Pigs in blankets, podcasting alliances and the Australian Financial Review's weak spot

A couple more developments in podcasting points to fast growth in the sector

Welcome to Unmade, mostly written in the UK, at the Horsham branch of Pret A Manger. Superior sandwiches and free wifi is a winning combination.

Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day. We might go looking for a local wine bar to join in on that one tonight. When in Rome…

After being away for 15 years, the funniest thing is the little differences, as Vincent Vega would say.

Most noticeable for me is not the Royale with Cheese. It’s British retailers’ bizarre obsession with “pigs in blankets”, which - as you may or may not be aware - are sausages wrapped in bacon. I’ve no idea whether this is the current hot trend or has developed gradually over the last decade-and-a-half, but it’s impossible to walk the local high street without seeing posters promoting pigs-in-blankets-based products from every other baker and cafe.

Similarly, one of the things I hadn’t noticed creeping in in Australian TV advertising is how much production budgets have fallen Down Under. It’s only when one notices that every UK ad is a big budget epic that the thought occurs how in Australia… they aren’t.

Compare the Christmas ad for Aldi UK…

… and Aldi Australia…

There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but there’s also a sense that the production budget is smaller than the idea. The UK ads often have the opposite problem.

And the other noticeable thing is that the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook have got global reputation problems, it’s not just a local difficulty. In Australia, the platforms have been forced to throw money at media owners. Here in the UK, they’re also throwing it at the media owners, but via chunky advertising spend to tell the world what good corporate citizens they are. If they threw as much money at Val Morgan in Australia as they did at Pearl & Dean ahead of last night’s James Bond screening, then cinema’s SMI numbers would be a lot brighter.

The podcasting bandwagon accelerates

There’ve already been a couple more podcasting developments this week.

Another startup podcast

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s business team have launched the Futurerpreneur podcast dedicated to the Australian startup scene. Similar to the independent Open the Pod Pay Doors, from Innovation Bay, it features interviews with players in the startup community.

It’s not a great look for sister publication The Australian Financial Review that their colleagues on the business desk of The Age and the SMH have beaten them to it. It should be AFR heartland.

I’m a fan and a paying subscriber to The AFR. But I find its coverage of the startup sector frustrating. Away from my day job, I act as an advisor to Innovation Bay, and over the last couple of years have made some modest early stage investments in Australian companies in a personal capacity, so the startup sector is a world I’m interested in, and wish the AFR could cover better.

It’s a beat where the AFR should be breaking big stories. Yet it’s a spot where the title is weak. Although it has a couple of journalists on the beat, the majority of the startup coverage it produces is PR-led. Often, the news is of successful investment rounds, press released at the time of the startup’s choosing well after the event. Within the space, the AFR rarely breaks the sort of inconvenient news it does in other sectors.

There are a lot of interesting, unauthorised startup stories which are currently going untold. I’m not sure Futurepreneur will do much about that, but at least it’s going to keep the AFR on its toes.

Schwartz aligns with Listnr

Still on the topic of podcasts, we’re also see alliances emerging in the podcast sector, as the land grab accelerates.

Yesterday, Southern Cross Austereo’s Listnr announced that it has taken Schwartz Media’s stable of podcasts under its wing. That includes 7am (the country’s fifth biggest podcast, according to the Australian Podcast Ranker) and The Culture, along with “co-production opportunities between the companies to develop and publish new journalist-led podcasts”.

That points to an emerging issue or, possibly, opportunity. On the one hand you have companies like Schwartz - owner of The Saturday Paper and The Monthly magazine - with deep expertise in journalism but no deep domain expertise in the audio ecosystem. On the other, you have companies with scale and expertise in the production and monetisation of audio products like Listnr who lack the frontline journalism.

It’s the same trend that saw Jay Walkerden’s Podshape align with Radio Today refugees Jake Challenor and Vivienne Kelly for the That’s Entertainment podcast last month.

It’s one of the issues that the likes of Substack - the newsletter platform Unmade is on - is trying to solve, too. How to help text-trained experts share their knowledge in audio form. I’ve been a beneficiary, with Substack helping fund audio production support via Tasmanian audio specialists Abe’s Audio.

The pace of development of podcasts in the Australian media scene at the moment is like nothing I’ve seen. There are new announcements virtually every day. If you don’t already subscribe to James Cridland’s daily Podnews, it’s worth doing so.

It’s not certain yet just how much gold is in the hills, but everybody is starting to dig.

Dr Spin: Melissa vs anon

Dr Spin was delighted to see Optus chief marketing officer Melissa Hopkins put her head above the parapet in defence of Special Group’s Christmas ad for the brand.

The ad - rather charming in Dr Spin’s view - tells the story of a family of sugar gilders preparing for a new arrival.

The usual anonymous critics piled in. Hopkins joined the comment thread, sharing her email address, and challenging them to send examples of better work that they’d done.

Dr Spin would love to know whether anybody did so.

Letters: Radio reach and podcast listeners

In yesterday’s email, I pointed to the sizeable reach of one of Australia's biggest podcasts.

Unmade - by Tim Burrowes
Is podcasting a boom or a bubble?; Nine doubles down on digital; Aldi astroturfing
Welcome to Unmade, written in the UK while you were asleep. I finally glimpsed some blue sky today. It was quite exciting. What is this thing they call Vitamin D? Happy Homemade Bread Day…
Read more

Researcher John Grono writes:

Hi Tim,

You made an interesting comparison between Life Uncut's 459,778 and Triple M's 459,000.

Yes they are different methods, and leaving that aside, they are also calculated on very different bases.

First, you are comparing a national figure across any/ all demographics. That is, the 'pool' is the 25.7m Aussies. Triple M Sydney is based on the 4.793m 10+ people in Sydney - that is, Triple M's Sydney 'pool' is around five times smaller.

Second, Radio Reach is based on weekly data not monthly. [That doesn't mean that reach would be 4x though]. My guess would be around 20% to 25% higher if it was monthly.

Third, "listening" (claimed for radio, server-based for podcast) is 8 minutes for radio and "any" for podcasts.

Methinks that your comparison was somewhat generously in favour of Life Uncut and indeed any podcast.

All excellent points, as usual John - thank you.

And on the same subject, Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia writes:

The audience reach for Triple M Sydney is 459,000 weekly (not monthly), based on GfK Survey 7, Mon-Fri 5.30am-12mn, all people 10+. This increases to 562,000 if you look at the data for all seven days, Mon-Sun 5.30am-12mn. The Life Uncut podcast reaches 459,000 listeners nationally on a monthly basis across all 24 hours and seven days of the week (the Australian Podcast Ranker, October).

Thanks for spelling that out too, Joan. My wider point is that when it comes to reach, the top echelon podcasts are challenging that of complete radio stations. And although I did point out that the two numbers were reached using different methodologies, I’ll spell out those differences more clearly in future comparisons.

As always, I welcome your thoughts to letters@unmade.media or via the ugly brown button.

Leave a comment

And as always, if you enjoy receiving this newsletter, please do tell a friend or colleague. This newsletter’s success depends on word of mouth, and you can help with that.

Have a great day.


Tim Burrowes

Proprietor - Unmade