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This morning, I took a walk through Barnstable, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. I’m here on a family vacation — a vacation that is taking place just 60 miles from our Boston home — because our state still has a 14-day quarantine for returning from out-of-state travel. The Cape Cod tourist economy is operating well under its normal end-of-June levels. The house we rented — normally booked all summer long — was unused until we rented it just before the July 4th holiday. It’s clear from day one that there are a lot of insects in the house. By day three, we can tell that there are also mice. It’s a well-reviewed property, but it’s also been empty for at least six months. The bugs are dead. We don’t ever see the mice. We adapt. The curtains have little anchors on them. There is wall art everywhere with sea horses and shells. The coasters on the coffee table say “Nautical..Or Nice.” …


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By Jorge Cortell — Imported from 500px (archived version) by the Archive Team. (detail page), CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87729840

I’ve worked in statistics for 25 years. It’s my avocation and my occupation. With the advent of COVID-19 and daily CDC updates, my sistren and brethren of the craft seem to be welcoming a burgeoning number to our ranks. People on both sides of the re-open/don’t reopen debate (yes, both sides) are using statistics like a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.

When it comes to the primary charts and tables released daily by the CDC, I have scrutinized every base, every legend, and every label. …


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Photo by Tom Webster

No one is coming.

A simple phrase, but one that is rich with meaning. Three of those meanings weighed on my mind this morning while I took my morning constitutional around Boston Common.

My friend Jen Iannolo has an entire manifesto built around the phrase, “No One Is Coming.” Jen’s use of the phrase is empowering — exhilarating, even. We do not wait for our future. We create our future. To realize that no one is coming to help you achieve your dreams is to kick you in the ass to go get what you want however you can with the resources available to you (and you always have more resources than you think.) In its use as an empowerment mantra, it doesn’t mean that you are alone in this world. …


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By Cultpsy — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40209182

I miss a lot of things right now that I didn’t think I’d miss so much. Airplanes. Hotels. But most of all, I miss bars. I don’t miss drinking. (I mean, I don’t miss drinking because I still drink.) But I don’t go to bars because I like to drink. I go to bars because I love bars. Oak, brass, copper, and glass. Gleaming tiers of bottles. Too many kinds of vodka. Never enough kinds of scotch. And not dive bars, or cheap bars, either. No, I love grand bars. Flagship hotel bars, especially. …


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I spent some time chatting with podcasters at Podcast Movement Evolutions this week. I came back not energized, but a little disturbed.

Podcasting is increasingly being segmented broadly into two camps: “Big Podcasting” — centered around monetization and advertising attribution — and the independents, who are centered around something else. I’ll get to that.

Some of this came to a head on Friday, when a consortium of podcasting interests led by Wondery, Stitcher, NPR, and several others announced the foundation of The Podcast Academy, an entity designed to promote “awareness and excitement” for the medium. …


This is, and isn’t, about magic. Stick around.

Last week I took my friend Robert Rose to my happiest place on earth (sorry, Mickey), The Magic Castle, a private club in Hollywood that is the world’s epicenter for magic. I’m starting to lose count of how many times I’ve been, but I think at least a dozen by now.

While having a cocktail between shows, we had a wonderful conversation about Hollywood, screenwriting, and of course, magic. I go very deep on magic. I’ve read a hundred books, watched thousands of videos, and even done a few tricks myself every now and then, but not often, and not for a while. Robert asked me a very good question: why don’t I perform magic? …


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By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Scalable Grid Engine — Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83244198

Last week, at the VOICE Summit at CES in Las Vegas, I presented the results of the latest Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research. For the past three years, as a part of this ongoing series, we have fielded a national study during the week between Christmas and New Years Day to determine how many Americans got a new smart speaker (Alexa, Google Home, etc.) under their Christmas tree/Menorah/Pagan Present Pole, in order to issue an updated national projection of ownership and usage. …


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By Bruce Marlin — Own work http://www.cirrusimage.com/tree_maple_sugar.htm, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2611206

In 1979, the number four song, according to Billboard, was Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” As an example of the then-trend of rockers turning in a disco number, it was better than most (the entire Hot Streets album by Chicago…shudder), but the message of the song was this: “let’s have sex.” Also in the Top 10 that year: Hot Stuff by Donna Summer (“I’m looking for some sex”), Le Freak by Chic (“I would like to have some freak-nasty sex.), …


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The original uploader was Brandon Dilbeck at English Wikipedia. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Edison is on the eve of releasing our first quarterly Podcast Consumer Tracker report, the industry’s only all-inclusive measure of the reach of the leading podcast publishers and their audience composition. While that data is necessarily confined to our subscribers, I wanted to pass on a general observation about something I don’t really hear talked about in podcasting: reach.

Certainly, we talk a lot about the reach of podcasting in general, and we put a lot of effort into a credible estimator of that reach in our Infinite Dial research series. But when it comes to individual networks, publishers, or even shows, the dialog shifts to downloads, not reach. And I’m not even talking about counting the number of listens — we certainly aren’t there yet, but we are approaching it. …


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Image credit: “Boston Skyline,” Tom Webster, 2019

Podcasting has had a pretty significant year. But I have to tell you about a question I have gotten an alarming number of times from journalists over the past few months: Are we at “Peak Podcasting?” I am sure you have some opinions about that. I’ll share mine at the end. But here’s what I can tell you — peak or not, it has changed because the audience has changed.

Last year, I wrote a manifesto for growth which posited that in order to get the next batch of listeners — I called them “The 52,” for the 52 million more weekly listeners the medium needs to get to an even 100 — we would have to do things differently, because these will be different people than the ones the medium has already attracted. In other words, what got us here, is not going to get us there.

About

Tom Webster

SVP, Edison Research. Co-author of The Infinite Dial, The Podcast Consumer, The Social Habit, and other widely cited studies. Other half of @tamadear.

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