Amazon and Twitter Join the Audio Buying Spree

Everyone's keen to make a sound investment

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2020 saw lots of audio acquisitions particularly around podcast content and ad-tech. If you were a big boy, or wanted to be, you got out the chequebook and started buying.

Spotify was the poster-boy for this (Gimlet, Parcast, Megaphone) but there was also iHeart buying Voxnest, SiriusXM getting Stitcher and a loads of others too.

One of the issues has been large companies were running out of big podcast companies to buy. In the content space, one of the top indies left was Wondery, and just before the New Year Amazon announced they were snaffling it up.

Wondery are behind podcast hits “Dirty John,” “Dr. Death,” “Business Wars,” and “The Shrink Next Door” and have been pretty aggressive in internationalising (re-doing in local languages) their shows. They’ve also been relatively successful at turning their podcast IP into TV and Movies.

Amazon do have a long relationship with audio content. They own Audible and have Amazon Music, which itself launched Amazon Music Podcasts in some territories, late last year. However, to all intents and purposes, rightly or wrongly, these are two separate operations, with two different strategies. Audible could have become part of Prime any time in the last ten years. It is unlikely to suddenly appear there anytime soon.

For Amazon Music, podcasts are a new endeavour, but one they seem pretty bullish about, with international teams advertising for podcast partnership jobs, all suggesting a focus on building out the product and curation.

If you’re in that space - alongside Apple, Spotify and Google Podcasts - you need some skin in the game. This tends to take the form of Originals that mark out your platform from others, or at least allow you to ‘window’ content to provide a reason for people to drop by.

Wondery has a good range of output, past, present and no doubt in its future pipeline and as well as that, it gives them access to a team that can expand, and better advise, what they should do in that space.

The question for Amazon is whether they focus on building or buying to grow Amazon Music Podcasts further. If growing owned-content is important, perhaps sales and distribution will be something they focus on next.

Over at Twitter, they’ve made an acquisition, but it’s more of an acqui-hire, where they buy a company to grab the team. They’ve just pocketed the people from podcast app Breaker.

Twitter, itself, was built out of a podcasting company. They spent over a year building out Odeo, before shuttering it to concentrate on their web to SMS tool Twttr.

I don’t think, however, this means we’ll necessarily see a Twitter-branded podcast app, or even podcasts added to Twitter. What’s more likely is some work to defend the company against some of the new audio social network upstarts like Clubhouse.

Clubhouse is described by noted audio industry publication Glamour Magazine as:

A mashup of Spotify, Zoom and even the X Factor, this invite-only app is all anyone's talking about.

Basically you a host a room, invite co-hosts, have a natter and then allow other people to ask questions and participate. To me it sounds like non-stop dreadful panel discussions, and bro-focused podcast banter, but you can understand why live-meets-podcasts-meets-social-network has generated some heat.

Twitter has so far mainly squandered its acquisitions. It sort of had TikTok before it existed, with its app Vine and had they developed Periscope faster they would have had a streaming app perfect for lockdown. It will be interesting to see if they make a better job of this audio integration.

2021 is going to be the year where we see what the big apps do with content. Spotify and Amazon are firmly on the road to an array of Originals and Apple is oft-mentioned as someone who has plans in that space. The question is whether their cash and reach will mean big growth, or it disrupts the bigger podcast content players, so new companies flourish and grow.

AOB

  • I’m trying out a new thing. As I have a really intelligent and plugged in group of people now subscribed to this endeavour, I’m going to start asking some questions on big audio topics. The first one just asks ‘What’s been your podcast find of 2020’. Already there are some great answers, I’d love to hear yours.

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