SWOT: The Power of Podcasting

Podcasting is continuing to shape culture, influence buying decisions and change consumption behaviour.

Welcome to SWOT by Sound Story, your weekly inside track on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats looming for the creative industries.

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Trending: Gina Rinehart’s most hated painting is now copping global exposure and potentially a billboard. Words by Lavender Baj. Source: Pedestrian

🎵 Music: In his first piece for The Music, Richard Kingsmill farewells Selina's by sharing five treasured memories of his years rocking out at the Sydney music venue. Words by Richard Kingsmill. Source: The Music

📰 Media: Nine Entertainment CEO Mike Sneesby has sent an email to staffers, imploring them to report any “inappropriate behaviour” in the workplace. This comes amidst claims that former news boss Darren Wick sexually harassed an on-air Nine personality at a Logies after-party on the Gold Coast. Words by Nathan Jolly. Source: Mumbrella

💰 Advertising: Prime Video will launch its ad tier option for subscribers in Australia on 2 July. Subscribers who want to avoid ads will need to pay an extra $2.99 per month on top of their current subscription. Members who do not upgrade and stick with their current plan will see ads inserted into their shows and movies. Words by Jasper Baumann. Source: Mediaweek

📲 Tech: Scarlett Johansson was “shocked” and “angered” that OpenAI released a conversational voice assistant that sounded similar to the actress after turning down the company’s formal request asking her to lend them her actual voice. Words by Thomas Mitchell & Wyatte Grantham-Philips. Source: The SMH

📜 Government: ‘Media freedom continues to be imperilled’: Albanese asked to intervene as UK High Court allows Assange appeal. Words by Nathan Jolly. Source: Mumbrella

🌶️ Spicy: Gen Z’s addiction to their phones is killing the art of clubbing, with experts stating modern tech is destroying the beloved Millennial “rite of passage”. Words by Rebekah Scanlan. Source: News.com.au.

Strength: The Power of Podcasting

Podcasting is continuing to shape culture, influence buying decisions and change consumption behaviour.

👉 Spotify has released its first Global Podcast Trends Tour – a deep-dive report which looks at audience behaviour, content categories and advertising opportunities across podcasting.

👉 The research found that 63% of people trust their favourite podcast host more than their favourite social media influencer, so are we in the age of the ‘podfluencer’?

👉 The report also covered the rise in podcast viewing. Globally, average daily streams of video podcasts are up 39% on Spotify.

👉 Australia is the only country among those analysed with Science in its fastest-growing categories. The most popular categories locally, however, are: Comedy, Health & Fitness, True Crime and Sport.

👉 Spotify AU/NZ Podcast Account Director, Sam Moles, said: “Podcasts continue to be one of the best ways for brands to reach audiences, mixing scale with high trust scores. Our first Global Podcast Trends tour breaks down how Spotify’s uniquely engaged audience – reaching over half of all podcast listeners in Australia – generates conversion rates above industry benchmarks. This provides brands with a window in which to align themselves with culture and ‘Podfluencers’, who are now more trusted than social media influencers by 63% of people globally. Significantly, our latest report also shows that podcast listeners are becoming podcast watchers on Spotify. Podcasts with video episodes have seen a +39% increase in average daily streams, and Gen Z are 18% more likely to engage with video podcasts. Ultimately, Podcast ads have grown in popularity and become a proven, effective format to drive business results.”

Weakness: RIP Twitter

It’s been just over two years since Elon Musk formally initiated an acquisition of Twitter, and in that time its name has changed, the bird’s gone, trust in the brand has all but evaporated, and its status as ‘the place you go to find out what’s happening around you’ is disappearing.

👉 There’s a fascinating read in The Sydney Morning Herald this week about how two bizarre billionaires have all but killed Twitter.

👉 Some highlights include: “As soon as he’s made owner, Musk completely changes Twitter. In a bid to save money after borrowing billions of dollars to buy the firm, he fires more than 6,000 members of staff, causing the company to fall into chaos. Executives are marched out by security, bosses suddenly have their email access revoked, and some staff only find out that they’ve been sacked when they’re booted off work calls mid-meeting.”

👉 And: “Moderation policies are relaxed; banned accounts are reinstated. There’s a 1,300% increase in users tweeting the N-word. Advertising revenue falls by 50%. Free speech thrives only on Musk terms: he calls for a ban on users who urge brands no longer to advertise on Twitter. Thanks to changes to how Tweets are fed to users, Musk’s own combative attitude online, and a lack of moderation policies, many begin to desert the platform anyway.”

👉 And locally, according to The Australian Financial Review, things are looking pretty dire financially.

👉 “A glimpse into the Australian entity presents an undesirable business. With $3.4 million in revenue, Twitter Australia Holdings spent $1.2 million on sales and marketing, $285,000 on administration, $99,000 on research and development, and $21,000 on anything else. Its operating profit for the first six months of 2023 was $1.9 million – almost all of which went to the tax office. Its net profit was $4,804,” Sam Buckingham-Jones reported.

Opportunity: Scratching the Surface

There’s been a lot of noise about Vinyl in recent weeks – its role in helping to sustain the music industry, as well as how it can be more sustainable itself. 

👉 Vinyl has been experiencing explosive growth in recent years, with nostalgia, super fandoms, collectors’ editions, the swing back to tangible/ touchable products, and the unparalleled sound quality all being credited with its revival.

👉 A new survey has revealed that consumer interest in sustainable vinyl is also at an all-time high

👉 According to Digital Music News: “Two-thirds (69%) of respondents to a recent survey said they would buy more records if they were made with reduced environmental impact. 77% of those respondents said they would be willing to pay a premium for reduced environmental impact products—a significant shift in demand for eco-friendly vinyl products.”

👉 Locally, Green Music Australia has recently formed the Music Product Stewardship Alliance which, among other things, will research and investigate the emissions and waste footprint of various vinyl and CD formats, as well as exploring local manufacturing opportunities, and emerging overseas and local solutions.

👉 “Environmentally friendly options exist, and there’s a growing appetite from the sector and artists to make the switch. With vinyl sales quadrupling in Australia over the last ten years, it is more important than ever that we collaborate on shared solutions,” Green Music Australia CEO, Berish Bilander, told The Music Network.

Threat:  It’s Telstra’s Turn To Be The Telco In Trouble

Telstra is slashing 2,800 jobs. It’s a headline-grabbing number with implications for the workforce, the telco’s customers and its corporate reputation. This is one of the biggest, and most public, restructures by an Australian company this year. 

So has the telco got its messaging right?

📌 Zanda: Telstra has watched its competitors suffer through various crises over recent years and therefore was presented with an opportunity to announce its restructure in a way that positioned itself as customer-first. Unfortunately, they’ve dropped the ball with their messaging in this situation by not giving their customers and the general public enough credit to explain some of the finer details around the restructure. Despite a long body of proof that being specific and transparent during times of redundancies and restructures softens your message, the announcement was too vague about what investment needs to be made to keep Telstra profitable. On top of that, consumers simply won’t buy that user experience will remain the same or won’t be impacted by these job losses and “simplifying” of operations.

📌 Vivienne: I was tempted to keep SWOT very short this week by answering the question “Has Telstra got its messaging right”, with a short “No”, because to me it really is that simple. Many Telstra customers are Telstra customers because they became sick of the smaller, less reliable (and cheaper) alternatives. They have been willing to pay more not because they like parting with their money in a cost-of-living crisis, but because it seems “worth it” on balance. “You don’t need Australia’s best network… Until you do”, and all that. This only goes so far though. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence of Telstra's coverage in Sydney being sub-par lately. Combine this with bad messaging, headlines about thousands of jobless people, and talk of price increases, and those feel good ads lose a lot of their power.

📌 Jake: The team at Telstra likely spent many weeks, if not months, preparing its messaging ahead of this week’s restructure announcement. It clearly didn’t land as hoped. And it’s likely no fault of the comms team, either. Change Management is hard, and most departments and the big consulting firms have a seat at the table throughout this process. Opinions are like, well, you know! The difference between a first and last draft can be light years apart - “darlings are killed” as many great writers say. With more restructures expected this year, Telstra’s miss is a stark reminder to stay the course once you land on your key messaging, test it, and own it.

The Fun Stuff

Quote of the Week: “[Jack] Dorsey also becomes increasingly weird, leading his entire workforce in group meditation sessions, encouraging them to drink ‘salt juice’, and asking fellow executives to ‘sing kumbaya’. By 2018, he’s meditating for two hours a day, fasting all weekend, taking ice baths and disappearing on silent retreats in Myanmar. He gets seriously into bitcoin, believing it will ‘create world peace’. By 2021, he seems to have become apathetic about Twitter in general, even turning off his camera for video meetings with staff. ‘Running Twitter,’ Wagner suggests, ‘had become unfun,’” an excerpt from ‘How two bizarre billionaires almost destroyed Twitter’ in The Sydney Morning Herald this week.

📚 Read of the Week: Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare by Thomas Rid (2020). From Republican lawmakers parroting Russian propaganda to concerns over the CCP’s influence on TikTok’s algorithm, disinformation is rife in Western society and looks set to play a significant role in both US and UK elections this year. In Australia, meanwhile, an increasingly polarised and siloed press means disinformation is less likely to be kept in check while fact-checkers are working overtime. All of this is nothing new. Post-WWI saw the start of disinformation-led political espionage as we know it, with intelligence agencies on both sides playing a significant part in the Cold War. Thomas Rid’s 2020 book goes deep into aspects like American and Soviet-created newspapers and magazines whose entire purpose was to spread disinformation. Meanwhile, fake quotes from world leaders circulated on letterheads that appeared real, in order to further a nation’s agenda. All of this feels eerily familiar…

🏆 Win of the Week: Sound Story client Cedar Mill Group has been busy! In recent weeks it snapped up iconic Newcastle institution Musos Corner. Cedar Mill Group founder, and Newcastle local, Paul Lambess, spoke with NBN News about the community and cultural legacy of the business, and what will happen next.

Written by
Sound Story
Sound Story is Australia’s leading strategic communications consultancy for the creative industries with clients spanning music, media, advertising and technology.
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