Once media’s shiny new object, how will podcasts fare now?

September 21, 2018
Category: Newsletters

'Serial' back on top; 'Convicted on Twitter'; Sluggo is lit  

Hours after the release of its new season, the path-breaking podcast "Serial" surged last night to the top of the iTunes charts.

At BuzzFeed or Panoply, the days of wishing for their very own "Serial" may be over. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed fired its in-house audio "PodSquad" team and said it was winding up most of its podcasts. Last week, Panoply exited the podcast-making business, saying it would focus on hosting and ad tech for the medium. 

Said one veteran podcast editor: "Everybody wants a 'Serial,' but nobody wants to spend 'Serial' money."

Instead of a podcast, the latest shiny object for some ad-starved digital media companies is a Hollywood content deal. In firing its in-house audio team, BuzzFeed said it will hire contractors as needed on new audio projects, as it does for video partnerships with Netflix, Twitter or Facebook.

Is the bloom off the rose for podcasting? Perhaps, but as I write in a separate article on the topic, that might have an upside, winnowing the field to companies serious about the medium. Here's more on "Serial" and its new season.

Quick hits

SURRENDER: The outgoing editor of the New York Review of Books said he “capitulated” to hounding on social media and pressure from university advertisers after he published an article from a former CBC broadcaster accused by 24 women of misconduct, including assault and battery. The book editor, Ian Buruma, told a Dutch publication he was “convicted on Twitter.”

ONE WAY TO REBUILD LOCAL: Sometimes when journalists disappear from communities, libraries pick up some of the slack to retain community identity, spirit and values. One library is distributing backpacks containing kits to record oral histories or to digitize primary materials. From Joseph Lichterman’s excellent weekly Solution Set newsletter. Here’s how a few libraries around the country have filled the journalistic vacuum.

LAME EXCUSE?: In an age and discrimination lawsuit against CBS, Miami journalist Michele Gillen, the lone woman on a Miami TV station’s investigative team, alleges she was told her termination couldn’t be discriminatory because her news director was female.

SONIC JOURNEY: The NYT’s Sunday Magazine will feature few words. Instead, it will be mainly images — and a soundtrack — from 11 places around the world.  “There’s so much we can learn about the world based only on what we hear,” sajd the magazine’s editor in chief, Jake Silverstein. The project brings to mind an audio accompaniment to a California Sunday magazine issue in October 2016.

FREE PRESS: The writers group PEN America is expanding efforts to bolster press freedom nationwide, offering grants and support for debates and elevating new voices.

NEWS OR OPINION?: Only 43 percent of Americans surveyed can easily tell the difference between news and opinion in online-only news or or social media, the American Press Institute’s Kevin Loker reports. Some legacy shops have sought to distinguish news and opinion even more online, with the NYT using different fonts and the Washington Post making sure an “Opinion” tag is on top of the headline on opinion pieces.

HELLO, MEMPHIS: The Daily Memphian has launched, promising comprehensive coverage of the entire western Tennessee city. The media company said it wants to be “an integral part of this community.” Here's Poynter's Rick Edmonds' feature on the company. 

GOODBYE MONTANA: First it shut down Montana's biggest alternative weekly newspaper. Now Lee Enterprises is shutting down Montana Magazine, which for nearly a half-century treated subscribers to stunning images, AP's Amy Beth Hanson reports. 

SLUGGO IS LIT: Since April, a young female cartoonist has revitalized the “Nancy” comic strip and prompted memes from a new audience. But she has kept her identity private. Next week, “Olivia Jaimes” will make her first public appearance, writes Washington Post writer (and cartoonist) Michael Cavna.

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