Serial Holds Top Spot During October: Podtrac

The latest iteration of the Sarah Koenig-hosted Serial podcast may not be capturing as many headlines as its first two seasons, but the true-crime podcast may be doing more to help the long-term prospects of the industry.  It’s showing that fans of a podcast will stick with a producer –even when the arc of one story is completed and a new season begins. In the case of Serial’s third season, the podcast is based in Cleveland where it’s exposing inequities in how criminal justice are applied.  “One courthouse, week by week,” it promises. Podtrac reports Serial was the most listened-to U.S. podcast during October among the publishers it measures. The rest of the top five also remained the same: the New York Times-produced The Daily was second, followed by This American Life, iHeartRadio’s Stuff You Should Know, and NPR’s Up First. Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro Show jumps to sixth place, up from No. 11 a month earlier. The remainder of the top ten is dominated by public radio-produced podcasts: WNYC New York’s RadioLab, and NPR-produced TED Radio Hour, Planet Money and Hidden Brain. Here’s a look at Podtrac’s Top 20 for October. 

‘Cold’ Shows True Crime Remains Hot With Podcast Listeners

Television programmers have known for years that true crime stories draw an audience, whether it’s a made-for-TV movie or “48 Hours.”  But America’s appetite for the genre clearly isn’t being saturated and that offers podcasters an opening. The latest hot crime podcast comes from Bonneville’s KSL in Salt Lake City.  It’s focused on the Dec. 2009 disappearance of local resident Sudan Powell as the hook for a new podcast called Cold. Hosted by KSL executive digital producer Dave Cawley, the podcast digs into the nitty gritty of the evidence in the nine-year old case and the gripping details of what role Powell’s husband, Josh, may’ve played in her disappearance.  KSL says the podcast is the result of a three-year investigation by Cawley. “It’s been a long process, but I hope someone listening is going to come away with a better understanding of the case than has been out there before,” Cawley said.  He explained the podcast won’t be a “hit job” on investigators or a “who-done-it” podcast. “We’ve had to take a different approach — that we’ve gone back through personal journals, emails, videos, materials that our players made — to tell their backstory,” Cawley said. Cold is being featured on a dedicated website as well as podcast platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher.  Thanks to lots of promotion on KSL radio and television, Cold’s first episode hit No. 1 on the iTunes podcast chart on Nov. 15, the day it went live.  KSL says new episodes will be released each Wednesday through early 2019. Each episode is about an hour long.

Rainbow of Podcasts Attracts More Diverse Listeners

One of the promises of podcasting is that it will bring new voices, especially among women and people of color, to the audio industry.  With that diversity of producers, it’s expected it will also lead to great diversity among listeners. How’s that working out? Edison Research has released some new data that shows the podcast listener base looks a lot like the U.S. population as a whole.  The total U.S. population that’s white is 58%. Its research shows monthly podcast listeners are 59% white. Total African-Americans make up 12% of the total U.S. population. They also comprise 12% of monthly podcast listeners. Hispanics lag slightly—15% of the population versus 11% of podcast listeners, while Asians over-perform—they’re 4% of the U.S. population but 7% of monthly podcast consumers.  Edison Research VP Tom Webster said in a blog post that what’s notable about the comparisons is there’s “absolutely nothing” remarkable about the side-by-side data.  “The podcast audience today looks nearly identical to the population in general, and that means podcast producers have a wonderful opportunity to create an equally diverse portfolio of content,” Webster said. Perhaps even more encouraging is how much more diverse podcasting has become during the past decade.  Edison reported 73% of podcast listeners in 2008 where white, 7% African-American, 12% Hispanic, and 2% Asian. Webster thinks those numbers were in part a reflection of the content produced in 2008. “But over the last ten years, podcasters themselves have become more diverse, and with that so has the universe of available content,” he said.

Will New Nielsen Chief Make Podcasting A Priority?

Two years after Nielsen announced it would begin measuring podcasting, and more than a year after that product was set to go live, the company announced today it’s hired a new chief executive that might just get the job done.  Nielsen has recruited David Kenny, a senior VP from IBM with deep experience in big data, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies. Effective Dec. 3, Kenny replaces 22-year Nielsen vet Mitch Barns, who announced in July he’ll retire by year-end. With a background in data, advertising, media, digital and management, Kenny, 57, checks a lot of boxes for Nielsen at a pivotal juncture.  Nielsen is in the middle of strategic review of the entire company and where measurement of audio like podcasting, streaming and broadcast radio fits in remains to be seen. What is certain is launching a podcast measurement service is taking longer than planned. Nielsen announced in Sept. 2016 that it would unveil a syndicated podcast measurement service in 2017. Instead of relying on panels and downloads, Nielsen promised its podcast measurement service would use big data and a census-style measurement approach that matches demographic information from data providers such as Facebook. “Podcasting is catching fire,” said Brad Kelly, managing director at Nielsen Audio, at a Nashville press conference.  That fire is still burning, but podcasters have yet to see Nielsen measurement.  If and when it does launch, the podcast measurement service would be part of Nielsen’s Total Audio initiative.  Under that banner Nielsen intends to expand audio measurement to all forms of audio including podcasts and on-demand music streaming services. The first phase has been focused on measuring AM/FM digital streams, not podcasts.

More Celebrities Can’t Resist Podcasting

TV shows and massive social media followings just aren’t enough for a lot of today’s newest celebrities.  PodcastOne proves that with the news that it’s debuting four new weekly podcasts hosted by high-profile personalities.  They include the Chad’s World podcast, hosted by Chad Johnson. He’s perhaps best known for his role on ABC-TV’s “The Bachelorette.”  He’s also starring in a new MTV series. Johnson will share stories about his reality television friends and foes as well as dating tips and fitness advice. Another new podcast is Zane’s World.  Zane is an author, alcohol aficionado, and travel host whose hosted shows on YouTube, Netflix, NatGeo, Travel Channel and Food Network. The Selfie Made podcast will be hosted by Meredith Rojas. She’s releasing a book by the same name. Lewis has nearly 18 million views on YouTube, thanks to her roster of celebrity buddies.  Her podcast will guide aspiring social media influencers and pop culture vultures looking to stay ahead of internet trends with the tips and tricks to take a social media career. The other new podcast is Just Between Us, hosted by teen influencer and star of the “Good Witch” TV show Bailee Madison, who is joining forces with real-life sister, lifestyle expert, and mom of two, Kaitlin Vilasuso, in this new podcast. “We’re really proud to have created a prime space for social and on-screen influencers to extend their digital brands in the rapidly-growing podcast space,” PodcastOne CEO Norm Pattiz said.  He pointed out they’ve already had success producing podcasts in the past year for influencers like Kaitlyn Bristowe, Spencer and Heidi Pratt, and Kim Zolciak.

Voxnest Names Jonathan Zenti As Head of Content

Podcasting technology provider Voxnest has recruited podcaster and veteran radio producer Jonathan Zenti as head of content for the Brooklyn, NY-based company.  It’s a new position for Voxnest, which was created in January, following the merger of Spreaker and BlogTalkRadio and has mainly focused on the tools used by podcasters such as ad injection technology, show distribution and measurement.  Voxnest says Zenti will lead initiatives designed to bring more exciting content to audiences and creators. “With Jonathan's expertise and ties throughout the industry, he is the perfect person to cultivate and nurture content for our platform. He adds to the team a unique perspective that understands the desires of audiences as well as those of the storytellers," Voxnest president Francesco Baschieri said in the announcement. "We look forward to having him on board to bridge the gap between our technology and the creators who entrust it for their content.”  Zenti is the host and producer of the podcast Meat. Launched in April 2016, Meat says its focus is “our bodies and the life we live because of them.” Milan, Italy-based Zenti has also worked as a producer for the Italian national broadcaster Rai. “As a producer myself, I'm thrilled to be joining Voxnest and taking on a greater role in the future of creative audio production and distribution,” Zenti said. “I'm proud to be in a position where I can directly impact the growth of such an amazing medium and help empower storytellers all over the world to tell the stories they want to tell to passionate audiences all over the world.”