Scripps Media purchased Stitcher, the #2 podcast delivery app recently, and not everyone is a fan of the deal.
Universally, Stitcher is second only to iTunes in delivery numbers, and (we think) is a middling platform to publish podcasts on for distribution. We use them as a distribution for the Mobile Wallet Marketing Made Easy podcast that we publish a couple of times each month; they actually give out stats and that’s more than you can say for iTunes. Audio quality is pretty crappy, since they (like the new Google Podcasts) re-compress and host the audio themselves, instead of pulling it off our own servers.
Scripps Media, if you’re not familiar with them, is a long running media company that has dabbled (pretty successfully) in everything from TV and radio stations to being the creator of popular networks like HGTV and Food Network (since spun off into their own media company that is publicly traded); these guys know media, and they know how to make money in media.
Scripps also owns MidRoll Media and Howl, both players in the podcast space already.
Does this mark the start of a walled garden in podcasting? One where the main player (aside from iTunes, and more about them further down) controls the delivery, the advertising, the content creation and the traffic?
Wide-appeal shows only get about 3% of their audience from Stitcher, and tech-focused shows get much less (possibly because Stitcher’s app is awful). Given these tiny rates, it’s not worth giving up control and contributing to the locking-down of an open medium that’s doing just fine without these middlemen.
And John Gruber seems to agree.
I worry that it’s toxic to combine advertising sales with an exclusive app for playback. Advertisers want tracking? You got it — in Stitcher. The end goal here is lock-in, and so I think it’s worth fighting right from the start, even at the expense of a few thousand additional listeners for my show. Maybe they’ll never become dominant. Maybe even if they do, they won’t do anything to promote lock-in.
One certain thing in all this? Podcasting is taking off like a rocket ship at the moment. Everyone wants in on the deal. We see the B2B folks ditching webinars like hot potatoes and jumping onto the podcast bandwagon.
The numbers in iTunes currently are mind boggling. (See, we promised more on iTunes and here it comes.) 325,000 podcast series. 60,000 active of that bucket (active being updated in the last 60 days). Phil Schiller has taken over the App Store and podcasting with it, so there could be some movement on Apple’s part to actually do something with the media format, if the changes in the apps in the App Store are any indication.
Of course this means that it’s as hard to get noticed in iTunes as it is in the App Store (which claims more than 2 million apps from the WWDC presentation last week) and if you run a podcast your best bet is NOT to sit around waiting on Apple to make you famous.