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Dynamic advertising allows platforms to rely on subscriptions

Last week, Spotify bought Megaphone, one of the biggest podcast advertising and hosting platforms, for $235 million. It’s been a busy year for Spotify, so you may have missed this one and its significance. In 2019, Spotify acquired Anchor, a creation and hosting platform, and Gimlet, a production company. Megaphone is more like the former. Instead of adding to Spotify’s content library, the Megaphone acquisition bulks up Spotify’s ad sale muscle, expanding its reach outside the Spotify network.

As recently noted in The Verge, podcast ads have come a long way in recent years. In the early days, podcasts relied on ads that were baked into a show, never to be changed. A good point of comparison for the development of ad flexibility comes in broadcast TV. Imagine if a widely syndicated show like Friends didn’t offer networks the ability to change the ads that appeared when it first ran. Someone watching on TBS (or streaming on HBOMax) in 2020 would be seeing Gap ads from 1995. For podcasts, static advertising meant that back-catalogs of shows couldn’t be monetized with fresh advertising deals. There was no meaningful way to collect revenue from past seasons. Given this, it’s easy to see just how important dynamic advertising, which allows ads to be slotted in and out based on audience and current ad campaigns, was for the industry. …


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In a year marked by uncertainty and misinformation, documentaries have come to fill an important need.

Documentaries educate, entertain and reveal the workings and motivations beneath the gloss of famous figures and events. At a cultural moment where behind-the-scenes coverage is preferential to a perfectly manicured facade (see Instagram, YouTube, the whole of TikTok), documentaries offer us a way into topics that’s easy to digest. Of course, this genre long predates streaming services and the internet. But the speed with which today’s technology helps ideas spread has made fact-based stories appealing to both consumers who want to learn more about the world and to producers, who are always on the hunt for gripping, real-life stories.

Perhaps some of the first examples of high-profile, popular documentaries came in the early 2000s, with issue-focused films like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Alex Gibney’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Today, the documentary genre has spread into podcasting, which combines the investigative approach of documentaries with the serial, easy-to-binge format of episodes. Shows like Slow Burn (and later, Fiasco), Go For Broke (Vox’s new podcast on the dot com bubble) and, of course, the OG blockbuster documentary podcast, Serial, all borrow from traditional journalism and documentary filmmaking. …


The live-streaming platform broadens its self-definition to include all kinds of creators and content.

The last few months have been big for gaming. Perhaps you’ve heard? It’s also been a time of growing popularity for live streaming, which has allowed industries and the personalities that drive them to connect directly with audiences from a social distance.

In the midst of this craving for virtual engagement Twitch, a livestream gaming platform founded in 2011 and acquired by Amazon in 2014, has slid into the mainstream. Despite the shifts the pandemic has precipitated, Twitch has been preparing for this moment for years. …


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The short-form video app plans to shut down in December

Quibi was founded on the belief that people need, want, and are willing to pay for high-production value, short-form content that’s viewable on a mobile screen. Six months later, that idea hasn’t played out. In December, the app will be shutting down, taking with it millions of dollars in investment. Over the past decade, platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube have changed consumer expectations around video, especially video that’s available for free. Rather than adapting to the ecosystem created by on-demand video, Quibi sought to upend it, creating a serial format that banked on novelty and talent rather than true originality. …


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Digital merchandising brands take creator products to the next level

On its face, merch seems like the kind of thing that hinges on IRL events — shows, conferences, product launches. But as evidenced by the recently announced integration between Shopify and Maestro ahead of Billie Eilish’s upcoming livestream concert, physical proximity is not a hindrance to selling t-shirts. In the midst of the pandemic age, companies across industries (restaurants, hotels) have relied on merch as a way to pad thin margins and keep customers engaged from afar. But for some, merch goes beyond mere tote bags. …


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A lack of clarity around ratings spurs changes in programming for streaming platforms.

This past week, Netflix’s reversal on its renewal of GLOW spurred a conversation (best summed up at Vulture) about the changing nature of the platform, which was once viewed as a haven for stories outside the mainstream. As more and more networks have stepped into that role (FX, HBOMax, AppleTV+) and Netflix has grown in scale and influence, its programming has become a numbers game. The same goes for Hulu, which was dinged a few months ago for cancelling the fan-favorite gender-reversal adaptation of High Fidelity. But the underlying motivations here aren’t strictly quantity vs. quality. Instead, these changes seem to be a larger story of streamers struggling to balance a catalog of content that’s seemingly limitless — unbound by scheduling blocks or public-facing ratings — whose only objective metric is budget. …


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Short-form explainers are driving engagement

When we want to learn about something complicated — say, how voter suppression happens online — we often turn to trusted outlets to package that information in terms we understand. This kind of content is commonly referred to as an explainer. Not quite news, not quite documentary, the category has become a common feature of digital-first news outlets like Buzzfeed, Vox, and Vice. Think 60 Minutes, in a fraction of the time. The genre originated in podcasts, as a way to break down complex topics and make them digestible to a broad audience. Explainers, audio or video, are inherently more engaging than straight text. …


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Direct funding models have entered a new phase

It’s fair to say that journalists don’t typically think of themselves as creators. But in the past few months, as the media industry has felt the effects of the pandemic and a changing digital landscape, some writers have taken a page from the creator handbook. This past week, one of The Verge’s flagship writers, Casey Newton, launched a publication on Substack. Speaking to the New York Times on his decision, Newton said: “You might follow a publication,” Mr. Newton said, “but it’s more likely you care about an individual reporter or writer or YouTuber or podcaster. …


As digital distribution spurs growth in studios and production companies, agencies have had to follow suit.

Hollywood has been in the midst of shifts for years, long before the pandemic hit. But as has been the case with a number of industries, COVID has been a catalyst for change. Studios and streamers, entities that had already started to merge, (see: Amazon Studios, Netflix Originals, Disney +), have gained more power from the captive audience of people stuck at home.

In a recent interview for Bloomberg, United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer positioned what the shifting landscape means from the business side, particularly for agents, whose position has expanded as the definition of Hollywood as a whole has grown. “The role of an agent today, which is more complex than 20 or 30 years ago,” says Zimmer, “is to sit at the intersection of various media streams and help guide clients to make decisions that will be the best for them as artists and as business people — to manage their careers.” …


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As fashion week approaches globally, brands turn to a mix of escapism and practicality.

Six months into a new normal, a number of industries have changed. Fashion, a famously inflexible sector which was in the midst of tricky changes before the pandemic, is perhaps one of the most visible examples. A few weeks back, there was a piece in the New York Times Magazine on this very topic titled “Sweatpants forever.” But to look at this fall’s fashion week (New York’s ended just yesterday) is to see a different story. Per GQ’s take, no sweatpants there. …

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Studio71

Studio71 is the leading global media company for digital-first creators and brands.

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