Reading List: What you need to know about podcasts now

Reading List logoLast November, we published a reading list, “Seven About Podcasting,” that grabbed the first big wave of post-Serial criticism, thought and reaction.

The biggest signals of change in the past eight months can be spotted in two places: where talent is moving in the industry, and how the media community is talking about podcasts now vs. then.

First, the moves.

Beyond the fact that media companies including Buzzfeed, Slate/Panoply and The New Republic have launched podcasts or podcasting networks, there have been some notable acquisitions:

Last week, venerable media company Scripps acquired Midroll/Earwolf (here’s the Wolf’s Den podcast about the deal).

And in recent months, for-profit companies that have never had traditional newsrooms are hiring public media talent: WNYC’s VP for content development and production Chris Bannon moved to Midroll, NPR’s SVP of programming Eric Nuzum is at Audible (here’s The Pub podcast on his plans), and executive editor Caitlin Thompson is the new “podcast doyenne” at Acast (a Swedish audio platform that’s big in the U.K. and starting its U.S. invasion).

The indie hope, of course, is that the buzz around big, public media-incubated podcasts will spread and become a steady hum of work for audio producers and storytellers.

But there is still lots to sort out:


Advertising ethics.

How to measure audience.

Whether the best gold rush strategy is to be a gunslinger who develops content (or podcasts) for others, or to make your own podcast and try to grab some territory in the increasingly overcrowded marketplace.

This reading list won’t tell you what to do, but it will definitely show how thought around podcasting is evolving:


• Ads for Podcasts Test the Line Between Story and Sponsor | Dino Grandoni for The New York Times

“Behind much of podcasting’s growth, though, is the embrace of ads in which hosts gush over products or even do reporting for advertising spots. That has led to a clash between those coming from public radio and those with a commercial radio background, with some expressing concern that journalists, who rely on trust, are using their position of confidence to push products.”

• Advertising, Podcasting and Public Radio | Jay Allison for Transom

“For my part, I like listener support and subscription as a model. It’s a direct compact, and an honor system that requires both parties to be honorable.”

• Gimlet wants to become the “HBO of podcasting” — here’s what its founder’s learned trying to get there | Shan Wang for Nieman Lab

“When I started this company, if you were looking for someone to do narrative, audio journalism, nobody really did it except these people from public radio. … I’m definitely in the sort of This American Life, Planet Money, Radiolab tradition of fussing over details a lot. Now, that doesn’t mean that every single show that we do will be that way. But we’re trying to do something new and something different with each show that we launch.”

The Surprising Secrets of Successful Podcasters | Midroll

One of the keys to podcasting’s popularity with both listeners and advertisers is that the ads are well-integrated into the show and are not as densely packed as in television and radio. Podcasts can keep ads spaced out because higher of those higher CPMs.

• Future of Podcasting 2015 (survey results in a slideshow) | Clammr

(Laura Hazard Owen hit the highlights for Nieman Lab.)

“Investors need to solve for two major challenges in order for podcasting to cross into mass adoption: Podcasting needs to become more discoverable and social in order to drive audience growth [and] podcasters must see a pathway to monetization.”

• AIR Presents: A Podcasting Primer for Freelancers (video) | Curtis Fox and Audrey Quinn for AIR

We did a Storify recap for those who prefer an executive summary of the seminar.

You can learn a lot from making your own thing, but there are better ways to make a living through podcasting. Plus lots about how to budget a podcast pilot.

Can’t get enough news and thought about podcasting? Check out our archives on the subject: PRX‘s Kerri Hoffman did a great webinar, “AIR presents: The Business of Podcasting”Gastropod co-host Cynthia Graber wrote “The Pragmatist’s Guide to Podcasts and Money”); and the AIRdaily brain trust had a lively discussion about the ethics of advertising on podcasts. You can also sign up for the (unaffiliated with AIR) HotPod newsletter for news, gossip and outright speculation.