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article imageOp-Ed: Kitsch gets rich? Spotify moves into podcasts

By Paul Wallis     Feb 7, 2019 in Internet
New York - Irritating media company Spotify, the last word in monetizing everything, has moved in to podcasting, projecting big revenue. This may be just another corporate neurosis in a market which waddles from kitsch to cute, fun and fascinating.
Spotify started with complaints from musicians about its core business, some still unresolved, and now it’s moving its delicate presence in to other areas. It was one huge bitching session, for quite a while. The new move comes as the venerable art of podcasting enters Higher Revenue Land, where even office zombies pay attention. That’s around a few hundred million, just enough for the suits to pretend they love it.
Podcasting used to be very like old-style blogging, basically a downloadable audio rant, but has become much more creative. The top podcasts are essentially a version of old radio shows, with specialist niches like murders (swoonsies) and eclectic specialist things like opera arias, (huh?)arguably less dangerous than most murders. Even humour gets a look in, an encouraging sign in the knuckle-dragging, mindless media of the early 21st century.
Podcasts are also suddenly newsworthy, although some of the news looks very like clumsy promotion. It’s even sufficiently newsworthy to rate a mention from Fortune about podcasting not being “small business”. That statement is based on the fact that a lot of hard cash is flying around, particularly in China, of all places, where the modest few hundred million is dwarfed rather convincingly by over $7 billion in business values.
Shall I compare thee to yet another nutcase corporate media bureaucracy?
The entry of US corporates in to the podcasting market is a bit like the scene in Snow White where the wicked old dame shows up with the poisoned apple. US corporate media is a massive, self-serving, largely corrupt bureaucracy run by people who couldn’t get jobs as New York rats or bedbugs. Creativity, art, and all the things which people like in media are virtually crimes in this environment.
The simple fact is that this prehistoric hangover from pre-digital culture has the intelligence of a hick TV network, the social instincts of a disease, and is hopelessly out of touch with everything as a matter of policy. It’s the sort of culture showcased by Disney when they decided they didn’t like Jack Sparrow, who was making billions for them, because they thought he was “gay”. Good acting didn’t get a mention. These guys are professionally clueless, which pretty much defines any media product they touch.
Spotify is no guarantee of any sort of different, more productive approach. The usual story is that all production is channelled in to a bureaucratic wasteland of obtuse, anti-creative stagnation.
(You’d be amazed how many “fun” things are run by middle management mediocrities who refuse to provide contributors with any information at all. I’ve had experience of a couple of them, and let’s just say the association was never going to work.)
Is there a good side to Spotify entering the podcast market?
OK, to be strictly fair, the podcast market looks to me at least somewhat undercapitalized. The theory of podcasting is rather too rosy, relative to the facts.
This theory goes that “Anyone with a computer and a microphone can do a podcast. “ Try getting decent sound quality, proper mixes, etc. Some people can do it, but quality can be all over the place.
Getting commercial traction in any medium can be very hard work. Again, some people can do it, others can’t. Podcasting remains similar to blogs in that way. Having a blog doesn’t mean instant riches, by any means. Getting decent revenue, relative to time and effort, is also pretty demanding.
Spotify CAN make a difference, not least of which in spreading the reach of the market through its own large network of users. The question is whether it will, or if this is just another corporate whim which will die an under-promoted mess like most entries in to markets from outside.
The other big podcast hub, Apple, however, has been consistent, if not oppressively so, in podcast promotions. They put the word podcast in to the language, and have backed it up ever since. Spotify’s entry in to the market may generate some heat from Apple, which would be good overall in raising the profile of the podcast market in general.
So let’s suspend the life sentence, just barely, for a while to see whether Spotify does make a major impact. It might improve the market, make it more receptive to podcasting, and generate some serious competition for Apple.
Exactly how this pans out for podcast producers will be proof of success or failure. My expectation is that the usual “forget the people who make the product” culture will apply, but let’s hope it turns out better than that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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