Big moves, big money as major media get in on podcasts

This March 20, 2018, file photo shows the Spotify app on an iPad in Baltimore. Music streaming service Spotify is buying podcast companies Gimlet and Anchor as it looks to take on Apple's popular iTunes' podcasting platform. (AP)
Updated 10 February 2019
0

Big moves, big money as major media get in on podcasts

  • In a media sector experiencing rapid changes, podcasts are a ray of sunshine, easily adapting to consumer habits, whether it’s listening on a smartphone or through car speakers
  • The public radio station boasted nearly 17 million monthly listeners of its podcasts last year

NEW YORK: With growth rates and audiences that investors can’t resist, podcasts are attracting media’s biggest players — including streaming giant Spotify, which has made its mark with the acquisition of a sector heavyweight.
To acquire Gimlet Media — considered by some to be the industry’s most advanced podcast creator — the Swedish firm did not hesitate to shell out $230 million, according to estimates from specialist site Hot Pod.
And it has not stopped there, announcing other acquisitions for a global portfolio worth between $400-500 million this year.
In a media sector experiencing rapid changes, podcasts are a ray of sunshine, easily adapting to consumer habits, whether it’s listening on a smartphone or through car speakers.
Just 15 years ago, they barely existed — but 73 million Americans listened to at least one a month in 2018, according to a study by Edison Research.
Some mergers and acquisitions have already taken place — including Midroll’s 2015 purchase by broadcaster Scripps for $50 million, or iHeartMedia’s acquisition of Stuff Media for $55 million.
But the time for splashing big cash has arrived — in a universe still mostly dominated, at least in the US, by NPR. The public radio station boasted nearly 17 million monthly listeners of its podcasts last year.
“The ripple effects of this deal is going to be wild,” wrote Nicholas Quah of Hot Pod, predicting that media companies will now jump on the podcasting bandwagon, “regardless of whether they have an actual, informed strategy around such an acquisition.”
These days, nine-figure sums are the norm — on Wednesday, Californian startup Himalaya Media announced it had raised $100 million to launch its podcast network, backed by China’s Ximalaya FM.

As well as being the latest media trend, podcasts are attractive to investors and advertisers thanks to, from a business perspective, highly desirable audiences: young, well-educated and earning a higher than average salary.
In fact, about 51 percent of monthly podcast listeners in the US pulled in at least $75,000 a year, according to the Edison Research study. Of the entire US population, 38 percent earn the same figures.
But a key question is podcasts’ economic model going forward. For now, it is based primarily on advertising.
The sector’s advertising revenues are growing fast, and should reach $659 million in 2020, according to a 2018 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. But that is still far from the amounts generated by radio.
The two main podcasting platforms — Apple and Android — are free, offering creators no revenue.
Others, such as Stitcher, offer paid subscriptions — while Castbox allow producers to implement a paywall which makes the listener pay after a few free downloads.
Spotify has yet to reveal its Gimlet integration strategy, but has already been pushing the dual revenue opportunities: advertising on one hand, paid subscriptions on the other.
Himalaya is starting on a free model, but allow listeners to “tip” their favorite shows with micropayments.
Eventually, it plans to offer paid content.
“The US market has shown that it can support paid content and other large international markets have developed models even stronger in premium,” marketing Vice President Peter Vincer told Variety magazine.
“This is the end of an era, the one that was kicked off in 2014 with the ‘Serial Boom,’” wrote Quah, referencing the most-downloaded podcast of all time. “I’ll miss it.”


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
0

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).