotify said themselves this morning on the earning call that they have no intention of taking the shows that are out there that Gimlet produces and putting them behind a paywall. So those will continue to be freely distributed.

Matt Lieber: Or make an exclusivity to Spotify, the existing shows.

Alex Blumberg: Yeah. Yes. The existing shows will not be made exclusive to Spotify. They will continue ... you’ll continue to get them where you get them now. And yeah, going forward, I think it’s going to be a mix. This is a new world, and we’re trying to figure out how it works. And so it’ll be a mix of exclusive things that we make exclusively for Spotify, like we’re doing right now with Mogul or things that are windowed or things that are a mix of the two. I think there’s gonna be a lot of experimentation.

Frankly, the idea of windowed podcasts doesn't bother me that much -- releasing versions a bit earlier to subscribers seems like a reasonable business model for some kinds of content. But creating full exclusives, building a fragmented world of podcasting with walled gardens sounds like a disaster for the medium. There are already people complaining about all the walled gardens in video entertainment content. We don't need to add to that with podcasts, when the podcast world has already shown that an open, standards-based system built on RSS works just fine.

Filed Under: exclusives, open internet, paywalls, podcasts, rss, walled gardens
Companies: anchor, gimlet, spotify


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  • icon
    Dwight Brown (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:35pm

    Pants on fire.

    "The existing shows will not be made exclusive to Spotify. They will continue ... you’ll continue to get them where you get them now."

    Which is an absolute lie. They made season 2 of "Crimetown" exclusive to Spotify when they released it in October.

    (No link to "Crimetown" because, seriously, fark those guys and fark Spotify.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:38pm

      Re: Pants on fire.

      The existing shows will not be made exclusive to Spotify.

      Translation, if its already been published, we will leave it available.

      Note, no mention of new shows by the same creators.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Dwight Brown (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:50pm

        Re: Re: Pants on fire.

        Except "Crimetown" was an existing show, and the first "season" was available everywhere RSS was spoken.

        (While I'm at it, can we get rid of this hideous neologism of podcast "seasons"? Podcasts do not have 'seasons". The idea of a "season" is an artifact of the bad old days of broadcast television: it has no relevance to the world of podcasts, or the world of 2019.

        If you want to do a block of thematically related episodes, fine: call it "a block of episodes". Don't call it a "season".)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:36pm

          Re: Re: Re: Pants on fire.

          While I'm at it, can we get rid of this hideous neologism of podcast "seasons"? Podcasts do not have 'seasons". The idea of a "season" is an artifact of the bad old days of broadcast television

          Then it's not really a neologism, is it?

          it has no relevance to the world of podcasts, or the world of 2019.

          Do you know anybody who uses the word "reverse" to describe going back in an audio or video recording? Because everybody I know still says "rewind", even though they are well aware that there is no tape and no spool being used anywhere in the process.

          Why, I hear there are even people who still say "sunrise" and "sunset" -- what are they, flat earthers?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Pants on fire.

          "Show" can refer to a specific episode or an entire series (i.e. all seasons; I'm not using "series" in the British way). I suspect Alex left that ambiguous on purpose.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 3:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: Pants on fire.

          The podcast "what really happened", operates on the production schedule which produced the term 'season' in america and 'series' in england - a number of episodes is funded (not neccisarily with a theme), and those episodes are produced. Not all podcasts structure themselves around consistently scheduled content.

          And the term season is a good short hand, 2 quick sylybles. Compared to block of episodes, 5 long syllables. Everyone understands the concept. So the podcast Dice Funk (a humorous D&D 5th edition real play podcast) uses the term season to describe each self contained plot arc. between seasons the cast, the characters, and the setting change. A season is a good descriptor that, in the modern TV age (as opposed to the old broadcast days), is understood to describe a series of episodes linked by when they are produced and/or written. it implies a potential break in release that we can see in a number of podcast production formats that are not based around constant weekly production. many of the distinctions that defined seasons have are still valid, even if the origin of the use of season to describe the collection of episodes no longer makes sense.

          I prefer the term to series, the other term which evolved to have that meaning, because lacking series then only leaves us with show to describe the show as a whole, and that terminology could get messy fast.

          I am unsure why you have the hate on for the way the term has evolved.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    spamvictim (profile), 9 Feb 2019 @ 3:27pm

    We all want a pony

    I'm a Slate Plus subscriber. For the most part, I get the same podcasts as non-subscribers without the ads. But more to the point. I would love to spend all my time making high quality podcasts and giving them away, but I have to eat. There have always been a variety of business models on the web and it has been clear for a while that free content is often worth only what you pay for it, so I pay for all sorts of stuff, from the Financial Times to Questionable Content.

    I think Slate's podcasts are worth $4/mo. If you don't, that's fine, but what's evil about paying for stuff if you think it's worth it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 8:02am

      Re: We all want a pony

      I am willing to pay for entertainment and information, but I want to do it on my terms. I want to use my preferred podcast app, not Spotify, not Stitcher, not iTunes/Apple Music/Apple Podcasts/ Whatever TF they're calling it now...

      RSS Forever!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 2:14am

    Walled gardens

    Although I get where MM is coming from on this, in the end the consumer chooses.

    One can always fall back to registering a domain and running a site and uploading to it whatever you want. This is how the IETF designed the Internet. Become a "peer".

    "But that's so hard!" I hear you cry. Well, find out (on Linux look for "LAMP stack") or use commercial hosting services.

    Warning: if you are going to use commercial hosting services ensure that you keep a copy of all material you upload. Do not rely on others for backup.

    Wanna make money off that? Look to Patreon (or Steemit, ...) or Advertising. Sell merch etc. etc.. This is not rocket science.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 3:19am

    I'm both wary and unbothered by this move. On the one hand, podcasting has always been a difficult thing to properly monetise, which is why so many of the longest running and most successful podcasts have tended to be those with existing radio platforms (NPR, BBC, etc.) or those who just use podcasting as a secondary marketing tool. True independents have always struggled, though it's nice to see things like Patreon allow for us not hearing the same ads for mattresses on every podcast.If this makes it possible for higher quality content to be produced without having to depend on an old school radio infrastructure or celebrity endorsement then it may be positive.

    On the other hand, I'm firmly in agreement that the trend toward relegating content to specific silos is something that should be concerning, although fears about how it might affect the "open web" are a little late in the game in this era of DRM, region blocking, etc. Say what you want about Spotify, but as their business model has tended to allow for free streaming and a truly international presence it's less concerning than it would be from other companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    UneekElements (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 9:24am

    Spotify Podcasts

    If Spotify chooses to exclusively wall off podcasts entirely from other platforms, these deals are not great in my opinion.

    However, a podcast I listen to regularly (The Joe Budden Podcast) was picked up by Spotify about a year ago, and the only thing that changed was that the "episodes" are exclusive to Spotify for only 2-3 days, then the podcast still releases on YouTube. If Spotify chooses to go this route with all of the podcasts that they buy up, I don't see any issues with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jassi (profile), 9 Mar 2019 @ 9:08am

    Spotify Premium Account

    If Spotify chooses to exclusively wall off podcasts entirely from other platforms, these deals are not great in my opinion.

    True independents have always struggled, though it's nice to see things like Patreon allow for us not hearing the same ads for mattresses on every podcast.If this makes it possible for higher quality content to be produced without having to depend on an old school radio infrastructure or celebrity endorsement then it may be positive.

    I am unsure why you have the hate on for the way the term has evolved.

    <a href="https://wortlo.com/spotify-premium-apk/"&gt; </a>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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