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Can Exclusive Content Work Without Community?
Notes on the rise of paywalled audio
Welcome to Issue #1 of Appetite for Distraction, a newsletter exploring how technology is bridging the gap between art and commerce. My goal is to make this a resource that cuts through the noise; helping creators and creative industry professionals make informed decisions.
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Spotify’s Paywalled Podcast Push
Can Spotify be the one to convince people to pay for podcasts? | Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab
Spotify has been testing a subscription model for podcasts. First reported by Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, they are exploring different price points to offer ad-free and exclusive podcast content.
Let’s tackle the ad-free proposition first — if you’re asking someone to pay a subscription fee for podcasts, offering an ad-free experience isn’t good enough.
The second value proposition — exclusive content, especially when paired with their undeniable distribution power, is a slightly better bet.
Successful paywalls in the passion economy are largely driven by exclusive communities. On this fundamental point, Spotify’s strategy falls short. As a platform, they have not fostered an effective content-community interplay.
Recognising this limitation, Spotify is hedging its bets by bolstering its advertisement business. Their recent acquisition of Megaphone for $235 million gives them a powerful channel to leverage their Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology into popular shows hosted by Slate, Disney and Vox Media. Spotify wants to keep playing to its strengths by sticking to the CPM based advertising game.
Successful examples of paywalled content always combine content and community — Patreon’s recent partnership with Acast enables subscribers to consume paywalled podcasts on the podcast application of their choice. This facilitates a seamless community to content to distribution pipeline.
Substack on the other hand, has the ability to host powerful communities centred around quality content. However, it falls short when it comes to audio distribution. Creators are compelled to use horizontal attention marketplaces (HAMs) for marketing and distribution.
This limitation is evident — Substack’s podcast feature has been in beta ever since 2019. Unlike the Patreon x Acast integration, Substack’s community to content distribution funnel is broken. It does not offer a seamless way for users to consume audio content.
Exclusive communities are powerful. They appease our primal need for social acceptance and connection. More importantly — Individuals want an informational advantage over other knowledge workers in an age where the truth is paywalled but the lies are free.
Podcast Overlords | Liz Pelly, The Baffler
Liz Pelly pulling some punches with her long form essay on big tech’s hold on podcasting. How does the over prioritisation of celebrities like Joe Rogan affect independent podcast creators?
A roundup of this week’s interesting news:
Music videos replace runways as Covid halts fashion shows | Priya Elan, The Guardian
Brands are looking to leverage the increase in screen time induced by the pandemic.
Consider this — “Following Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP music video premiere, searches for leopard, tiger and snake print increased by 201%.”
Beyonce and Peloton in multiyear content deal | Lauren Thomas, CNBC
Ubiquitous access to music has become a precondition for context based value propositions. Music + Physical Fitness = Peloton + Beyonce
Music + Mental Wellness = Let Harry Styles Lull You to Sleep With New Calm App Partnership
How Ticketmaster Plans to Check Your Vaccine Status for Concerts | Dave Brooks, Billboard
No, Ticketmaster won't force you to have a Covid vaccine | Mark Savage, BBC
2 opposing articles on the recent Ticketmaster announcement with the hope of restoring nuance.
New K-pop girl group Aespa's virtual members cause fears over dehumanisation of K-pop stars | Tamar Herman, Asia One
My short and uninformed take on the K-pop world is that it’s like a milder episode of Black Mirror. Dehumanisation seems to be an inherent part of the industry — the introduction of virtual members was inevitable considering the commoditisation of idols and the focus on “artist-market fit”.
Lo-Fi, High Impact | MusicAlly
At 4.3 million followers, lo-fi curator ChilledCow has the most popular third party playlist on Spotify. But how do you monetise in a passive, lean-back listening culture? Short answer: Diversification.
Quadrant of Deep Understanding | Eric Stromberg, Screenshot Essay
Eric Stromberg applies the exploration vs. exploitation framework to content recommendation platforms. (Also applies to life)
What I’m Reading
Freedom from the Known | Jiddu Krishnamurthy
What I’m Listening To
This definitely *is* Andrew Bird’s finest work yet . Beautifully executed album.
I'd love to get some feedback on your experience reading the newsletter. It'll really help me focus on what you'd like to see more of, and what would be best left out.
If you’ve made it this far..
You can go all the way.
What I’m Brewing — Colombian AA+ from Gigi World Coffee
Check out this Iced pour-over calculator based on James Hoffmann’s recipe + Kevin LaBuz’s breakdown of The Economics of Panera’s Unlimited Coffee Program
Until next week,