Lewis: Anchor Deal Doesn’t Make Sense

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For even more reaction from around the industry we reached out to consultant, and host of The Audacity To Podcast, Daniel J. Lewis who said the Gimlet deal makes sense. Anchor, not so much.

PBJ: Daniel, what are your overall thoughts on the deals?
Lewis: These are interesting acquisitions. I wonder how this fits with Alex Blumberg’s goals of making a profitable podcasting company only to have it acquired by someone else. I can understand Spotify’s buying a content-creation company, perhaps with goals of creating exclusive content for Spotify (like how Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and similar each have their own exclusive shows you can watch only through their respective subscriptions). But I’m more surprised at the acquisition of Anchor, a podcast-creation tool that has resulted in more dead podcasts than anything else.

PBJ: Does this mean anything for the industry?
Lewis: Time will tell how this truly affects the podcast industry, but if nothing else, I think this will bring even more attention to podcasts, and that’s usually a great thing. My biggest hope is that such acquisitions will not harm the podcast industry with content siloing, removal of app-agnostic RSS feeds, and stealing attention from niche content.

PBJ: Are you surprised that Anchor was purchased?
Lewis: The Anchor acquisition makes less sense to me. I hope Spotify was not misled by some of Anchor’s boastings about usage. (Quick fact check: Between December 1, 2018 and February 5, 2019, Anchor-powered podcast feeds represent 36% of all new podcasts in Apple Podcasts, not the 40% often cited.) Although Anchor is highly popular for new podcasters, it’s producing the highest number of podflashes (shows that die almost immediately after starting, a “flash in the pan”).

But perhaps Spotify is more interested in acquiring the podcasting tools Anchor has created. This would help Spotify get into content-creation and not merely the distribution they’ve mostly been up to this point.

PBJ: What will the Anchor deal mean for podcasters who are on Anchor, ie: you have spoken in the past about them not owning their content on that platform?
Lewis: In late 2018, Anchor significantly revised their terms of service to not only clarify that they do not claim ownership of content created with their tools, but also that you’re no longer giving other Anchor users full rights to do whatever they want with your content. Thus, I’m not so concerned about ownership or rights-protection anymore. For the (mostly dead) podcasts on Anchor right now, I don’t think Spotify will have too much of a negative effect unless they shut Anchor down completely. With a larger company behind such portable and simple podcasting tools, I think we’ll see more positive development.

PBJ: Who’s next to be sold? 
Lewis: If distribution platforms are really trying to silo content as the video-streaming platforms are (which is really bad for the podcast industry), I would keep an eye on other highly-popular content networks. Revision3 was acquired by Discovery many years ago, Quick & Dirty Tips partnered with Macmillan, Midroll was acquired by EW Scripps, and several others.

Unfortunately, though, it seems major companies are still looking at only the big-audience, advertiser-focused shows and networks. I’d like to see more interest in the niche networks, like Trek.fm, Horse Radio Network, Archaeology Podcast Network, Afterbuzz, and such. But then again, these smaller, independent networks still embracing podcasting the way it was designed and they seem to thrive because of their independence.

Reach out to Daniel J. Lewis by e-mail at Daniel@theaudacitytopodcast.com

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