Spotify spends more money, iHeartMedia inks a boutique partnership, and Patreon brings paywall tech to independent producers – it’s been a busy week in podcasting.

Spotify grows its ecosystem

The big news this week was that the audio super tanker Spotify acquired Megaphone for $235 million, adding the podcast publishing and advertising platform to its content purchases – among them Gimlet and Parcast – as well as the one stop production platform Anchor FM.

“Megaphone provides publishers with a suite of tools and technology to distribute, monetise and measure their shows wherever podcasts are listened,” explained Megaphone CEO Brendan Monaghan in a Q&A introducing the deal to Spotify’s advertising audience. The other aspect of the business is what he describes as a marketplace “to aggregate unsold ad inventory from our publishing partners and sell that inventory to premium advertisers based on desired audience segments (demographics, psychographics and even geography)”.

Spotify’s arsenal is growing on both the editorial and advertising sides, but Megaphone will stretch beyond its in-house publishers and offer ways for creators to earn money. In a press release, the company explained how it would also bring Spotify’s streaming ad insertion technology to publishers on the Megaphone platform, making the tech available to third parties.

Given the real prize will be to bring more advertisers into the ecosystem, Spotify’s game is less about scale (a prize that Apple has comfortably won, especially in the US) but about a focus on becoming the place you go to when you want to create, distribute and monetise a podcast. For advertisers, it’s the place to access the freshest new shows as well as the largest, while offering greater measurability for everybody.

Paywalls come to indy podcasts

Paywalls have always been a stumbling block for publishers exploring the idea of making a podcast. If your content is premium, like that of the Financial Times and The Economist, then there’s a limit on how much you’re willing to put out in the name of reach. Of course, while the option has always existed to put podcasts on restricted players behind a paywall, you may as well be shouting your content out of the window – you need to be accessible on people’s podcasting app of choice.

Acast, the podcasting company, last year launched its Access system, which effectively allowed publishers to erect walls around their podcasts and therefore find a new way of monetising beyond advertising, which works well for established publishers but less so for your mates getting together to chat about football.

Now, the system – which uses two concurrent RSS feeds, one public the other private, and then determined whether a listener was signed in or not using its API – is linking up with Patreon to help smaller creators add patron-only feeds.  

As with most systems that work across apps and providers, previous efforts have been clunky, with Patreon’s new partnership effectively an enhancement of a previous product. Now, however, patrons will be able to access their chosen creator’s work by hitting a private RSS within the Acast app which will then open in their app of choice (minus Spotify). This means you sign up once and then receive exclusive content directly to your player. Paywalls for the little guys!

Ad sales and boutique producers

With the news that Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Industries, a production company, had come to a co-production and distribution agreement with the radio behemoth iHeartMedia, it’s not just a handful of new shows that are coming down the track.

Despite Gladwell’s assertion that the deal will “allow us to spread this joy at an even bigger scale”, it divides up the problems of making podcasts and the problems of selling ads to fund said podcasts and pushing those out. iHeartMedia owns over 800 radio stations and claims to reach nine out of 10 Americans every month. Basically, it’s a story that reminds us of some trad fundamentals: reach matters, experts know what they’re doing – as much in content as in marketing - and that you don’t have to sell your company to a tech giant to get ahead.

Sourced from Spotify, TechCrunch, iHeartMedia