E.W. Scripps Buys Podcast Company Stitcher

Steven Perlberg, reporting for the WSJ:

Stitcher is a free app that streams more than 65,000 podcasts from publishers ranging from NPR to MSNBC to The Wall Street Journal. It will operate under Midroll Media, the podcast advertising company that Scripps acquired last year for $50 million, plus $10 million more over three years if the company hits certain milestones.

Midroll sells ads for about 230 programs like “WTF with Marc Maron,” “The Nerdist,” “StarTalk Radio” and “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” But podcast listeners these days have a handful of ways to actually tune into shows, through the likes of Apple’s podcast app or Google Play Music. Stitcher, one such service, has 8 million registered users and is installed in about 50 car models.

Midroll owning Stitcher is not good for the podcast ecosystem. Stitcher is popular, but my show is not on Stitcher because Stitcher re-hosts the audio, compresses it to hell, and unless you opt out, inserts their own ads. That’s not how podcasting is supposed to work. I firmly believe podcasting should be open, like the web. (This is also why I don’t have my show on Google Play — they insist upon hosting and re-compressing the audio as well.)

I worry that it’s toxic to combine advertising sales with an exclusive app for playback. Advertisers want tracking? You got it — in Stitcher. The end goal here is lock-in, and so I think it’s worth fighting right from the start, even at the expense of a few thousand additional listeners for my show. Maybe they’ll never become dominant. Maybe even if they do, they won’t do anything to promote lock-in. But now is the only time to resist the possibility that they’ll grow dominant and abuse their position. It’s too late once it happens.

Monday, 6 June 2016

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