As big spenders such as Amazon and Spotify fill our ears with more commercial, celebrity-driven fare, can grassroots, diverse shows survive?

The British Podcast Awards were different this year. Held in a south London park, they had a boutique festival feel, with wristbands and tokens for drinks, an open-sided tent for the actual awards, and people lounging on blankets in front of the stage. There were also sponsor areas – those small, picket-fenced areas where invitees could drink and mix with brand bigwigs. Awards are expensive to stage, and to give any sort of a professional sheen, money is needed. In 2017, the BPA sponsors included Radioplayer and Whistledown, an independent audio creator. In 2021, the BPA was “powered by Amazon Music”. Spotify, Stitcher, Audible, Acast, Global, BBC Sounds, Podfollow and Sony Music also dipped into their sponsorship pockets. Clearly, podcasting has gone up in the world.

Over the past 18 months, podcasting has hit the corporate big time. Apple, long the most recognisable name in podcasting, its iTunes chart being the public measure of any show’s success, is attempting, clumsily, to move from being a neutral platform that hosts shows into one that makes money from podcasting (by, for example, charging creators for highlighted spots).

More glamorously, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and Sony Music have all been investing serious money, either by buying up big names, or by investing in creators. Back in May 2020, Spotify struck the first big deal: $100m for Joe Rogan – the biggest podcaster in the world – which brought him exclusively on to its roster; since then, it has made multimillion-dollar agreements with the Obamas, the Sussexes and Kim Kardashian West, whose podcasting skills are far less established.

Amazon Music recently paid a reputed $80m for SmartLess, a chatshow hosted by three well-known Hollywood/TV stars (Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes) which pulls in celebrity interviewees like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ryan Reynolds; it has also bought Wondery, the US true crime podcast giant. Stitcher snapped up the vastly popular WTF with Marc Maron, and, in April this year, bought Roman Mars’s indie podcast fave, 99% Invisiblepart of the Radiotopia network. In June, Sony acquired Somethin’ Else, the UK independent audio powerhouse that makes David Tennant’s interview show. Want more? In July, Netflix appointed its first head of podcasts.

Seguir leyendo: The Guardian

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