NPR prioritizes radio over podcasts with steep cuts
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It's a busy news day, so I won't waste time: Adnan Syed's murder conviction has been reinstated, NPR cancels some of its standalone podcasts, and Slate takes its podcasts to YouTube.
NPR cuts result in the cancellation of four podcasts
Last week, NPR enacted its deepest layoffs since the Great Recession in order to make up for a $30 million shortfall. Ten percent of the staff -- more than 100 people -- were laid off, and all but one job vacancy was removed from the network's careers site. The cuts touched all sectors of the organization, including the business side and radio production, but podcasting appears to have been hardest hit.
None of NPR's radio shows were canceled as a result of the cuts, but the same cannot be said for the network's podcasts. Seasonal podcasts including Invisibilia, Louder Than a Riot, and Rough Translation have stopped production, as has Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! spinoff Everyone & Their Mom. Additionally, the staff of daily science podcast Short Wave announced that they will have to scale back to three days a week.
Nobody was going to be happy with the cuts no matter how they came down, but it was surprising how swiftly NPR deprioritized its podcast-only lineup. And as many observers noted, the cut shows represented some of the network's most significant attempts at diversifying its stories and talent. If you haven't yet, I recommend reading Nick Quah's latest piece for Vulture on why the cuts are bad news for the future of NPR:
The media and podcast world rapidly changed around NPR, and for several years, it seemed like the public-radio institution was similarly changing in response in terms of how it thinks about operations, diversity, how it sounds, who it serves. But moments of deep crises tend to bring out fundamental identities, both in people and in institutions. NPR losing so many of its people is already such a horrible thing. What's additionally distressing about this moment is what it portends for the possibilities of NPR's future -- and what it reveals, perhaps, about how NPR has always thought of itself.
The network says it is not giving up on narrative storytelling, despite the cuts. "These projects include some of the best work NPR has ever done. We are exploring ways this work can continue in other forms. We are losing some amazing people," said NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara. "Our narrative journalism efforts will continue with Embedded and Up First Sunday, which will showcase the best longform journalism projects from NPR and across the public radio system."
Adnan Syed's murder conviction is reinstated over a procedural issue
Adnan Syed, the main subject of the 2014 podcast megahit Serial, made headlines again last year when his 2000 murder conviction was overturned. Now, that conviction has been reinstated by a Maryland appeals court.
The court sided with an appeal brought forth by the family of Hae Min Lee, Syed's ex-girlfriend and the victim of a 1999 murder. The family argued that they were not given enough notice to attend the September hearing that led to Syed's release.
Syed's conviction was overturned after state prosecutors turned up new DNA evidence that did not implicate Syed. The decision that came out today does not change that fact, but it does mean that another hearing will need to be held to reaffirm his release.
Slate takes its podcasts to YouTube
The lure of YouTube is inescapable. Slate is making its lineup of podcasts, including Slow Burn, Political Gabfest, and Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick, available on the streamer. Slate is following the lead of legacy podcast outlets like Freakonomics Radio Network and NPR in bringing audio-only shows to YouTube, which has become the most-used podcast platform for listeners, according to recent surveys.
"Discoverability has become one of the biggest challenges across the podcast industry, and we see this as a real opportunity to build scale and reach a new, untapped audience on YouTube, which has become the world's most-used podcast platform." Charlie Kammerer, Slate's president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.
The timing makes sense. YouTube recently rolled out its podcast creation tools in YouTube Studio and is preparing for the launch of podcasts on YouTube Music. While audio-only podcasts are still pretty clunky on the main platform, podcast leaders at the company promise a more elegant audio experience within YouTube Music.
Apple Podcasts adds channels tab to library, brings more episodes into Up Next queues
Apple has rolled out some podcast updates the company first announced in February. Now, Apple Podcasts users will be able to browse shows in their libraries using the channels tab, which lumps in shows from the same publisher in one place. Plus, CarPlay will now feature standard Apple Podcasts functions, like Browse and Up Next.
Additionally, the app has adjusted which episodes appear in listeners' Up Next queues. Before, it was limited to new episodes from shows that listeners already follow. Now, the lineup will also incorporate episodes from shows that users do not follow but have saved to their library or have started playing. It definitely seems like an improvement to the Up Next experience (not everybody follows shows they listen to) and could be useful in building listening habits.
Amy Poehler partners with Cadence13 for new scripted comedy podcast
While Cadence13's parent company organizes a stock split to stay on the New York Stock Exchange (more on that later this week for Insiders), the studio has brought on another Saturday Night Live legend to beef up its comedy offerings. Cadence13 is working with Amy Poehler's Paper Kite Productions to produce a three-season show that parodies different podcast genres. The first season, Say More with Dr? Sheila, starring Poehler herself as the titular therapist, will publish later this year.
The Podcast Show London is two months away
The Podcast Show London is returning for its second year on May 24th and 25th, with two days of programming and a huge lineup of speakers including Crime Junkie's Ashley Flowers and Sex Actually's Alice Levine. If you're interested in attending, we've partnered with the team over there to get you all a discount: follow this link and use code "HOTPOD" at checkout for 10 percent off standard one- and two-day passes. P.S. ticket prices go up on Wednesday next week (April 5th), so you'll save more if you grab tickets soon.
That's all for now! I'll see you next week.
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