In the last couple days the impact of the post COVID-19 economy finally hit home in a way that took me by surprise, but probably shouldn't have: podcast advertising. Advertising spend is down everywhere, but it was kind of fascinating to have this week be the one where I finally connected the dots. Three shows that I listen to regularly were directly impacted in obvious ways.
First Ubuntu Podcast made a special announcement episode explaining that one of their longtime sponsors will no longer be providing editing support so they've created an Ubuntu Podcast Patreon solely for the purpose of funding a professional sound editor. None of the hosts have the time or inclination to do it themselves so this seems totally reasonable. Thankfully, as I hoped and expected the community quickly stepped up to the plate and it looks like they should be covered.
Relay.fm's Rocket podcast was the second one that caught my attention. Historically they've had a fair amount of advertising fluctuation, but two to three ads per episode was the tier they were operating at for most of last year. This week no ads. That said, as I look back over the year so far they've actually only been garnering a single ad per episode for most of 2020. So I'm curious if they will bounce back in June or if this is it for a while.
The really big sign to me was this week's Accidental Tech Podcast. ATP had been a solid three ad per episode podcast powerhouse for it's entire run of 7 plus years. This week a solitary Basecamp ad. And in fact looking back at their feed I see as of April they were only doing two a week- it just didn't cross the threshold of being noticeable to me at the time. So it's very clear why the membership rumblings have been happening in these circles for the last month or so. Podcasting ad spend is clearly drying up.
It's certainly depressing when the real world intrudes on yet another one of my favorite sources of entertainment. The good news is that all three of these podcasts have the backing of communities that are large enough to help keep them going even in the face of economic shifts like the one we're in, and they're unlikely to just go away. I am very curious to see what ATP is going to offer with their as yet unlaunched membership program because that's a completely new direction for them. Relay.fm has had a paid membership program for quite a while. I've yet to sign up, but I feel like what they're offering now (private community Discord, special episodes, member only podcasts) is way more compelling than when they first started out. Change is inevitable and it's not always good, but in this case I look forward to the opportunity to continue to support and learn from some of my favorite podcasts as they work through this challenge.