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"This American Life" audience drop and other Hot Pod Summit takeaways

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Feb 29, 2024

Hot Pod's Ariel Shapiro, Defector Media's Jasper Wang, Radiotopia's Yooree Losordo and Multitude's Eric Silver onstage yesterday at Hot Pod Summit. Photo: Kerry Flynn/Axios

The first floor of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg bubbled with energy on Wednesday as more than 200 podcast executives and creators attended Hot Pod Summit.

Why it matters: The annual conference, co-hosted by The Verge and work x work, serves as a temperature check of podcasting — an industry that has been hammered by contracting ad budgets and platform cuts.

Here were some of the highlights:

The iOS update on podcast downloads decreased the audience of "This American Life" by 20%.

  • "I'm in favor of accuracy. I'm not crazy about losing money. ... It's sad. It's emotional. ... A year ago I would have said we have 4.5 million listeners a week and now I have to say 3.5 million," host and producer Ira Glass said.

Executives stressed a desire for more brands to spend in audio with the help of programmatic advertising.

  • "My hope for this year is that we get to compare podcasts more apples to apples with other channels. ... In order to do that, you need a lot of people to play ball," said Tomas Rodriguez, senior director, audio partnerships at The Trade Desk.
  • "[Programmatic is] kind of the gateway drug. They can come in programmatically, really start to understand the data and the measurability and the target ability," said Kelli Hurley, vice president, global head of revenue partnerships at SiriusXM.

Worker-owned podcast companies are promoting subscriptions and making more money from "true fans."

  • "Patreon says that you're doing a good job if you have 1% of your listeners to be patrons. So 1,000 true fans, that's 100,000 downloads an episode, which is not unheard of," said Eric Silver, head of development at Multitude.
  • "While the ad sales went down, our fall fundraiser at the end of 2023 was probably one of our most successful. ... In that last December newsletter, I spoke very frankly about how the market conditions were affecting our show," Yooree Losordo, director of network operations at Radiotopia.
  • "Retention is very important. For most indie podcasts, it's the 1,000 true fans principle. Can you convince 1,000 people to give you $5 a month? That's a sustainable business," Jasper Wang, vice president of revenue and operations at Defector Media.
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