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The Podcasting Boom Explained

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The Podcasting Boom Explained in One Infographic

The Podcasting Boom Explained in One Infographic

The impact of technology on how we consume information cannot be understated.

The most seismic shift has been to the media landscape as platforms like Facebook overtake traditional channels of news, distribution, and advertising. Not only does this put incumbent news conglomerates in an unenviable position, but it has also thrust tech companies into the reluctant role of the gatekeeper for society’s most important news and information.

While people may be divided on whether this is good or bad, there is another major change stemming from technology that is more clean cut in having a positive effect on consumers. The internet has allowed the news and content we consume to migrate away from centralized and capital-intensive sources (radio shows, cable TV), opening up many new and digestible formats of storytelling that were never before imaginable.

The barrier of entry for content has dropped towards zero, and it allows for many different “laboratories” to test new ideas, formats, and concepts until the winners are found.

New Formats to Experience

We are obviously advocates of the growing role of the visual medium for storytelling, which we aim to do mainly through infographics and data visualizations. While people have used visual storytelling since the cave drawing days, technology has really allowed this medium to hit a new stride as a way to break through the clutter. Further, science says that people crave visual content, and infographics provide a shareable, intuitive, distilled, and thought-provoking approach to sharing data.

Like infographics, the podcasting format – which is the subject of today’s post from Concordia University – has also recently began hitting a sweet spot for audiences around the world. This convenient audio format has been made possible through technology, and doesn’t rely on the same entrenched distribution channels as old school formats, such as radio.

As a result, podcasters can experiment more with the structures of their craft, while avoiding traditional forms of censorship. Today’s podcasts are breaking new ground daily with unique content that falls anywhere on the spectrum, from improvisational comedy to fact-dense educational features.

The Podcasting Boom

The podcast, a name originating from a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast”, was first coined in 2004 by journalist Ben Hammersley of the BBC and The Guardian.

Despite being a feasible form of content even during the age of MP3 players and early broadband connections, the format has only really hit the mainstream in recent years. It’s hard to explain why, but most experts point to increased mobility, better production value, and a group of content creators that have recently managed to capture the imagination of the broader public.

Regardless, in recent years, the podcasting space has boomed to new levels of popularity. Today, the percentage of Americans that listen to podcasts is 24%, which is double what it was in 2013.

Further, the advertising market for podcasts is growing as well. In 2015, the ad market for podcasts was $69 million – but by 2017, the market was triple the size at an estimated $220 million. Podcasts allow advertisers to tap into very specific audience psychographics, and podcasts offer higher CPMs ($25-45) for successful publishers than traditional online content ($1-$20).

When and Where?

Aside from allowing new types of content to blossom outside of traditional distribution channels, podcasting has one other defining characteristic: mobility.

Just as streaming does for video, podcasts allow audio to be played in many situations where it was previously less feasible for a user to curate content. In fact, people listen to podcasts the most while driving (52%), traveling (46%), walking, running, or biking (40%), commuting on public transportation (37%), and while working out (32%).

This carves a pretty interesting niche that video and other content types can’t fill. And if podcasting content keeps getting better, people may even opt to listen in at other times outside of travel, building out the medium to even bigger heights.

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Misc

How Many Music Streams Does it Take to Earn a Dollar?

Streaming has breathed new life into the music business, but as new data shows, these services pay out wildly different rates per stream.

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How Many Music Streams Does it Take to Earn a Dollar?

A decade ago, the music industry was headed for a protracted fade-out.

The disruptive effects of peer-to-peer file sharing had slashed music revenues in half, casting serious doubts over the future of the industry.

Ringtones provided a brief earnings bump, but it was the growing popularity of premium streaming services that proved to be the savior of record labels and artists. For the first time since the mid-90s, the music industry saw back-to-back years of growth, and revenues grew a brisk 12% in 2018 – nearly reaching $10 billion. In short, people showed they were still willing to pay for music.

Although most forecasts show streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music contributing an increasingly large share of revenue going forward, recent data from The Trichordist reveals that these services pay out wildly different rates per stream.

Note: Due to the lack of publicly available data, calculating payouts from streaming services is not an exact science. This data set is based on revenue from an indie label with a ~150 album catalogue generating over 115 million streams.

Full Stream Ahead

One would expect streaming services to have fairly similar payout rates every time a track is played, but this is not the case. In reality, the streaming rates of major players in the market – which have very similar catalogs – are all over the map. Below is a full breakdown of how many streams it takes to earn a dollar on various platforms:

Streaming serviceAvg. payout per stream# of streams to earn one dollar# of streams to earn minimum wage*
Napster$0.0195377,474
Tidal$0.012580117,760
Apple Music$0.00735136200,272
Google Play Music$0.00676147217,751
Deezer$0.0064156230,000
Spotify$0.00437229336,842
Amazon$0.00402249366,169
Pandora**$0.001337521,106,767
YouTube$0.000691,4492,133,333

*U.S. monthly minimum wage of $1,472 **Premium tier

Napster, once public enemy number one in the music business, has some of the most generous streaming rates in the industry. On the downside, the brand currently has a market share of less than 1%, so getting a high volume of plays on an album isn’t likely to happen for most artists.

On the flip side of the equation, YouTube has the highest number of plays per song, but the lowest payout per stream by far. It takes almost 1,500 plays to earn a single dollar on the Google-owned video platform.

Spotify, which is now the biggest player in the streaming market, is on the mid-to-low end of the compensation spectrum.

The Payment Pipeline

How do companies like Spotify calculate the amount paid out to license holders? Here’s a look at their payout process:

artist spotify streaming payouts

As this chart reveals, dollars earned from streaming still don’t tell the full story of how much artists receive at the end of the line. This amount is influenced by whether or not the performer has a record deal, and if other contributors have a stake in the recorded work.

The Pressure is Heating Up

When Spotify was a scrappy startup providing a much needed revenue stream to the music industry, labels were temporarily willing to accept lower streaming rates.

But now that Spotify is a public company, and tech giants like Apple and Amazon are in the picture, a growing chorus of industry players will likely dial up the pressure to increase compensation rates.

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Misc

The Global Fiber Optic Network Explained

An informative look at the global fiber optic network, how the cables actually work, and the technology that will power the 6G network.

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The Global Fiber Optic Network Explained

As we scroll through Instagram or cue up another episode on Netflix, most of us give little thought to the hidden network of fiber optic cables that instantaneously shuttle information around the globe.

This extensive network of cables – which could stretch around the Equator 30 times – is the connective tissue that binds the internet, and thanks to our insatiable appetite for video streaming, it’s growing larger with every passing year.

Today’s video, by TED-Ed, explains how fiber optic cables work and introduces the next generation of cables that could drastically increase the speed of data transmission.

A Series of Tubes

The late Senator Ted Stevens drew laughter for describing the internet as a “series of tubes” in 2006, but as it turns out, most of the information moving around the world does, in fact, travel through a series of tubes. Undersea fiber optic tubes, to be exact.

The way this system functions is deceptively simple. Light, which is beamed into a fiber optic cable at a shallow angle, ricochets its way along the tube at close to light speed until being converted back into an electrical signal at its destination – generally a data center. To increase bandwidth further, some cables are able to carry multiple wavelengths concurrently.

Impressively, this simple method of bouncing light through a tube is what moves 99% of the world’s digital information.

The Glass Superhighway

Since the first undersea fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was constructed by a consortium of companies in 1988, the number of cables snaking across the ocean floor has risen dramatically. In fact, over 100 new cables will have been laid between 2016 and 2020, with a value of nearly $14 billion.

global fiber optic subsea cable projects

Increasing bandwidth requirements have transformed content providers from customers to cable owners. As a result, tech giants like Google and Facebook are taking a more active role in the expansion of the global fiber optic network. Google alone has at least five cable projects set for completion in 2019.

The Last Mile

Much like Amazon struggles with the “last mile” of deliveries, the transmission of digital information is much less efficient at the data center level, where servers are connected by traditional electric cables. These short-range cables are far less efficient than their fiber optic counterparts, losing half their running power as heat.

If this inefficient use of energy isn’t solved, internet-related activity could comprise a fifth of the world’s power consumption by 2030.

Thankfully, a related technology – integrated photonics – could keep the high-definition videos of the future streaming. Although the silicon wires used in integrated photonics do not guide light as effectively as fiber optics, the ultra-thin wires are far more compact. Photonic chips paired with burgeoning terahertz (THz) wireless communications could eventually form the backbone of a 6G network. Short-range THz signals would hitch a ride on silicon wires via tiny photonic chips scattered around population centers.

Before this efficient, high-capacity future is realized, researchers must first solve the puzzle of manufacturing photonic devices at scale. Once this method of data transmission hits the mainstream market, it could drastically alter the course of both computing and global energy consumption.

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