Has Podcasting Weathered the Storm of 2020?


PodMov Daily: Friday, December 18

Episode 340: Week Download Complete

Has Podcasting Weathered the Storm of 2020?

Of many audits of the industry in 2020, Nick Hilton’s stands out. One of the UK’s top current affairs podcast producers, he thinks this year may end up “a false positive for the viability of podcasting.” 2020’s loose ends can’t be reliably measured yet, but Hilton puts many of them in (optimistic, pessimistic, cautious) context.

Among them: the “attritional war” among increasingly walled platforms, our inevitable pact with streaming, and proof of creative opportunity. For that last one, Hilton partially credits the organic success of his independent podcast this summer: “It was a reminder to me that the corporate takeover of podcasting isn’t a done deal.”

If one thing is certain, defending that territory will always be worth it. “I still believe that podcasts can be an effective vehicle for independent, diverse, challenging, marginalised, innovative voices,” Hilton says. “The challenge in 2021 will be fighting the currents of professionalism in the industry that have no stake in maintaining that.”

Ear Hustle: Covering Covid from Inside San Quentin

Nigel Poor stopped visiting San Quentin State Prison in March. Though the first three seasons of the Pulitzer-nominated podcast Ear Hustle were made there, the co-host figured her team would be protected from the virus “if no one brings it inside the walls.” It was then that Rahsaan “New York” Thomas stepped up to the plate.

“Nyge and [co-host] Earlonne [Woods] hit me with a tough co-producer assignment — find guys to talk about the character of the 28 people who died from the coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin,” Thomas writes. “Whenever I see a friend I haven’t seen since the outbreak began, my greeting is, “Thank God, you’re still alive.”

Thomas, who is currently incarcerated, began to conduct his toughest ever interviews for the show. Despite contracting the virus himself — in a cell block packed to 175% capacity — the stories lost to California’s prison system had to come first. For Thomas, the sacrifice is simple: “Earlonne always said, ‘Ear Hustle isn’t about us.’”

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Here's what else is going on:

  • Long goodbye: According to Podnews, Google Play Music’s podcasting infrastructure has been turned off. (It’s been mostly non-functional for about a month.) But hey, “Now’s the time to check your website and switch the Google Play logo for a Google Podcasts one. Orange was so 2020.”
  • Final boss: According to Eric Nuzum, podcasting is still waiting on a clear post-acquisition success story. The Magnificent Noise co-founder writes, “I struggle to find a single example of a podcast company that’s been acquired in the past few years that has thrived under its new ownership.”
  • Friendly type: Considering a Discord server for your podcast? Audio fiction producer Tal Minear has a guide to making and running one. Though designed for audio fiction, their modifiable template will work for production teams in any genre. Check out the tip on ‘pronunciation help’ channels.
  • Spice world: The best thing about holiday episodes is that there are no rules. Jennay Horn of Discover Pods suggests a few ideas to involve listeners in the festivity. If nothing else, switching up your structure can be “a great way to take a podcast ‘break’ without actually stopping your show.”

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