Facebook SVOD, Google podcast search, Apple Music analytics, & more

Welcome to the first subscriber-only edition of Cybercultural! First a quick note about how I intend to format these emails…

You’ll notice some familiar sections – Data Points will now be exclusive to subscribers, for example. The main new thing in subscriber-only emails will be a What You Need To Know section, at the top. This will highlight several current news stories at the nexus of tech and the cultural industries, with added analysis or commentary from me. I also hope to insert exclusive data insights into the subscriber emails from time to time.

The free weekly email that goes out to everyone (including you) will now be formatted as a blog post; i.e. it won’t include any of the above sections.

Any and all feedback or suggestions are appreciated. As an early supporter of Cybercultural, you’ll always have my ear 🙂 Ok, let’s get to it!

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. Facebook is testing selling video subscriptions. 📺

The test will make four existing video ‘channels’ available on Facebook’s platform: BBC and ITV’s BritBox, CollegeHumor’s Dropout, MotorTrend App and Tastemade Plus. According to Variety:

“Part of the theory behind Facebook’s SVOD test is that subscription services with strong fan communities will be able to take advantage of social features to drive engagement. Subscribers will be able to join discussion groups to talk about recent episodes and participate in Facebook’s Watch Parties, which let multiple users watch videos concurrently and chat in real-time.”

My take: This continues Facebook’s various video initiatives, most of them copies of other platforms. Facebook Watch, for instance, launched two years ago and is now basically Facebook’s version of YouTube – indeed it has actively wooed YouTube creators using monetary and promotional incentives. This latest SVOD test, which aggregates existing video channels, is clearly inspired by Amazon Prime Video. Facebook has the audience to pull this off and the social features will provide some value for the likes of CollegeHumor’s Dropout. But SVOD on Facebook will only really become interesting if Facebook acquires the exclusive rights to major live events, such as sports or music concerts. Until then, it’s yet another SVOD play by the big cos.

  1. Google will start surfacing individual podcast episodes in search results. 🎧

The Verge reports:

“The company will now surface individual podcast episodes in search results, so if someone searches for a show about a niche topic or an interview with a specific person, Google will show them potential podcast episodes that fit their query. The company will also soon allow people to ask Google Assistant to play podcasts about specific topics, and it’ll find episodes to play.”

My take: Apparently this will operate similar to how PageRank ranks websites for queries; so popularity and ‘authority’ will matter for podcasts hoping to show up at the top of search results. So it will likely be SEO-gamed by podcasters, just as PageRank was. That said, from a consumer point of view this is great news. Often I want to listen to podcast interviews with specific people, or on specific topics, but they’re hard to find on an app like Overcast or Spotify. Most of the time I don’t want to subscribe to the whole show, I just want to listen to that one episode. So Google will make that single episode use case much easier for consumers; not to mention make people who don’t currently listen to podcasts more familiar with them.

  1. Apple Music For Artists launches, rivalling Spotify’s analytics tools 🎹

According to Music Business Worldwide:

“Apple Music For Artists (AMFA) is emerging out of Beta and is being made available for every artist on Apple Music. Like Spotify for Artists, the service is available as both a desktop interface and a standalone mobile app (in AMFA’s case, currently only on iOS).”

My take: Great for artists, of course. Of all the cultural sectors, music seems the most advanced in giving creators in-depth and useful data. Netflix, by contrast, is still a black box for many tv and movie creators. And my experience of Kindle Direct Publishing was less than satisfactory from a data perspective. As for AMFA, the coolest feature is the Shazam integration (Apple acquired Shazam last year). Record label founder Kieron Donoghue summed it up best:

  1. The New York Times and The Guardian are celebrating good digital revenue news today 🗞️

NiemanLab reports:

“Good news from big newspapers: The New York Times now has 3.78 million digital subscribers, the company said in its second-quarter earnings report released Wednesday, while The Guardian confirmed that it broke even in 2018 for the first time in years and also broke out its international digital revenue for the first time.”

My take: Despite the woes of most of the news industry, the smart big players are thriving. The NY Times is now nearly a majority-digital company, while The Guardian confirmed that digital now makes up 56 percent of its total revenue. As an indie publisher, I’m grateful to the likes of NYT and The Guardian for getting people used to the idea of subscribing to digital journalism. The next challenge for the industry is better bundling options for the non-dominant news companies plus indie publishers.

Data Points 📊

  • eMarketer: Cord-cutting in the US continues to accelerate, with the number of cord-cutting households jumping another 19.2% this year. 📺

  • Westwood One via Marketing Charts: In survey of 1,400 monthly adult podcast listeners, only 20% say they actively avoid podcast ads […] compares favorably with other ad formats such as online pop-ups (44%), email (33%) and TV (23%). 🎧

  • Matthew Ball, Redef: “The popularity of theater-going has been in decline for close to 20 years. This year, per capita movie ticket sales in the United States and Canada are likely to fall below 3.45, nearly 35% less than in 2002…” 🎥

  • GamesIndustry.biz: UK spent £1.6bn on video games in the first half of 2019; games account for 47% of all money spent on entertainment products, outstripping music and video. 🎮

  • Music Business Worldwide: The major labels are close to generating $1m from streaming every hour – but global growth is actually slowing down. 💰

Tweet of the day 🐦

The Verge’s Julia Alexander breaks down what the major video streaming platforms are spending on content per year. Staggering.

Thanks for being a paid subscriber, a.k.a. Cybercultural early adopter. My goal is to make that something to brag about in years to come; like being a ReadWriteWeb subscriber in 2003 😊Do reach out by email if you have any feedback or suggestions.