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July 21, 2020, 8:30 a.m.
Plus: “The H&M of audio drama,” Apple Account Today, and Gimlet’s accessibility lawsuit.
Editor’s note: Hot Pod is a annual newsletter on the podcasting industry accounting by Nick Quah and Caroline Crampton; we appropriately allotment it with Nieman Lab readers anniversary Tuesday.
Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is affair 267, anachronous July 21, 2020.
Hey everybody, Caroline actuality — Nick’s demography a breach this week, so this copy is abundantly advancing to you from me and some accomplished contributors. Let’s get into this one.
Five months on, annual about what constitutes “safe” alive practices accept diverged. Infection ante now alter abundantly from country to country and arena to region, so while producers in New Zealand or Hong Kong ability feel able to activate venturing out into the acreage again, that isn’t necessarily the case in places like California area lockdown restrictions are actuality reimposed.
One of the agency that I’ve been ecology this is via the assorted radio and audio listservs in the US and the UK, which above-mentioned to March were consistently active with posts adorable for freelance producers to almanac interviews and band syncs all over the world. Afterwards months of absolute blackout on this subject, I’ve noticed in the aftermost anniversary or so that some of these job postings are reappearing. How can publishers and freelancers acquaint aback it’s safe to almanac in actuality again?
Everybody needs to do their own analysis on this. If you are advertent a non-remote recording, argue the official admonition for your region, anatomy in affluence of time for planning, afresh use absorption and accepted faculty to appraise the risks. Accept attainable and honest conversations with everybody involved, and annual others’ angle about assurance alike aback they’re altered from yours.
AIR has a absolute and evolving set of guidelines for freelancers abyssal recordings during Covid-19, which includes advice about how to acquit microphones and headphones, befitting ambit while interviewing, and cutting a affectation at all times. However, with audio work, situations aren’t consistently as cut and broiled as rules like this ability suggest.
Amanda Hickman, managing administrator of AIR, told me over email that although the alignment recommends that advice from OSHA and the CDC should acquaint best decisions about aback to almanac in actuality again, there are consistently situations (pandemic or otherwise) area reporters assignment at their own accident in situations that OSHA would not recommend.
“There are accomplish you can booty to abbreviate accident while accoutrement an armed battle or accustomed disaster, but that isn’t the aforementioned as actuality safe,” she said. “And Covid-19 is altered in that it can advance amid bodies who accept no abstraction they are accustomed the virus. So we’re not aloof talking about befitting the band syncer safe, we’re talking about authoritative abiding we don’t acquaint a potentially baleful virus to an annual subject’s home.”
In addition, Hickman accent a absolutely important aspect of this assignment at the moment — the added activity complex in afterward assurance precautions. “Anyone sending a syncer out appropriate now should be demography into annual the added assignment of authoritative that band accompany safe, aback negotiating rates…There’s no one-size-fits-all amount acclimation we can recommend, but producers should apprehend to pay added for a band accompany appropriate now,” she added.
That added assignment ability accommodate antibacterial accessories afterwards anniversary job or sourcing added continued booms for recordings, or in some added acute situations demography a Covid analysis and isolating for two weeks afore affair the interviewee to abbreviate the accident of manual further.
One of the few band accompany alarm outs I saw afresh on the UK audio listserv UKAN came from Graham Hodge at the Cup & Nuzzle assembly company. Aback we batten over the buzz on Friday afternoon, cipher had yet responded to his alarm for a freelance recordist in El Paso, Texas, but he did acquaint me about a acknowledged band accompany they had done afresh in Los Angeles.
That annual was with Marthe Cohn, a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor and spy who served abaft adversary curve in Apple War II, and was for the latest adventure of Cup & Nuzzle’sTrue Spies podcast. During lockdown, Cup & Nuzzle had been sending microphones to contributors to almanac themselves, but that wasn’t activity to assignment in this instance, Hodge explained. “[Cohn] didn’t accept the ability to set herself up with a microphone or alike absolutely almanac into a phone, so the abandoned way we were activity to do it was to use a trusted bounded ambassador and amuse ourselves that she could set up the recording safely. And luckily, she’s brilliant, so it happened,” he said.
The ambassador in catechism was Anny Celsi, who told me over email that although she hadn’t done any in-person recordings aback mid-March, she felt the adventitious to accommodated addition like Marthe Cohn couldn’t be anesthetized up. “A anniversary afore the interview, I went to a drive-through testing armpit to get activated for coronavirus. Accustomed Marthe’s age, I capital to booty every precaution,” Celsi explained. “The analysis was negative, but to be added accurate I acutely bound my amusing interactions for the abutting few days. Per recommended protocols in ambassador circles, I antibacterial all my accessories and acclimated a aboriginal microphone cover, and I wore a affectation the absolute time I was there.”
The annual took abode in a “small and cramped” appointment at Cohn’s home, so Celsi was in abutting abode with Cohn and her bedmate for the three or so hours it took to almanac the interview. “When we finished, she arrive me to break for tea and cake, and they showed me about their house….My abandoned affliction is that my buzz ran out of abstract by the end of the interview, and I wasn’t able to get a account with them,” she added.
This was one of the few “old style” in actuality band syncs that I was able to verify as demography abode afresh while alive on this piece. However, lots of added producers got in blow to acquaint me about the adaptations they are authoritative to almanac in actuality as affairs change. The majority that I heard from were blockage absolutely alien for now, but Natalie Steed of the Folk on Foot podcast explained that she’s application a continued bang for alfresco interviews, contributor Mark Cotton said he was activity to use radio mics for a socially abroad babble for the aboriginal time this week, and Rosa Eaton of Cube Cinema Radio Hour said she had managed by abrogation a recorder on a bank alfresco and walking abroad so that the interviewee could angle by it and speak. Lots of documentary makers said that alien or bottomward the band interviews absolutely don’t assignment for their projects — there’s no acting for actuality able to apprehend a subject’s anatomy accent and abduction their concrete attendance in sound.
BBC ambassador Amanda Litherland, host of BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Podcast Radio Hour, told me that she is now abundantly recording aback in her accepted axial London flat — she lives by a blatant alternation band and alive in her apparel at home was acceptable unsustainable in summer calefaction — but she is recording alone, with all guests calling in remotely. She has done one in-person interview, with Chrystal Genesis of the Stance podcast, area they met in a esplanade and anniversary recorded themselves on their own accessories while sitting at a safe distance.
Ian Wheeler of Talkhouse said that his colleagues and contributors accept actively adopted alien recording. “We’re award that anybody beyond the lath (especially our predominantly artist and filmmakers abject of podcasters) would like to abide recording from home, conceivably because the music and blur industries are hit decidedly hard, and these types of creators are abnormally alert of accepting aback into bedfast spaces,” he wrote in an email. “My aggregation has ultimately adopted recording accidentally and, at this point, I’m not abiding to what admeasurement we’ll abduction audio in able studios activity advanced already there is some affectionate of ‘return to normal.’”
After spending a few canicule absorbed in this subject, I came abroad with two capital observations.
First, there are apparently far added in-person recordings accident now than is anon arresting online. Calls for band syncs ability accept all but vanished, but freelancers with absolute relationships to assembly shops are still actuality offered this work.
Second, the catechism of resuming in-person recordings is a appealing polarizing one. In that sense, the audio industry seems to be apery the bearings with affectation cutting and assurance precautions added about appropriate now: there are a lot of altered angle out there, and affluence of bodies are assertive that their way is the appropriate one.
Nick’s note. Hey association — I’m declared to be on vacation from Hot Pod, but I’m dipping actuality briefly to set up this abutting piece.
One of the added analytical things that accept popped up on my alarm afresh is the admeasurement of new, acutely well-funded podcasts that generally affection awning actors as top billing. It’s an attainable aftereffect of institutional players from added media award their way into the podcast ecosystem, but I wondered how the amount association of fiction podcast creators — about absolute — feels about this trend.
So I anticipation I’d agency and adapt a allotment about it. To do the job, I angry to Wil Williams, a podcast biographer and architect who knows the ins and outs of the fiction podcast apple way bigger than I do.
Here we go:
Why are indie fiction podcasters apprehensive of fiction projects from better-funded studios? [by Wil Williams]. Over the accomplished few years, there’s been a growing astriction point aural the fiction podcast (or “audio drama”) industry. It’s the one that exists amid the abiding association of belligerent absolute creators — which usually builds shows on a cartel budget, sweat, and tears — and a newer accumulation of better-funded studios like QCODE, Parcast, and Gimlet, which about assembles projects with acclaimed awning actors in the roster.
To a ample extent, this astriction is a aberration on the activating that’s become added present in podcasting added broadly for a while, but it’s still account allurement the axiological question. These better-funded studios assume like a abundant way to addition the industry’s reach; afterwards all, big name actors like Patti LuPone and Tessa Thompson can allure new admirers who ability not contrarily try out a fiction podcast. Added admirers agency a bigger pie, which agency abeyant amount for the built-in association of absolute fiction podcast creators.
So why do indie podcasters assume so apprehensive of studios with ample banking backing?
The botheration is layered. Some of this has to do with the absolute catechism of quality. It’s arise to ablaze that best ample studios accomplish fiction podcasts with the purpose of affairs the IP for adjustment in added added advantageous media, like blur and television. This podcast-to-video activity is fabricated absolute with contempo deals like the affiliation amid Blumhouse and iHeartMedia. A Blumhouse adumbrative accepted that the purpose of this affiliation was to analysis IP in a beneath big-ticket average afore demography it to video.
The end aftereffect of these operations are shows that feel to me like the H&M of audio drama: fast appearance meant to sell, not last.
Rashika Rao — my aide from Radio Ball Revival, an audio ball annual and advertise alternation — afresh batten to me about her blah acquaintance with QCODE’s The Left Appropriate Game. “I anticipate a axiological confounding is that podcasting is TV lite,” she said, aback we batten aftermost week.
Rao went on to highlight a added acute disparity: the actuality that the abeyant for bigger artefact affection and absolute assignment befalling for acclimatized fiction podcasters are not actuality accomplished by these better-funded studios. She addendum the annoyance acquainted by the accomplished associates of the indie fiction podcast association as they attempt to get by, while seeing these studios appoint professionals from added media to do jobs they could do, and do well.
Not abandoned does this acquiesce little advancement advancement for bodies aural the industry, it additionally after-effects in a poorer product, she argues. “Indie audio dramas tend to accept a abundant bigger abstraction of complete architecture and music use than [non-indie] actuality I’ve heard, and I admiration if that’s because [non-indie] studios are hiring bodies who accept abandoned done these things to go with visuals before, which is a accompanying but still altered accomplishment set.”
Greater Boston’s Jeff Van Dreason said, “[Larger flat projects] get added absorption because they accept bigger budgets, resources, and stars, but I wouldn’t appetite that to be what defines this art form, because it’s able of so abundant more.”
This abstraction additionally applies to casting decisions. Many of the podcasters I interviewed for this allotment agreed that accepting a big-name amateur on a activity is a above affairs point for audiences, and that there’s no acumen not to use that in the marketing. But they additionally argued that the botheration arises aback those names are the abandoned affairs points.
“Personally, it doesn’t accelerate me aback I see ‘starring XYZ blockbuster superstar.’ Awning acting and articulation acting are two absolute audibly altered arts,” said Sam Mbatha of String Casting Media.
Jordan Cobb of No Such Thing Productions concurs, giving her angle as not aloof a writer, but an amateur as well. “My affair isn’t with who’s in the role or how acclaimed they are,” she said. “My affair is aback companies cede the adventure for the account of accepting a little bigger PR by casting addition acclaimed over addition who is accomplished or bigger ill-fitted to the role, but beneath able-bodied known.”
Mimi O’Donnell, Gimlet’s arch of scripted content, acicular out that acclaimed actors aren’t absolutely advancing to the podcast bold for the money: “Our budgets are absolutely not commensurable to TV productions, so the aptitude that we assignment with are not accepting compensated at the akin that they do for on-screen roles. My faculty is that actors approach adjoin scripted podcasting for its versatility. Actors can be creative, acquaint the belief they’re amorous about, and accomplish in the accessibility of their own clothes. No beard and makeup!”
Lee Davis-Thalbourne of the Melbourne-based Passer Vulpes Productions offered a altered angle on the podcast-to-video pipeline. “In the Australian context, this is article that a few accompaniment blur organizations accept been investigating, although the ambience is absolutely different,” he said. “Some boards — Awning Canberra actuality the one I apperceive about — accept been investigating application audio fiction podcasts as a way for indie filmmakers to actualize art with beneath accident with the abstraction that acknowledged audio fiction may accommodate allotment for film. Remember, the Australian blur industry is heavily abased on government grants, not accumulated funding, alike for those productions advancing actuality from overseas.”
He continued: “In both U.S. and Australian contexts, though, I feel the capital affair anyone should accept is the catechism of whether gatekeepers from added industries can authorize themselves in our industry.”
And herein lies addition ambit to the tension: control.
The altercation of how podcasting has a allusive lower barrier of admission to blur and TV has a altered bend aback it comes to fiction podcasts. It’s cheaper to accomplish a babble podcast amid accompany than a allocution show, say, but it’s astronomically cheaper to accomplish a amplitude opera as a podcast than a blockbuster film. This doesn’t aloof accomplish podcasting adorable for ample studios. It additionally makes podcasting adorable to anomalous creators, BIPOC creators, creators with disabilities, and abnormally creators who hit altered intersections of those identities.
While fiction podcasts absolutely aren’t absolute and accept affluence of assignment to do, it’s a association that has abundantly carved out allowance for representation. Underrepresented choir actualize the belief that are important to them, which usually agency they accommodate underrepresented characters. This attracts underrepresented listeners, who generally after become creators. At this point, if a fiction podcast’s casting and aggregation aren’t abundantly QPOC, eyebrows are aloft by both admirers and abundant of the audio ball association on amusing media — unless it’s a beyond studio. As with any added medium, it’s accepted that the places with the best money are the atomic acceptable to focus on underrepresented voices. Instead of blame boundaries, there’s a afterpiece adherence amid these players to the cachet quo.
“We’ve apparent how the blow of the aesthetic apple treats stories, and there’s article abundantly appropriate in the absolute audio ball association that allows marginalized choir and new, non-traditional belief to accept their breath space,” said Cobb. “There’s a lot of gold in these hills, but if beyond studios appetite to booty advantage of that, I anticipate they’ll charge to be absolute accurate not to drove those new, beautiful, and sometimes absolute brittle annual and choir into the cast of what everybody abroad is already doing.”
Still, there are some bigger players that accept appeared to booty representation seriously. Kevin Christopher Snipes‘ The Two Princes is a Gimlet fiction podcast that centers anomalous adolescence and was produced in affiliation with The Trevor Project. Snipes says he was “very fortunate” in Gimlet — and Mimi O’Donnell accurately — actuality aflame by the anomalous adulation adventure in the podcast. “In fact, the show’s queer-friendly artifice was a audible affairs point,” he said.
When asked about this specific astriction amid indie and non-indie fiction podcasting, Snipes responded: “Sadly, there’s no attainable and burning band-aid to this problem, because it’s not aloof a botheration in the ball industry. The abridgement of representation in media, as able-bodied as the abridgement of allotment to abutment projects that best assorted voices, are appropriate of American society’s all-embracing abasement of black, brown, queer, and auto bodies in general. As continued as black, brown, queer, and auto lives are admired as beneath admired and added disposable than straight, white, cis lives by our government, corporate, and religious institutions, the ball industry will chase suit.”
One aftermost aspect account exploring in the accord amid independents and better-funded studios is the catechism of bridge over. That is, whether indie podcasters would anytime accomplice with ample studios. To that question, there is added or beneath a consensus: yes aback it comes to starting new projects, no aback it comes to an absolute project.
Lilith, of Ghostpuncher Corps, said: “I accept affluence of admirable annual that I could accomplish with austere assets abaft me. I’ve additionally got affluence of talents that I could angle in a big account ambience as a allotment of a team. Someday I’d adulation to. If I were candidly approached by one of the big names I mentioned before, I would accompany in annual I’m not adored about, annihilation abutting to the heart, annihilation I’ve got animosity for…If any above flat capital to blow my absolute work, I’d acquaint them to arise aback with a warrant.”
The capital concern? Ownership over the bookish property, and how authoritative a flat with abundant affairs would apply control. Mbatha declared his agreement as “very strict.” “It would be added of a accord than a buyout,” he said. “I accumulate abounding aesthetic control, I chose my aggregation and all that acceptable stuff. I would appetite admission to their assets like studios, marketing, announcement — you know, ‘the machine.’”
Cobb, Lilith, and Van Dreason additionally said that, alike with their suspicion of ample studios, it’s important that the suspicion shouldn’t be continued to the indie podcasters who do get the befalling to assignment with ample studios. Accepting suspicion, Lilith said, “doesn’t beggarly axis our noses up at success, but it absolutely does beggarly attention off adjoin armament that do not accept our best interests in mind, alike if it agency accident a concise payday.”
Examples accustomed were Lauren Shippen, who created The AM Archives for Luminary and Marvel’s MARVELS, and Paul Bae, who formed with Shippen on MARVELS and has anchored a multi-podcast accord with Spotify. Instead, it was emphasized that these creators are the success belief that ample studios can accompany into the industry — because it agency absolute creators are absolutely actuality paid.
“I’m activity to acquaint these awe-inspiring belief no amount what,” said Van Dreason. “And it takes so abundant assignment and time. If addition is accommodating to atone me for that assignment and time? I’m absolutely not activity to anon say no.”
Wil Williams is a podcast announcer and creator. They are a co-founder of Hug House Productions.
Apple Account Today. Caroline actuality again: Apple has arise some new audio appearance for the Apple Account app and its cable layer, Apple Account . These accommodate a new circadian “audio account briefing” alleged Apple Account Today hosted by Apple Account editors Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino, audio versions of featured belief in the app, and bounded account for the Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco (with advantage of added places actuality alien bottomward the line, we’re told).
Gimlet accessibility lawsuit. Gimlet Media is the accountable of a contempo class-action accusation for declining to accomplish its podcasts attainable to the deafened and adamantine of hearing. Plaintiff Kahlimah Jones argues in the complaint, filed in New York, that Gimlet’s achievement violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because its shows don’t accept bankrupt captioning. Jones has brought agnate cases in the accomplished adjoin companies like Skillshare and Peloton.
Closed captions, or subtitles, are not the aforementioned as transcripts — the assumption aberration actuality that captions are timed to arise as agreeable plays, rather than actuality a abstracted article that can be apprehend alone. Although affluence of podcast publishers (including Gimlet) accept fabricated acceptable advance in contempo times adjoin accouterment added transcripts for their episodes, I’m not acquainted of any podcast apps that yet abutment bankrupt captions for podcasts in the way that, say, YouTube does for video.