Why the WordPress.com / Spotify Deal is Bad for Podcasting

February 23, 2021 00:14:42
Why the WordPress.com / Spotify Deal is Bad for Podcasting
WP Review
Why the WordPress.com / Spotify Deal is Bad for Podcasting

Hosted By

Joe Casabona

Show Notes

In this official “relaunch” episode, we explore some recent news: the WordPress.com / Spotify deal that allows users to publish a podcast to Anchor, right from their WordPress.com blog. But is this a step forward, or a step backwards?


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Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody. And welcome to the newly branded WordPress Review or WP Review, formerly known as the WP Year in Review podcast. That project has officially wrapped up. And I decided that I wanted to keep this podcast as a way for me to talk more about things that are going on in the WordPress space. I enjoyed kind of doing the analysis and things like that. And so I decided to rebrand the WP Year in Review podcast as WP Review. At this point, I’m thinking I’ll do one or two episodes a month. There’ll be special episodes based on news and goings-on in the WordPress space. I know Matt Medeiros just launched or is launching the WP Minute, which is a more regular, shorter form WordPress news podcast. This is not that. This is going to be topics and hot takes from within WordPress. I will also push How I Built It episodes that are relevant to the WordPress space to this feed as well. So if you are interested in that, you can subscribe to this podcast by searching WP Review in your favorite podcast player of choice or by going to [wpreview.io] and grabbing the subscribe feed there. So for this inaugural episode, I thought I would do something that is a worthy topic and a case study, or, the, you know, sort of the way to prove my point here. Recently, [WordPress.com] and Spotify announced a deal that would allow you to take your blog posts and turn them into a podcast. And at first, I thought that this was a really great integration, right? You could record your podcast right from within [WordPress.com] and automatically send it to Anchor, and make it easier for people to podcast. But as we’ll find out, that’s not really, you can do that, but that’s not really what they’re billing. And so I’ve decided to read this blog post that I wrote. It’s also up over on [Casabona.org] and this is just my general thoughts on the whole thing. It’s called ‘Why the [WordPress.com] / Spotify deal is bad for podcasting?’ So imagine going to one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants. He makes you his signature dish, beef Wellington. And after eating what is sure to be the best beef Wellington you’ve ever had, you go to the kitchen to give your compliments to the chef. This is apparently a world where anybody can just walk in and talk to Gordon Ramsey. You notice that he has some cooked steak leftover. So you say, “Hey, what are you going to do with that? You’ve already done the hard part of cooking the steak? Why don’t you just serve it for lunch tomorrow in this restaurant?” Now he probably with some expletives thrown in, is going to explain to you that leftovers won’t nearly be as good tomorrow as they are tonight. And that the steak was made for his beef Wellington, and that he would need to exert effort to create a dish that is fitting for lunch for the leftover steak. And while I’m no Michelin chef, I do create a lot of content. and you can’t just throw the leftovers out there and accept the same quality content. So why are [WordPress.com ]and Spotify telling us to do just that? At Spotify’s recently streamed event, they announced a partnership with [WordPress.com] where you could easily convert your blog posts to a podcast using a text to speech function which would automatically upload it to Anchor. And while there are definitely accessibility benefits to this, perhaps a text to speech, the audio version is better for site limited people than the screen reader that comes on their computer. That’s not how [WordPress.com] is billing this feature. In fact, here’s the opening sentence from the blog post. “If you’re a blogger, you’ve already done the hard part by creating great content. So you should share that content as widely as possible.” They also go on to say things like you can make your unique blogging voice, actually audible. And while I would love to see tools actually make it easier to turn blog posts into podcasts, this isn’t it. In fact, this can hurt podcasting. So why is this bad for podcasting?” Well, simply converting written text to speech isn’t compelling content. Like I just said, there are accessibility benefits, but you can add those without adding a podcast. One plugin that helps is Amazon Polly, which is now known as AWS for WordPress. This will read your blog post and add a little audio file to the top of it so that people can listen to the blog post instead of reading it. But it doesn’t create a whole separate podcast feed. And again, this announcement doesn’t mention any of those benefits. They want you to know that making a podcast is easy. So what’s going to happen with this new feature? Well, I suspect lots of people will use the text-to-speech function to launch their podcast. And podcasting directories will get flooded with some of the most boring podcast content imaginable. And if you don’t believe me, you can check out the example listed on the page. And this is the page that I will link in the show notes over at [wpreview.com]. For now, here’s a little excerpt of that content. “Only in the past few days, UK news covered the crowds at immigration highlighting how it could create a super spreader style event. This perception can have a negative effect on main hub airports.” Well, that sounds pretty good for AI. It still doesn’t sound like a person, and I don’t think it’s very compelling content. The intro, which was prerecorded by an actual person leads into a robot reading a blog post. The difference is so stark that I’m shocked that they didn’t just use an example that was completely text to speech. And Matt Medeiros tweeted something that I think captures my thoughts perfectly on Twitter. And again, I will link this in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. He says. “Do I want to listen to Siri reading me a podcast? No. Do I want to give up ownership of my content to anger? No. Do I want to put out absolutely lifeless content just for the sake of killing two birds with one stone? No.” And I agree wholeheartedly. I think that, like he said, it’s pretty lifeless content. And he does mention something about Anchor here. You might be wondering what’s that about Anchor owning my content and that’s a whole other episode or post. But while I do recommend Anchor to people, it’s more like if you absolutely can’t afford podcast hosting, Anchor has an interesting end user license agreement and has been subject to considerable podcast piracy since they let you bypass the Apple podcast submission process which by the way, makes your podcast show up as their podcast, as far as Apple is concerned. And that’s also something to think about. So you might be thinking who cares? There are so many podcasts that are not really going to matter. If there are a handful that are bad quality robot-read podcasts, how has that creating a bad reputation for podcasting? And here’s the thing. According to data provided by Buzzsprout on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast, there are around 377,000 active podcasts since October right now, worldwide. Again, that number is 377,000. That is not a lot. And while I couldn’t find exactly how many [WordPress.com] blogs there are out there, the Optinmonster seemed to take a shot in a blog post and say about 60 million. Now let’s say 10% of those take advantage of the new text to speech feature. That’s about 600,000, which means we’ve nearly tripled the number of active podcasts. But that’s not even the worst part, because you can say that there’s going to be a lot of garbage out there. But the good stuff will float to the top. So that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that this feature minimizes the hard work of making a good podcast. Let’s go back to the first line of the announcement. You’ve already done the hard part. Yes. you’ve done the hard part of writing. And writing, I don’t want to take away, it’s really hard. It’s taken me a long time to write this blog post, but that doesn’t mean you’ve done the hard part for podcasting. On Twitter, I said, why not then have the audio sent to YouTube. Now you’re killing three birds with one stone who knew creating content was so easy. I teach podcasting. I consult on podcasting. And I make podcasts for other people. I know how hard it is to make something worthwhile. I wish it was as easy as pushing a button for my students and my clients. But I also want to manage expectations. I certainly don’t want to make it seem like phoning it in and will yield good results. Here’s another line from that announcement. By converting your blog into a podcast, you’re leveraging the power of audio to grow your brand, audience, and income without any extra work. This line more than anything else fills the reader’s head with false dreams. You need to make your content worth listening to. You need to put in the work. Just putting out a robot voice podcast is not going to grow your brand in a compelling way. It’s not going to make you we’ll say a lot of money. Maybe it will make you some money. [WordPress.com] and Spotify benefit because it’s a value add for them that probably improves algorithms on both sides. And they are selling you coal and telling you it’s a diamond. As a rule of thumb, I’m instantly skeptical of anyone telling me it’s easy to make money. And this is no exception because although Anchor has built-in advertising, you don’t get money if no one listens to the robots reading your words. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your blog into a podcast. So how can you actually turn your blog into a podcast? The announcement gets one thing, right. You can repurpose your blog content into podcast episodes. Heck, I’m doing it right now. But you actually have to do it. Read the script. Record the episode with passion in your voice. Let your personality shine through in the audio. Don’t outsource your voice to a robot. As for hosting, you can still use Anchor if cost concerns you. I recommend Castos If you can swing it though. Paying for a service means that you are not the product. In fact, this whole [WordPress.com] Anchor deal apparently lets you record and upload. But that’s a blip in the announcement when it should be the main feature. You wrote your script, now record it, and create a podcast episode all in one place. So that’s it for this episode. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or thoughts, be sure to leave a comment on the blog post which is linked in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also reach out on Twitter. If you liked this episode, give it a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Since this is relatively new, I’m kind of starting from scratch. This is going to help more people discover the show. So thanks so much for listening. I really appreciate it. And I’ll see you next time.

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