Podnews Weekly Review

Evan Prodromou on ActivityPub; Gretchen Smith on Ad Results Media

March 16, 2024 James Cridland and Sam Sethi Season 2 Episode 65
Podnews Weekly Review
Evan Prodromou on ActivityPub; Gretchen Smith on Ad Results Media
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We interview Evan Prodromou on ActivityPub - and catch up with Gretchen Smith from Ad Results Media about ARM Pro.

James also helpfully wades into the "preloading audio" argument that's consumed podcastindex.social over the last week.

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James Cridland:

It's Friday, the 15th of March 2024.

Speaker 2:

The last word in podcasting news. This is the Podn ews Weekly Review with James Cridland and Sam Sethi.

James Cridland:

I'm James Cridland, the editor of Podn ews, and I am in Islington, in North London.

Sam Sethi:

Oh, wow, welcome to the UK, James, and I'm Sam Sethi, the CEO of Truefans, still stuck here in sunny Marlow.

James Cridland:

And in the chapters today: are downloads now a dead metric that should be ignored? Are activity streams the only way to get the fabled cross app comments? Libsyn joins the podcasting 2.0 movement, or kind of, do they? As predicted, Joe Rogan returns to YouTube and the web turned 35 this week Plus.

Eva Prodromou:

I'm Evan Prodromou, co-author of Activity Pub and Activity Streams 2.0. And I'm here to talk about the future of the Fediverse.

Gretchen Smith:

And I'm Gretchen Smith, and later I'll be talking about ARM Pro Audience.

James Cridland:

They will. This podcast is sponsored by Buzzsprout. Podcast hosting made easy with easy and powerful tools, free learning materials, remarkable customer support and a new iOS app! From your daily newsletter, the Podn ews Weekly Review.

Sam Sethi:

Joe Rogan, he's sort of returned to YouTube, hasn't he?

James Cridland:

He has, yes, so you can. As of last week, you can now see every episode of the Joe Rogan experience then are available in full on YouTube. The podcast, of course, ending its exclusivity deal last month with Spotify, I was expecting and I think I said on this very show that I was expecting that the audio would be available everywhere, but the video would be stuck on the Spotify platform. So he's proved me wrong there. That said, clearly YouTube haven't done a particularly good job of talking to the Joe Rogan experience team about YouTube podcasts and how that whole thing works, in that it wasn't marked as a podcast within YouTube Studio, and so, therefore, if you go youtube. com/ podcasts, the biggest podcast in the world is not there because he hasn't marked it as a podcast.

James Cridland:

I think. I think that's not a problem with Joe Rogan's people. I think that's a problem with YouTube's people. To be frank, I think YouTube is doing a terrible job at education, and by a terrible job I also mean a non-existent job. So I'm rather hoping that they get a little bit more serious in terms of in terms of education. This is the month that Google podcasts goes away in the US. We still don't know what happens the rest of the world. Not a single YouTube PR person has spoken to me for the last nine months. You would have thought that YouTube would have a bit more of a plan here in terms of what the future of podcasting is going to be on that particular platform. They clearly have no plan, or if they do have a plan, they've lost interest in it and it does worry me rather a lot.

Sam Sethi:

Surely you're going to be given the plan six months ahead of its publication?

James Cridland:

when you last time. I mean, that's basically happened for the last two times, so who knows? It depends if they're going to email it to somebody else first, I suppose. But still, there we go.

Sam Sethi:

Now let's move on. This was an odd one this week. Oh, this was a big fight, wasn't it? Yes, a bun fight in the OK corral. Embedded players by Podverse, podfriend and JustCast are being excluded from the OP3 stats after downloading audio when the page is loaded rather than when the listener prices play. Go on, james. Tell me what this is all about.

James Cridland:

Well, if you remember, a long, long time ago, 2018, january of 2018, I broke a story that iHeart, the biggest podcast company in the US, had put a embedded player on the front pages of all of their radio station websites that when you visited, you know, wins1010's website, or whoever it is that you are visiting it would quietly download the entire podcast that was in that embedded player, even if you never actually pressed the play button. So it counters as a download. It appeared on PodTrack as a proper download, but it wasn't because it was an embedded player and it was just downloading the audio, caching the audio just in case you might want to press the play button, and that's a bad thing, and iHeart eventually stopped doing that after I published a big story about that, and every so often I find another embedded podcast player which is doing the same sort of thing. So there was one about three or four months ago which I broke the story. Anyway, it turns out the podverse is doing the same thing and, after checking, podfriend and JustCaster are also doing the same thing, so that if you use their embedded players on your website, then that is jacking up your download numbers, because, of course, it's just sitting there and downloading the entire audio to cache it, just in case.

James Cridland:

Mitch at Podverse has basically said no, this is the way it's going to be, because we need to find out how long the audio is to display that in the player, and that's part of the UX that people expect. And to that I would say well, a the length of the audio is in the RSS feed, or it should be, and if it's not, then that's a problem with the RSS feed. And secondly, your number one priority is to look after the creator. He disagrees and says that the number one priority is to look after the listener, and I think that that's where we probably don't necessarily see CII there. But it's a bad thing. Yeah, I mean, it's a bad thing that they've been removed.

Sam Sethi:

But again, I'm going to take Mitch aside slightly on that. You know, as an app I mean, I've had two very well known podcasts into evangelists I won't name them who've come back to me and said oh, you're absolutely doesn't preload, it doesn't do this, it's not native, it's not this. It's not that people don't care about the caching. They don't care about that, they want instant speed and they want it there. And then I think what Mitch is saying is I'm preloading this because the user experience is click, bang on and you're listening, not, oh, hang on a minute, let me get it, wait, wait, the server's not ready. Now we're ready. Here you go, and I think that's the side that Mitch is taking.

James Cridland:

Well, you know. I mean, I think if you end up essentially breaking the mechanism that podcasting is measured, then that's a decision that you will end up making. But it does mean that no plays in the pod verse embedded player are actually counting at the moment, and so the creator is worse off because no plays are actually counting. True fans does this properly in that if you visit an episode page for true fans, you don't preload the audio because you don't want to mess around with the creators stats but and, by the way you know, push up everybody's bandwidth pill. So you know I'm kind of there going. I fully understand that there are some people out there who don't like downloads or don't care about downloads because they don't earn money out of advertising or they don't go back to their sponsors and say this is the number of downloads that we got last month and that's actually fine. If you don't care about downloads, then that's fine, just don't mess it up for everybody else that does.

Sam Sethi:

There are other embedded players bus brow, rsscom and the launch one. I'm sure blueberry has one as well. How do they treat?

James Cridland:

this. They all do it properly. They all, they all don't download the, the audio before somebody presses the play button, and everybody's internet is fast enough to to instantly make audio. When you press the, press the, the, the play button. This isn't a massive, great big video file. It's 128k. You know MP3 audio file, for heaven's sake. So it's not. It's not, it's not a difficult thing. But yeah, I mean, apple's embedded player works properly. Spotify's embedded player works properly. Doesn't mess up anybody's stats, the only stats that you know. It seems that it's another.

James Cridland:

Another side effect of the podcast index is we hate advertising in podcasts thing. Where you've you've got a few people who who just go. Well, in which case I'm I'm going to ruin it for everybody by by making these automated downloads, and it's not good enough to turn around and say but you should be using value for value and and and all of this stuff. At the end of the day, it's up to the creator how they want to earn money. It's not up to an app developer. It's up to a creator how they wish to earn money. And if you don't want to support downloads, which is the number one way that we all work out how popular our shows are, then that's a real concern for where we're going.

Sam Sethi:

Dave Jones said overcast also has auto downloads, everything by default, which skew stats. My wife listens to maybe one podcast per month, but I had to clean out 20 gigs of podcast episodes from her overcast the other day. Doesn't that also skew stats? But nobody's to him. He has a moral responsibility to change the behavior.

James Cridland:

Well, auto downloads is one thing, and auto downloads means that you download the audio once, and that's how an auto download works. An embedded player if you load that page five times, it will download the audio five times. So now you might end up using a proper IAB compliant. You know analytics service to get rid of the duplicates there, but that's still five downloads. That's still, if you're using DAI, five costs of inserting the dynamically inserted ad in there. That's still an awful lot of wastage for the advertiser. And that's not the same with an automatic download.

James Cridland:

An automatic download is one, it's a different thing. And so again, yeah, you know, I would rather that there's no auto downloads. If you remember when Google podcasts launched, you know I was. I was there being very positive about it and the very positive about the fact that it didn't do automatic downloads. Because I think we're all in a place now where just pressing the button to stream is a fine thing, or to press the button to download a particular episode If you want to have a listen later, that's, that's a fine thing. I think the fact that auto download still exists is a bit of a throwback to 2004, when this industry started. So I think it's a little bit of a different thing, but you know, if you, if you visit the front page of the BBC News website 20 times a day, that doesn't equate to 20 downloads of a podcast.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, and again, just looking at some other people, Stephen Bell said this is basically my position as an app developer I'm primarily building for the users and not creators. It's the users that pay my hosting fees, not the creators. So he's taken that side, he's gone for Mitch, and he also said that we're trying to build using broken tools. Downloads is a terrible metric to measure the popularity of a show.

James Cridland:

Well, it's really easy. It's really easy. If you believe that downloads is a terrible metric to measure the popularity of a show and you're going to mess it up for all of the podcast industry by ignoring how downloads works, then we will just block your app 100% and it will not work. That's the really easy way of doing that. If you're not going to play ball, if you're not going to play by the unwritten agreement that we all have in terms of how podcast apps work, then it's really simple we just block your app and your app all of a sudden doesn't work. We all not agree about whether downloads is very good, from your very tiny opinion, but if you have a look at the entire podcast industry, downloads is the thing that pays for this entire industry, apart from the 1% of money that comes in through value for value, and I'm being incredibly over enthusiastic with that whole 1%. So it's based on downloads. If you want to ruin the entire industry, you go ahead and ruin the entire industry, but we, as the creators, can turn your app off tomorrow.

Sam Sethi:

I personally don't think it's a position of either, or actually we're producing an offline capability using indexedDB, so we will mirror what Overcast does, which was an automated download synchronised back because that's ready for when you're offline. We will also support downloads and measurements. We're still in the OP3 somehow and again, the last part I'd say is we will add new tools such as Timeless and Percent Completed and Value Paid on top of downloads as a metric, and I think that's the way forward.

James Cridland:

And that's brilliant for the 1% of the apps that end up doing that. We tried doing that with NPR's Rad all of that time ago and people jumped up and down and said this is dreadful for user privacy. Well, I mean, pick a side, any side, but at the end of the day, you can't both go. Well, downloads are rubbish and we shouldn't be using them, but also we're not going to give you any data on user behaviour. Or if we do give you data on user behaviour, everybody's going to jump up and down and say, oh no, this is dreadful for privacy. It's going to be a really bad, bad, bad plan. So I don't know, I think it's all a little bit of a mess.

Sam Sethi:

One other thing that came out through that discussion was you and Adam had a little chat about the fact that apps are using silent trimming boosting, and he didn't think that that was fair in terms of apps changing the audio.

James Cridland:

Yes, and again I think I come back to creators are really important for us to respect. If we break things for everybody by, you know, I mean we might as well cache the audio. Why aren't we caching the audio and caching it, maybe treating it for, you know, loudness or whatever? Why don't you just cache all of the audio for all of the podcasts that you have, because that'll make for a much better user experience? None of us do that. And in the same way, trimming silence and speeding up and Adam has a thing about sped up podcasts it's absolutely fine as a creator, to turn around and say I really don't want you speeding up my show, but at the end of the day, the listener also, you know, comes into this as well. But whatever the listener does for themselves is a very different case than an app developer making the choice for an entire creator or an entire industry that they don't like downloads anymore and so they're going to do something else instead.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, I mean I looked at what that was being said as value for value of me as a creator wants to put it out with 16 laughs and I wanted it at a certain speed or cadence. And as the user value for value I can choose how I want to consume that content. I can speed it up, silence, trim it, whatever. So I think it's a it's a mute, mute argument. But on that, james John John Spellup, friend of the show, has found out that YouTube music is all set to add a trim silence feature in the next version.

James Cridland:

Yeah, this is actually news from 9 to 5. Google and they have been looking at the new version of YouTube music which, if you remember, is the YouTube audio app. They're adding a trim silence feature. I would presume that that will happen for both podcasts using RSS as well as YouTube shows as well. I know that they're building a trim silence. I think that they're also building a volume boost as well, so being on parity with the rest of the podcast apps out there. So I'm looking forward to them actually promoting it. I don't see any promotion. I used YouTube music a lot. I don't see any promotion of podcasts at all within the YouTube music app. So you know, I mean I'm sure that at some point that they will want to tell people that they've actually got podcasts now, but I'm not sure I see any of that going on.

Sam Sethi:

Moving on Apple and Spotify subscriptions dead. James, you had a story from a company in Sweden called Sesame, a monetization tool for publishers, which released a case study showing how its tools have partially paywall podcasts. Kvartal, a Swedish magazine with clients in the UK, has said that people are more keen to buy a whole season in advance than they are to pay a subscription. They're using something called SWISH, which is a peer-to-peer real-time payment system. It sounds a bit like value for value and lightning payments. So tell me more. Who is this company and what are they doing, james?

James Cridland:

So it's actually run by a couple of people that used to work at Acast and they switched over to this. The idea is that it's a monetization tool for all forms of publishers, including podcasters, but other things as well, and what they do is they have some very popular podcasts and in those podcasts, if you're listening to the normal podcast, it will at one point say there's a really interesting section of this podcast now, but because you're not paying for it, you can't hear it and you press the button and you can buy access to that particular show. You could probably replicate that in Apple podcasts quite nicely, but the thing that they've learned is that only 15% of audiences want to pay monthly and people really just want to buy a whole season in advance and that's what they want to spend their money on, which is interesting because you can't buy premium podcasts using Apple, using Spotify, in that way, so that's interesting. They've also looked at conversion rates and 10% of subscribers to a podcast ended up paying money to get the premium version, which is a significantly high number. So nice to end up seeing that.

James Cridland:

Swiss is interesting in that it's a mobile payment system. It's very popular in Sweden and Finland, I think, and 70% of users wanted to pay with that rather than using credit card payments. But I think the really interesting side was paying for the show by season, not by month. And if you use Apple podcasts or indeed, patreon or memberful, perhaps, or some of these other services, then the monthly plan is the plan that people go out and sell, and perhaps there's things to be learned from selling it in a slightly different way.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, I mean, they had nearly 40 billion Swedish corona was sent using the Swiss system in February alone. When you have a look at what Swiss is, it is very similar. It's a mobile peer to peer system. The only downside to it is the smallest amount of domination is one corona, so you can't do micro payments.

James Cridland:

Yeah, indeed, and the costs are 0.09 Swedish crown, which, if memory serves me right, is about five US cents, so something like that. But anyway, it's a small amount of money, but it's still much larger than lightning or any of those things. But it does use money that everybody's heard of. So there is that as well, very, very popular in those two countries. I guess it's closest to something like Venmo or PayPal or those sorts of things.

Sam Sethi:

I was thinking M-Passe out of Africa.

James Cridland:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of these mobile payment systems there. It's just basically how low you can make the price of the payment, but I think interesting to end up seeing that.

Sam Sethi:

Just on a tangent, because it's another way of doing it. In TrueFans we have a way called support, so you can stream per minute or you can change that support. So I do that for Podnews, daily podcastingoindex, future podcasting and value-for-value. So I set my own per minute payment but I click the button to say support, which means I pay you in advance every time a new episode is downloaded, even if I haven't listened to it. And again, so that's not paying for a season, that's not paying a subscription, but that's paying only in advance to support you when a new episode or new content drops.

James Cridland:

Yeah, exactly, I think there are lots of different ways. There are different ways of paying for things, and I think one of the things that we've not necessarily tested out fully is I mean, I might know that I've got $30 free for a particular piece of media that I want to buy. Now I might not know whether or not I've got $5 free every single month for the next six months. That's a different conversation, isn't it? And I quite like the idea of being able just to pay up front for a thing, because I can pay up front for a thing. So, yeah, I thought it was interesting just seeing what the differences are there.

Sam Sethi:

I did like the element of payment against certain podcasts to seasonality, and I thought that was quite a nice way as well. Yeah, indeed. Now, moving on, James, you've got a story here about ad results. Media unveiled on Probe, a suite of custom audio solutions tailored specifically for brands. What's this one?

James Cridland:

about. Yeah well, ad results media have been one of the well, one of the first people to sell advertising within podcasts. They've been mainly doing this through host read ads, of course, but ARM Pro is a new tool from them which is a little bit more around the dynamically inserted ads model. I thought I'd like to learn a little bit more, so I spoke to Gretchen Smith from Ad Results Media.

Gretchen Smith:

Yeah, ad Results Media is an audio video creator agency, and we were founded back then the 90s actually. We started as a radio shop and saw the power of radio endorsement driving results better than a display banner ever could, and so the nature of our company has always been an endorsement advertising and, as you know, podcasting really came with that. So over the past 10 or so years, after we placed the very first podcast ad ever, we ended up growing our client list to working with four of the top 10 spenders and really believe in the power of using the spoken word to be able to act as word of mouth and then drive tangible results for our clients. And so your next question is probably going to be something about how does ARM Pro and programmatic go into that?

Gretchen Smith:

There's an intersection of the endorsement world and the produced audio world, which is why we're at the forefront of it.

James Cridland:

Ah, okay, and so is that why you've launched ARM. Now it's called ARM Pro Audience, is that right?

Gretchen Smith:

That's correct, yes, yes. So we launched ARM Pro Audience because there are a lot of clients who are excited about podcasting, right. And so how do I get into it? And you know, this is from what you write about. But the prices have been variable, the barrier to entry has been high, and podcasts can even say you know what, I don't like, your product, I'm not going to read for it, too bad.

Gretchen Smith:

And so you know, we've found that there were clients who were hungry to get into the channel and test into it, knowing that it's a hand raising platform.

Gretchen Smith:

People are saying I want to actively listen to the hour of this person speaking, and I take their opinion and what they say seriously.

Gretchen Smith:

But maybe they, you know, don't know how to break it. Maybe they've tested into streaming audio in the past, where they tested into a little bit of produced radio and haven't seen the results. And so what we did was leverage technology and our relationships with all the different podcast hosts and networks to build a way that we could create an addressable audience for the first time in podcasting at scale outside of a walled garden environment. And so I think we've been quietly testing this with our clients for the past couple of years, you know, through different types of buying methods, including direct and programmatic, but we can now say, if you were trying to find a niche audience, you don't have to buy an entire show to reach them and have a waste. I think I said this in a different article, but a wasted impression is an impression that a company doesn't want to buy and a consumer doesn't want to hear, and so this helps make people able to buy a more tangible audience that actually is going to want to hear the ad, convert on it and act on it.

James Cridland:

So you say an addressable audience. What can you target that audience by?

Gretchen Smith:

Yeah, there's a lot of different ways that you can target. I think you know that the main identifier in audio still is IP address, but with different types of logins and matching the device graph sophistication that exists Now we have ways that we can model and predict to what types of audiences exist. And so if I'm trying to reach females in the United States and add sort to James in Australia right now could be interpreted as a wasted impression. And so how do we advertise on a show or with a creator and say we have a high likelihood that we are only going to pay for impressions that have a high likelihood of being this audience?

James Cridland:

That's interesting and so you're doing it. There's some IP stuff but you say login as well. Are you working with particular partners there in terms of understanding who is at the end of that IP address?

Gretchen Smith:

Yeah, we work with a handful of different measurement partners and we are agnostic at results, and so we use a couple of different modifiers for that. We leverage a couple of different DSPs as well. That leverage not only off the shelf segments but you know ways that we can take our clients data and model it.

Gretchen Smith:

We also probably couldn't do ARM Pro without the help of our partners and relationships. You know take like a network that has 50 to 100 different podcasts. They know a lot about them based on that user agent information and are able to say let's reach people who consume podcasts about makeup and fashion and beauty.

Gretchen Smith:

We can have a pretty good likelihood that they're going to be in the market for a certain product and let's try to message them, but serve it in any podcast they listen to, even if the podcast is about underwater basket anything. So that's how we can not only serve to a more addressable audience, we also learn more about them, about what passions they listen to or their hand raising to spend their time. And I think that that is one of the most appealing things to clients who come with a test and learn mentality to podcasting.

Gretchen Smith:

They say you know, we know that right place, right time is the dream, but there's also something to be done about learning and research. You know, are we seeing an over index of an audience listening to more of a certain show? And that's really where we create creative anisons of ARM Pro is that those transparent shows and really high quality inventory laid with the audience not just performs for results and sales, but it also teaches us more about our audience and what they're interested in at that moment. They can keep getting smarter.

James Cridland:

Well, what sort of targeting is possible then? Geographical targeting, obviously. What else is possible? You can look at the type of iPhone you have.

Gretchen Smith:

You can look at the type of phone. You can look at a couple of different ones that include, you know, different types of purchase history. It can have listening history. If we know that there's certain things that people are listening to versus not, that can tell us a little bit about what they're interested in, what they're likely to buy or act on. You can also target based off of a list, and so if a client says I know a list of my customers and I know at least just some identify information, but I don't know much else about them, we find more people like them and can we learn more about them, and so we've done that a couple of times. We've been able to adjust a list where they've opted into all these like share their data, learn more about it and then follow where they listen to a podcast space to make their buys, in a direct sense, even smarter.

James Cridland:

That's very clever. So you're basically targeting people like our current customers, which, of course, makes a bunch of sense. One of the things that always surprises me about some of this and I've been involved in advertising things for 30 years or so and it says in your press release that you are helping brands initial testing into the podcast space. Podcasting is 20 years old Gratitude. What exactly are brands actually testing here?

Gretchen Smith:

I think the bottom line is does it work. The number of podcasting is 20 years old, but video is much older. And then some cases still is display advertising, and so you have corporations that maybe consider podcasting emerging because of the growth of spend and other more mature channels. You've seen, you can only watch so much video in a day. You can only get bombarded with so many display ads until they start stacking on top of each other, and that's a whole number of conversations I'm sure we could do a podcast on.

Gretchen Smith:

But podcasting is fresh and more and more listeners are turning to it and growing. You're seeing an increase in adoption, at least in the US market, especially internationally, of people who include podcasting as part of their everyday life, whereas in 2010s and late 2000s you're looking at people who were. They're socially hit at speak and you know like YouTube had already hit at speak at that point, and so this is the next high growth channel and area where people are going?

James Cridland:

What do you think podcasting needs to do for brands to stop testing and, just, you know, jumping in what, what, what is it? Is it just getting more case studies out there? Is it getting more, more data out there? Or what, what? What's the go there?

Gretchen Smith:

Well, the biggest challenge that I tell my network partners and my hosts is that you have to drive results and results can look different for different advertisers. But if a brand, like a direct to consumer brand, is working with you and says I need to sell 500 pairs of this shoe and you don't pair itself 500 pairs of that shoe, the podcast didn't work. It failed the.

Eva Prodromou:

KPI.

Gretchen Smith:

Now we can argue back and forth, but more people heard about it and maybe they'll buy later on. But podcasting is a business tool, it's a revenue engine and so I think honoring what the goal of the transaction looks like and being able to talk about how it impacts that audience is going to be able to do that, and we haven't been able to do that in the past because that audience transparency wasn't there. Five years ago you had to buy the whole podcast or nothing and it was if it worked, great, it worked. And if it didn't, it was like well, could we try different, creative. And that was the early stages of that. You had to have a client who was willing to get a failure on the first one and start testing the stickiness through other things to change. But now we can change quickly. We can say let's test a different audience. Or hey, this show didn't work, but the co-host has a different show happening next week. Like, let's test into that. And you can see a lot more nimble, ability to test and learn quicker than historically.

James Cridland:

I used to work in radio advertising and it always used to amaze me 70, 80 years into the history of radio and people were still testing where the radio worked for them, which I always found was interesting. Two big things from Apple Podcast, which, of course, is a large part of our world, one of those being the big changes in iOS auto downloads. Have you seen any change to your numbers because of that?

Gretchen Smith:

I think we've seen a change, but I think it's a good change. How many companies did it take for us to define what a download even is? I think that the pods came out there and they took how many companies to say this is what a download is. But I would say that, even though you might be seeing a change in those numbers you're getting more quality listeners versus in digital display and video they're still going off of an impression and an impression can serve in the background, it can serve below the fold and it's a much cleaner number in podcasting, even if it's changing.

James Cridland:

Because the other thing about Apple, of course, is that they've just launched transcripts, which are very exciting. Are you planning to use transcripts in any way in terms of the ad buying and selling part of what you do?

Gretchen Smith:

Well, yes, we are going to use the transcription technology to make our buys smarter, and we already are. By saying what is being spoken about in this episode, we partner with a handful of different people to say and I always give this example the word shot can have a lot of different meanings there is taking a shot at a basketball game.

Gretchen Smith:

There is taking a shot of alcohol and then there is a fatally shot bad news article and transcription alone might just look at the word shot and say good, bad. Yes, it's bad alcohol whatever it is, but the sophistication of technology behind it is what really makes it meaningful, especially with our pro audience, and so I think that with Apple producing those transcripts, it's going to create a more centralized source of truth around what is said in the episode, and then it's only going to continue to feed more data that our partner companies can help use to build our audiences and just get smarter about what episode content is and looks like.

James Cridland:

Right, so you understand the context as well as what was actually said, which is important too. Yes, yeah, and, of course, people joking, which, of course, is one of those things. Where do we learn more about our audience?

Gretchen Smith:

A lot of great press coverage and really thank our partners for talking about it. But the best way that you can learn about our audience is on our blog and with the upcoming case studies and clients that have activated on it. We've had a handful of clients who have used our pro and seen those results, whether it's driving online sales, whether it's shifting consideration and key page views. So we're definitely not stopping talking about it. Now that it's launched, you know we want to keep challenging clients to have that test and learn mentality and say why wouldn't you really put audiences at the forefront?

Sam Sethi:

We don't want to abandon endorsement right.

Gretchen Smith:

Our hosts are our partners and you know they are the bread and butter of why we're successful as a company and why podcasting is a successful channel, and so we want to be able to show with those hosts that we're finding new, interesting ways to monetize them as well, but giving a benefit to clients by saying you're going to be able to test and learn and get quicker results on this so you can keep that magical relationship going.

James Cridland:

Gretchen, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

Gretchen Smith:

Yeah, of course. Thank you, James. From your daily newsletter, the Pod News Weekly Review.

Sam Sethi:

Quickly whizz around the world. Edison Research is proud to announce the top 25 podcast in the UK. Any change there?

James Cridland:

James, not particularly very much change at the Joe Rogan experience Still number one. Dari of the CEO still number two. Shagged, married, annoyed Number three. The things that I noticed about it was that there's no BBC show in the top 10 and that there's, I think, only three from memory three American shows in the top 25, which I think says quite a lot for the vibrancy of the UK podcast industry. So that's a good thing. Of course, edison podcast metrics the only metrics which actually measures every single show, because they just go out and they ask people and they say what are you listening to, which is an imperfect way, but it's the perfect list that we've got to have a look at the entire market and so interesting seeing the data that's coming out of the UK there In.

Sam Sethi:

South Korea James Blueberry statistics for this month. They've added a new category showing places with the largest growing listening, and in February it was South Korea which has had a 700 percent growth. That sounds amazing.

James Cridland:

Yes, it does sound amazing. I'm slightly dubious about these figures because they are you know, I mean a growth of seven times. Nothing is still nothing. And it may just be that they've signed one South Korean podcast up in the last month and so all of a sudden they're getting a tremendous increase, but it's still nothing. We don't actually see what the numbers are in their stats. And I think the second one probably underlines that Vatican City, which is one of the smallest cities, one of the smallest countries in the world, that has seen a 524 percent growth for podcast listeners. It's probably the Pope, because there aren't that many people who live there. So not quite sure that I necessarily quite understand all of those figures, but it's always nice to see more figures from the good folks at Blueberry, so that's nice.

James Cridland:

Talking about figures, lots of lovely figures from ACMA, which is the Australian Media Regulator, the equivalent of the FCC or of Ofcom. They have released a bunch of data about how people in Australia watch and listen to content. The most interesting thing I saw is that people listen to podcasts each week for as long as they listen to FM radio. So FM radio and podcasts are pretty well equal now in terms of total time spent listening. Am radio actually seems to be listened to even more, but FM radio and podcasts are pretty well equal now, alongside streaming music, which of course, is even higher. So some really interesting data coming out of ACMA also. They say 46% of people in Australia own a radio, which is quite a scare if you're a radio company. What do the rest own, or not own Nothing? Well, they don't own a radio.

Eva Prodromou:

Just TV.

James Cridland:

Yeah, and online streaming has actually gone down for live radio over the last five years. Dab has held steady. From memory, AM is down by a third and FM radio is down by a quarter. So, yeah, it's a very, very changing world, but most definitely moving to an on-demand world as well. Oh and shall we go to India? Yeah, it's.

Sam Sethi:

Spotify's fifth year in India, the country with the biggest population on earth, and last year four of the top 10 podcasts on Spotify in India were mythology or spiritually in the genre of being of an heritage Indian. I don't really know much about the country, so I thought I'd reach out to Agatham Rajanand. He's the CEO of Hub Hopper and he's coming on the show next week to tell us about what's going on with the Indian Populations Podcasting habits.

James Cridland:

That's great and I believe also next week we have Mike Caden of Red Circle. He's got things, that things are happening for Red Circle.

James Cridland:

Don't mention anything yet Things are happening, so we'll find out a little bit more from him. Todd Cochran is also very excited at Blueberry, because things are happening for Blueberry as well. We'll hopefully have news about that on Tuesday. I would have thought next week about something that he is very excited about. The new media show this week was hilarious. It was the first 10 minutes. Was Todd asking Rob what he thought of this new thing that he couldn't mention, which is all the way, but still so that should be worthwhile.

James Cridland:

Looking forward to Some jobs. Colorado Public Radio has made 15 employees laid off, or I was going to say has made 15 employees redundant, but I've learned that Americans don't understand what I mean when I say that. So yes, they fired 15 employees. So there we are the largest cut to the company's payroll in 25 years, yikes. Also, rooster Teeth is to close. That's a big video and podcast company in the US owned by Water Brothers Discovery. Roost, which is their podcast network, will continue to operate while they find a buyer. 150 people at risk over there.

James Cridland:

Good news, we think, from Spotify and the ringer. The unions there have reached a tentative agreement with Spotify Management, so that's good news. Megan Bradshaw, friend of well, friend of me has been made head of podcast for Europe, most of Australia and New Zealand. Anna Karina Kirov is head of podcast for North America, latin and Spain. So some big changes at Amazon Music. Also, shay Simpson was announced last week as head of podcast business, so he'll be overlooking the whole thing globally. I wonder whether that means that Apple, who seem to have put. I wonder whether that means that Amazon, who seem to have put quite a lot of money into podcasting, will finally see some return in some of this, because they're still 3% of the podcast app market. They're not even that, are they? Amazon Music as an app really isn't a thing, is it? But still, who knows?

Sam Sethi:

Well, I did reach out to your friend Note for an interview, but I suspect the Amazon PR people won't allow it so unfortunately. But I have been invited to a swanky do with Amazon on the 21st of May, so I'll tell you all about it later.

James Cridland:

Oh, very nice. I've been invited to a swanky do on the 21st of May, so yes, oh, you're coming too as well. If it's the 21st of May, then yes, because it's part of the podcast show, and, yes, it's a thing which is happening. So I am in the podcast show's offices here in London. I can see every single thing that they have planned which I probably shouldn't mention. I can tell you, though, that I am kicking off the first day. I can see that on day two at 3.30 until 4 o'clock.

James Cridland:

At the moment it says Pod News Live, so we'll be doing a half hour show then. So that's exciting, isn't it? And there's various other exciting things going on. I do know that there will be quite a lot of good stuff from the BBC at the podcast show in London. Looking forward to that, it'll be interesting to find out whether there's a new head of BBC News podcasts by that point. Jonathan Aspinwall, who has been running the BBC News podcasts, is now going to run Newsnight, which is a big news TV show in the UK. So I wonder who that means is going to be the boss of BBC News podcasts. I wonder if it's going to be our friend Sam, who I will be seeing next week. It'll be fun to find out if it is, but anyway, that should be interesting, shouldn't it?

Sam Sethi:

Moving on, James, because you are time bound. The ambies have announced the nominees Any internationals.

James Cridland:

Yes, there are a few internationals, including one from Singapore, gwangjin Yeo, who you may remember has written a few things for the Pod News website. His true crime show for One Up Media has been nominated. So we will find out who the winner is at Evolutions in just a week's time. Of course, the iHeart podcast awards took place last weekend in Austin in Texas. You'll find a big list of the winners and the video of the event in there. It seems to have been done on a catwalk for some reason. I'm not quite sure why. That might be the British podcast awards open for entries as well. You've got until May the 9th to enter.

James Cridland:

And talking about events, the big event, of course, is Evolutions, which is happening in a couple of weeks' time in Los Angeles, which I will be at, and of course, the podcast show here in London, in this very building, may the 22nd and 23rd. You can go and find more information about that at thepodcastshowlondoncom. That's thepodcastshowlondoncom. Lots of exciting things happening and I have to tell you, lots and lots and lots of things happening at the podcast show this year, which is not UK, so there's a lot of people coming in from overseas. I can see companies from Canada, from the US, from Singapore, from other parts of the world as well, so it really is turning into a really big event, so I'm very much looking forward to it.

Sam Sethi:

Well, I will be with you in LA, james, and surprise, surprise, soil Albonbrook, he's coming.

James Cridland:

Oh, he's coming now, is he? Yes, excellent, well, that's very good news. Anyway, there are more events, both paid for and free, at podnewspodnewsnet slash events.

Speaker 2:

The tech stuff. Tech stuff On the Pod News Weekly Review.

James Cridland:

Right, we've got a little bit of time, because I do need to rush off to an airplane relatively shortly For some. Yeah, we'll rush through this For this tech talk. This is where Sam talks technology. We do this every single Monday in the Pod News newsletter. What's in the tech stuff this week?

Sam Sethi:

Well, surprisingly, Spotify is adding music videos to mobile and desktop apps in some markets Not in the US, but it's certainly going to be in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, UK and various others. I think it's a new UI. It's called video switching. There'll be a little button in the Spotify app where you can switch from audio to video and video to audio Very simply.

James Cridland:

What an amazing idea. There you go the idea that YouTube music has had for the last two years.

James Cridland:

Look at that Brilliant Well there you go Look, I'm looking forward to that. Spotify Audio Books has added a thing called Countdown Pages, which are very exciting. It's a way of you basically going oh, a new book's coming out in two weeks. Remind me when that new book is out so that I can buy it. And I was thinking, well, wouldn't it be nice if we had that sort of thing for new podcasts? And then I thought we've already got that. It's called a podcast trailer and that's how that works. You press the follow button. Why was I even thinking that? So that makes no sense whatsoever. Wondercraft is doing some interesting things with transcriptions and human quality assurance. They've actually added humans into the AI transcriptions, which is interesting. I'm looking forward to another quick play with WonderCraft prior to something I'm doing in Oslo tomorrow, assuming that I get there.

Sam Sethi:

Sorry, we will get you there, but the reason why I'm not trying to. I really like the guys over there. We obviously had them a couple of weeks ago, but Descript has just closed down their white glove service, which was fundamentally the same thing Five years ago. Andrew Mason, CEO of Descript, said today we're releasing a big update with our white glove transcription service with improved turn-run time, accuracy and user experience. They've now closed that down. I wonder whether that will be the same. Adding humans to the process seems to well. I don't know how you're going to scale that, and when you look at what Apple is doing with Hewer, maybe that's a better way of doing it.

James Cridland:

Well, maybe that might be a good plan. Podhome has added Zapier integration, which is a clever plan for them. You can do some very clever things with Zapier. Podcast page is jumped on the AI-powered bandwagon, does the same thing as Buzzsprout's co-host does, our excellent sponsor. So thank you to Buzzsprout for that. Castos has got a integration with Riverside, which is nice copying a Spotify, one would argue. Fun things happening with Helipad. If you get your boosts through that, you'll be able to connect Helipad up to Webhooks so you can do some all kinds of clever things with that, which we'll probably revisit in a different edition. And Fountain is currently doing weird things with Nostra-based live chat for one particular podcast, which I should learn more about. But the main exciting news, I think, is Libsyn, which is finally supporting a podcasting 2.0 feature, although hilariously they don't mention podcasting 2.0 at all in the podcast. In the blog post that is promoting it they say it's a new feature from Apple podcasts called Transcripts. Oh, good Thanks.

Sam Sethi:

So they're not going to do 2.0. They're just going to take the Apple transcript.

James Cridland:

Well, no, they are supporting the podcast transcript tag and all of that is working absolutely fine. But the blog post if you go and read that, that literally says that it's a new Apple thing that Apple have invented and aren't Apple clever? Blah, blah, blah, blah blah. And I think podcasting 2.0 gets one mention as podcast 2.0, which is not its name, and that is in a bullet point right at the bottom of the blog post. It's almost as if there's a big fan at Libsyn for Apple and, thanks to, everything that Apple does is brilliant and everything that anybody else does is rubbish. It's almost as if that's basically how that company works. It would be weird, really, really weird.

Sam Sethi:

Well, I did say that I look forward to Apple's next podcast in 2.0 tag. It's great to be able to foresee Libsyn's future strategy.

James Cridland:

Now Activity Pup.

Sam Sethi:

Yes, there's a new book out from a guy called Evan Prodemo. Evan is the co-author of the W3C web standards for Activity Streams, activity Pup, and he's been promoting that across Masterdome. The first couple of chapters are available. He's also said he's been invited into the beta test program with Threads, which is the meta version of Masterdome, I guess, for publishing to the wider world. So I thought I'd reach out to him, as I know Evan quite well, and I thought I'd ask him all about what's his new book, what's Activity Streams 2.0, and what's coming up in the future with Activity Pup.

Eva Prodromou:

I'm doing so great, I'm so glad to be here, excited for the conversation.

Sam Sethi:

Now, evan, let's start off with. You've got a new book coming out. Tell me more about this book first.

Eva Prodromou:

Oh, thanks. So, as you mentioned, I'm the co-author of the Activity Pup Activity Streams specifications, which are open protocol specifications published by the W3C For making it easier for social networks to connect to each other so a person on one social network can follow someone on another social network and receive their updates, make comments, make likes, et cetera. So it really provides great two-way interaction between different social systems across the web. The standard was published in 2018. And there have been dozens of implementations so far. But a specification from a standards organization like W3C has a very particular audience. It's really about thou shalt not and thou shalt, and it's very specific and it's got a specific kind of structured language which is not very approachable for your average software developer.

Eva Prodromou:

So last year I agreed with O'Reilly Media so famous publisher of technical books, well known for their animals on the book covers to do a book about Activity Pup and Activity Streams. I am really happy that the book is almost finished. I've been working on it for the last six months. The initial chapters are actually available from O'Reilly on their learning platform, so people who want to get started early can be looking at it right now. But the book goes into step by step with examples how to build an Activity Pup client, how to use Activity Streams as a data structure and then how to build Activity Pup Federation, which is the protocol that connects server to server.

Sam Sethi:

So who do you think the audience for this book is going to be?

Eva Prodromou:

Well, let me just say I'm hoping that, like I said, the goal is for Activity Pup is to let social software servers on the internet connect to each other, allow connections. So much of our software on the internet is social right, things that we publish, things that we share, ways that we connect. The hope is that not only people who want to build an Activity Pup server from scratch which is interesting but probably a limited population but people who want to build Activity Pup features until their existing apps or into new apps is really the audience that I want to see, because a network of a few dozen, I think, or somewhere around five dozen, different servers that implement Activity Pup right now are interesting. I think that we're going to like to see more developers who are using it in internet of things applications, enterprise software, games, game servers, et cetera, anywhere that we have social connections, if we can open up those social connections to the rest of the internet.

Sam Sethi:

Now this has been termed the Fediverse as a collective noun. Now, before 2020, let's say, masterdom and all other clients did exist. There was a uptake in it, but I would say there wasn't a mass uptake. Elon Musk is the catalyst with his overtake of Twitter, that led to everybody looking elsewhere. With that, we've seen accelerated development of people understanding how to use the Activity Pup protocol and to use clients, but what have you seen as feedback from people now coming into it? Has it been, oh, why didn't we do this before? Or oh, that's a bit hard, or I'm not quite sure what you're doing? Where are we in the cycle, do you think?

Eva Prodromou:

Yeah, I mean there is a sense in technology that we all know that having a single point of failure, a centralized system that's making decisions for us is probably not optimal for the full ecosystem. So in the case of, say, twitter, it was a single organization that got to decide who could post, who couldn't, what the rules were for using the API, how many times per second you can use it, what you're allowed to use it for. Because they were usually on the side of the angels, the industry said, okay, well, this isn't perfect, but we're going to live with having a single big server run this. I think that having Elon Musk come in, start making some pretty drastic changes pretty early on, really woke up the tech industry to the fact that we can't depend on this anymore and we need to start having different kinds of solutions.

Eva Prodromou:

I think there has been a sense that replacing big social platforms with open protocols is a great opportunity for everyone else in the ecosystem. I think what's been really exciting is that I've been in this area for quite a while and it's amazing seeing so much of the great work on like Mastodon, pluroma, bookworm, pixelfed there are some wonderful apps out there that were built specifically for Activity Pub. What I think is really interesting today is that we're seeing platforms that were not built for Activity Pub saying like we want to benefit from being connected to the Fediverse, and they're reaching out to do it. So Flipboard is a great example, built for connecting into Facebook, twitter or other networks.

Sam Sethi:

I used to work with Mike McEw at Netscape, so yeah, great guy.

Eva Prodromou:

There we go, mike's wonderful full-in both feet for the Fediverse, right, absolutely. They're bringing all of their publications to the Fediverse and great news content et cetera. Really amazing opportunity. Automatic has. The makers of WordPress have brought Activity Pub to WordPress, so WordPress blogs can publish out into the Fediverse. Probably the biggest news for the Fediverse over the last year has been absolutely surprising, which is that Metta, the company that makes Facebook and Instagram, launched a microblogging platform called Threads and they announced on day one they would be connecting to the Fediverse. That has happened a little slower than we all expected, but it's absolutely happening. So I was lucky enough to be part of an alpha testing program just last week. You're now able to follow me on threads from elsewhere in the Fediverse. Super exciting, that's happening.

Sam Sethi:

I actually even think Twitter could come and play in the Fediverse. The structure of an account is very simple at name, at server right. So at SamSethi at twittercom could be my federated address on Twitter.

Eva Prodromou:

Yep. So I have a rule of thumb for federated networks and it may not actually play out, but this is my kind of rough rule of thumb is that it makes business sense for a network to join that federation of networks when the federation is bigger than the network itself, right? So for Twitter, I think we're talking still around 400 million active users somewhere in there as Threads joins Threads, with 160 million joining the 20 million that are on masternode and related systems. Right, we're starting to see that growth. There are other services, like Automatics, Tumblr, for example, that have pre-announced that they're going to be coming to the Fediverse. Tumblr has 100 million users. As this kind of compilation happens, you start to think. If you're a product manager at Twitter or a CAO at Twitter, you start thinking like, hey, maybe it's to our benefit to connect with the rest of this world, and so I think there's kind of a roll-up effect that happens. Growth begets growth.

Sam Sethi:

Where's Jack Dorsey in all this? I mean, he walked off. You know, having sold Twitter started, blue Sky came up with something called the At Protocol, which I'm not quite sure where it is and what it does. Is he someone who might revert back to looking at the Activity Pub standard instead?

Eva Prodromou:

So I don't know Jack Dorsey personally, so this is entirely speculation. Let me say that Jack Dorsey's on his second distributed protocol. I'm not sure how many more he has in him, however, possibility. Let me talk about Blue Sky, for a second Blue Sky. It was a project that started at Twitter with the intention of building a decentralized social protocol, so very much along the same lines of what we do with Activity Pub. Activity Pub was standardized at the W3C. It has a intellectual property requirements that are very generous. It's patent-free, it's royalty-free. You can just use it. You don't have need permission, just yours. That's the way standards organizations work. Blue Sky was looking for something different. They wanted to run basically a back-end service for these big social networks to allow that cross-network possibility. So they wanted the protocol to be their main product and that was Jack's idea. That was what Jack was working on there. I think that after he left Twitter oh, I should probably finish with the fact that Twitter would be the first customer of this Blue Sky product and would be showing how it could work After he left Twitter, after Blue Sky didn't get the Twitter relationship after all, it's been an open question, like what's going to happen with Blue Sky. I think about that time.

Eva Prodromou:

Jack also got involved in Nostr. Nostr is a more grassroots project that's based in the blockchain community. It is probably a little more Wild West than Activity Pub, so it wasn't developed at a standards organization. It's really been developed more like an open source project. So lots of interested people who come make contributions. It's kind of agglomerative that way. So those are kind of like the three models we have right now. Activity Pub is the consensus model that has lots of implementations. Blue Sky was set up kind of as a actually it is a venture funded startup and then Nostr is really on that source contribution model. Jack currently likes Nostr. I know he's working hard on it. I'd love to see some contribution to the Fediverse from folks like Jack. You know it's not my money is banned, but if he's interested, give me a call because I'd be happy to talk through it with him.

Sam Sethi:

Wouldn't we all? Now you mentioned Nostr, the elephant in the room. Taking this back to the podcasting community, so podcasting 2.0, adam Curry, dave Jones have really, with a bunch of other people, some really smart people have got together and extended RSS with a new namespace and within that they've created 30 new features. So the person tag, the transcript tag and all of the other things. One of the things that Adam did very well in the early days was look at a new monetization model. He termed it value for value. The idea of the creator sets their value, but the listener or consumer can counter that value, a bit like a digital bartering system. They can say no, evan, I'm not paying you 100 sats per minute, I'll pay you 10 sats per minute. Or no, evan, you're crazy, I should be paying you 1000 sats per minute. And it all comes really from Kevin Kelly's original blog, a Thousand True Fans, which is the fundamental building block of it all.

Sam Sethi:

Now, given that the podcasting 2.0 community is looking at micro payments based on Bitcoin sats the 100 millionth of a Bitcoin there's been a great push to move to this new payment model and whether it's a streaming sat or a booster comment with a sat or a zap a like with a sat. That's the three payments. Now, up until now, nostra has been hands-off, it's been over there and podcasting 2.0 has been over here, and never the twain shall meet. And it's always been one of those weird things for me, because both communities have adopted micro payments, both communities have very similar goals around micro payments for sentiment analysis or feedback to creators. And here we are. We've got Activity Pub in the middle. Now I showed you the Activity Pub bridge that Dave Jones built, which is wonderful, and the ability to take Amazing.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, and it is really clever what Dave's done and it's taking the Activity Pub bridge so I can follow any podcast through my activity stream, in effect, and that's great. Where I guess my question is does Activity Pub sit within adding or enabling micro payments within clients? So at the moment in MasterDom I can favour at something, I can heart something, but I can't really give Evan a micro payment for something he's written or done, but I can if I choose a Nostra client. How are we going to bridge that gap?

Eva Prodromou:

Super great question. So I want to unroll really quickly because I want to talk a little bit about podcasting in the Activity Pub world, which I think is fascinating. I'm a podcast addict, I love it, I love listening, it's you know, I'm listening like two or three hours a day, whether I'm exercising or doing chores or doing other things. It's just something I'm constantly bringing in and the infrastructure is somewhat separate from our other social systems. Right, like we're using different platforms for generating it. It is largely one way the feedback. So we provide feedback, maybe through some sort of email or calls or some other way, but it's really not very interactive as a process. There are, like live platforms that have done a pretty good job, like Twitch or etc. I think that it's a interesting to think about, like how do we integrate podcasts more into our social system? So podcasting 2.0, super exciting. I really like the idea of having live updates, sharing things going out to the community that are coming from the community All really fascinating. There is a benefit to the creator in having that feedback mechanism happening, which is, like you have more engaged audience. They're going to be more interactive. You also can use it for analytics. You can show it to advertisers and say look, we got 30,000 likes last month. But you mention it and I think it's really interesting is like, how do we integrate payments and direct payments, micro payments mechanism in there? Because it's awfully nice to like, send someone a heart or give them a thumbs up or a smiley face, but it's nicer to give them a little money, a few sats here and there.

Eva Prodromou:

The answer right now is that we don't have a direct mechanism with an activity pub to do it. Activity pub is not blockchain based. It's based on web APIs HTTP based. That said, there are opportunities for doing this. The first is that we've had some Nostra gateway work that passes Zaps through the gateway to activity pub users who set up a wallet location to receive the Zaps. That's a way for someone on Nostra to send someone in the activity pub world a Zap Awesome.

Eva Prodromou:

What we can do and this is something that folks are interested in is use that same mechanisms that's accepting Zaps and accept a transfers of Bitcoin or other through that same mechanism. Now, on the client side, it's going to require connecting your wallet with your activity pub client, but should be relatively easy to do. It doesn't necessarily have to be any special magic to happen there. Then when you want to generate a payment, hit the button. Maybe you have it running as you go and it just goes right in there. I think it's a great mechanism. It is, I think, in its infancy, at best in activity pub.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, get all B Bcom user thing called the Nostra Wallet Connect. I would love to see a activity pub connect, I suppose, as an alternative. That would be great as a step forward. Yeah, now, with my other hat on, I'm also the CEO of Truefans, which is a podcasting app which we built using Activity Streams from day one. Yeah, amazing, we have 30 verbs in our system, so everything from follow, play, become a fan, zap, boost, whatever that activity stream is your personal activity stream. I think of it as a user-generated RSS feed for one person, absolutely. The next iteration is we are going to publish those activities to the activity pub clients With the user's permission. They will be able to say I want to publish that I've just played this podcast or I've just followed this person, or whatever.

Eva Prodromou:

Right, sorry If I'm following you. There's one thing for me to see what you're interested in, etc. There's another thing for me to see. As it happens, you're like, wow, I love this podcast. I responded this way. I'm like, oh, I really need to find out what he's listening to, because it sounds great. Yeah, so having that listener behavior activity be shared, super interesting and great for your experience too. We all love experiencing media with friends sitting on the couch together or being on a call while we watch TV. It's great to have that same social experience happening through the platform.

Sam Sethi:

Exactly so. That is what we're working on right now and that will be available very shortly. The other thing we talked about before we started recording was something called the TLV. I'm not sure what that stands for. I think we can use Transaction Ledger Value. God knows Anyway.

Eva Prodromou:

TLV Somewhere in there yeah.

Sam Sethi:

Which is a record of payment that shows, fundamentally, if you've streamed or you've boosted or you've replied or you've what they call auto as a verb, which is prepaid and effects supported, so paid in advance for the full episode. That, basically, is a alternative activity stream in my mind. I think I showed you as well you would prefer that the podcast community didn't go down that road, which I think a proprietary standard. That isn't W3C, it's not open. I would rather they went down the road of aggregating activity streams and then allowing other clients, with permission, to be able to see the verbs that the person has agreed to make public and then they can then take that verb.

Sam Sethi:

So somebody in fountain makes a boost, a comment, with a payment, I'm got a listener to a central server, I see that comment and I pull it in and I aggregate it into the same space with the same episode. So then it's what we call cross-up comments, which is the holy grail of the industry for podcasting, by the way. My question is does the activity stream need to be centralized in order for others to be able to see it, or is there a mechanism where, alternatively which I can't think of in my head where I could see someone else's activity stream and just be able to listen. But at scale that wouldn't work, so I would always think it has to be centralized, which goes against the federated capability. So any thoughts?

Eva Prodromou:

Yeah, yeah. So I'm first gonna address the TLV issue, right, so I'm gonna take off my activity streams booster hot and put on my human being hot and just say like, look, anytime we can connect creators with their audience, we connect one person with another. The technology is working, it's good, right, so that's a big step forward. Now I'm gonna put on my booster hat again and say that there is a real benefit to using existing social standards. Right, the benefit is, first, they've been debugged, they've been de-risked. Second, that there are libraries out there for building software that use activity streams or activity pub data. Right, so there is a big step forward in terms of being able to build software, being able to use these data formats.

Eva Prodromou:

The other thing about activity streams is that it's an extensible format. So we built an early vocabulary that covered things like having friends and following people and publishing tags and publishing audio, et cetera. But we always knew it wouldn't cover everything and we would want the vocabulary to be able to cover new technologies as they come out, and so if there are parts of activity streams that don't quite match with the needs of an organization today, it is much better to build an extension on top of activity streams to allow that kind of data to be added in rather than starting over from scratch. The other great thing that you got when you use a standard like activity streams is that you're kind of future-proofing things in right, like you get to benefit from the existing vocabulary as your application area expands. So great that things are happening. I would strongly recommend thinking about using public open standards for social activity representation, because it really does pay off in the long run.

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, I tend to agree on that. Now putting your Mystic Meg hat on. Now, looking forward a few years, where do you think or see activity, pub and activity streams going? What's your crystal ball view?

Eva Prodromou:

Yeah, that's such an interesting question this might be a little bit controversial, but I'm gonna go ahead and go there anyways which is that there was a time when our major social platforms like Facebook or Twitter really saw themselves as enabling developer platforms. They were about helping developers build new apps and distribute like new kinds of data right so, facebook platform you could put a little zombie bite widget into your page or video play or things like that. So it was a time of real exciting, generative innovation happening in social networks. Facebook gradually reduced your ability to do anything on the platform. Twitter famously clawed back a lot of different kinds of applications. You can't do desktop client, you can't do advertising or any kind of modernization on the platform, right so? And they became kind of boring.

Eva Prodromou:

And I really think with protocols, not platforms, we have an opportunity to kind of reignite that time of innovation and client developers are able to build all kinds of cool things on top of that substrate of activity pub and make all kinds of great stuff. And I think that is one that kind of permissionless building. There's no Facebook developer organization that's telling you, no, it's like go out and build the things that you can do, so things that I think are really interesting in there. One is social games right, so using our game experiences and connecting through game experiences. Second is virtual worlds. It's something that I know has been through a hype and is probably on its back end now, but I think that being able to, on an open platform, talk about digital objects, digitally unique objects, creating, arranging them in virtual worlds really interesting and really exciting. I think that there are actually, like, once you have this published subscribe concept like an entity is generating activities and lots of other entities can receive it it becomes possibly a great implementation for things like internet of things, right. So if I have a thermostat or a refrigerator that is emitting activities in the standard format, I can receive them on my phone or have a computer that responds, et cetera. So I think that's another really cool one. Enterprise applications around manufacturing, around delivery and shipping be able to send those updates remotely is also really cool there too. So that published subscribe mechanism that's built into Activity Pub really is super exciting to me. Of course, it's really interesting because we do have this broadcast mechanism built in and making it more interactive, which has always been the promise since the beginning of the internet really coming home with the social platforms that we build on top of Activity Pub. So that's my like crystal ball, is my crystal ball like Activity Pub does everything. That's probably a little bit ambitious but I really think that as that growth happens, with new networks joining, new applications joining, we all get the network effect benefit of having lots of stuff on the Fediverse, having lots of people on the Fediverse, lots of platforms and software on the Fediverse, and it does kind of ramp up and get this virtuous cycle going. So I'm very optimistic on what happens next.

Eva Prodromou:

Now let me finish up here with, like, what I think happens next with other distributed social networks. Right so, blue Sky, noster. I think that a likely kind of next step for both of them is that we are connecting via bridges, right? So a bridge is a kind of software that makes people on one side from Blue Sky be able to connect with people on Activity Pub and vice versa, and they kind of look like they're on the same network. Same thing with Noster. We're a lot farther along with Noster than with Blue Sky, but it's coming and it's happening and I think that's probably gonna be an initial process going on and then ultimately the question is like who gets the most developers, who gets the most platforms? Who's providing the most value? Right, and I think there will always be communities there. I think the big thing is can we learn from each other? Can we introduce features that come from each other and provide value to everyone in the bigger network?

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, but one of the things that goes through my head is we have three systems, right? I'm just gonna lay this out. So we have email, which is samsethieatmecom, me being the server from Apple. We have my Activity Pub, which is, you know, samsethieatpodcastindexsocial and, as I said earlier, it could be samsethieattwittercom eventually it could be anything like that. And then we have my digital wallet, which happens to be, again, samsethieatgetalbycom.

Sam Sethi:

Have you noticed the commonality in the structure of those civil identities? So, with Activity Streams, you have the concept of an inbox and an outbox and activities going in and out of that which is your activity stream, over the Activity Pub protocol. Email is no different. I have emails coming in and I have emails going out. I have an inbox and an outbox and my activities are read, reply, delete. There's the type of activities I have related to email. With payments, I have exactly the same. I have an inbox of payments and I have an outbox of payments. There is nothing different. Could you ever envisage, given that you had a company called identicaca and you've worked in this identity area, could you ever envisage a single inbox, outbox which covers email, social and payments, with a single identity address?

Eva Prodromou:

So let me just say that the structure you've kind of laid out there makes a lot of sense. I think email, in particular early in the internet, that addressing mechanism where you have a local identity, like Evan, and you have a organization that you have a relationship to like you know my employer or my university or my neighborhood as my like domain part has become really valuable. We've also, like all, internalized the concept that I've got one address. This is my personal email address is where my personal email goes. This is my employer email address. This is used for different things. I'm going to send data in different ways. I'm going to receive data in different ways. I think I would like to see.

Eva Prodromou:

I think what I've just described like different addresses for different parts of your life is probably really healthy and it gives us, you know, healthy boundaries. I can send, you know, silly jokes to my kids on my personal email and my business email is just about work and they don't kind of crossover. That said, I think there's a lot of real opportunity to say these are, this is my identity and this is where stuff comes in, this is where I push stuff out. I think it's absolutely reasonable to have that kind of unifying process.

Sam Sethi:

Happen around that addressing Well, lots to think about, Lots to take on board there. Now, quickly, at the end, evan, two things. First of all, when's the book going to be available? What's the published date, do you think?

Eva Prodromou:

They've got a date up on the web of September 2024. I know that, as we do the early access, I am like finishing up first draft right now and doing work. So I think we're shooting for like summer to have a final version up on the learning platform. But yeah, coming soon is kind of the rough thing. Yeah.

Sam Sethi:

Can I ask, will it be an audio book?

Eva Prodromou:

No, because it's got lots of code samples, right, okay. So it's got a lot of terrible audio. It's like yeah, function, yeah yeah, it would be too open, squiggly bracket.

Sam Sethi:

Okay, and finally, if anyone wants to get hold of you, evan, what's the best place to get hold of you?

Eva Prodromou:

Let's do this. The best way to reach me is Evan at CoSocial. So it's EVAN at CoSocialca. That's a cooperative Macedon server that I've set up with a lot of great technology leaders in Canada, where I live, and we manage it together. It's managed in a way. We pay for it together. It's a really cool system. So I really love CoSocialca. Can I vlog my new podcast Of?

Sam Sethi:

course you can. It's about podcasting, of course, so why not?

Eva Prodromou:

Of course. So you know. Talking about podcasts on the Fediverse, we just set up a podcasting server using Castapod. Are you familiar with that one?

Sam Sethi:

Yeah, great guys, yeah, instrument Bellamy.

Eva Prodromou:

Fantastic. So by using it, my feed is Evan Out Loud. So EVAN O-U-T-L-O-U-D all one word at podcastscosocialca and it's a personal journaling podcast. So I'm talking about the work that I do in activity, pub work and technology areas. But for folks who are interested in this area it might be kind of fun. So Evan Out Loud at podcastscosocialca.

Sam Sethi:

Of course, I just have to look for the RSS feed and I can get it from there, can I?

Eva Prodromou:

Yeah, you can Absolutely, yep, absolutely.

Sam Sethi:

Evan, thank you so much for your time. Congratulations with starting this book. I hope you get to the end of it without losing all your hair and that wonderful moustache. Look forward to reading it when it comes out.

Eva Prodromou:

Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me on. This has been great. From your daily newsletter, the Pod News Weekly Review.

James Cridland:

I'm very keen to learn more about activity pub and how pod news can use activity pub. So it looks like a good book, which you can read a little bit of on Evan's website. So that's very excellent. Normally this is the time where we talk about booster grams, but I can't see my boosts at the moment because I am the other side of the world, so instead I'm just going to ask you what's happened for you this week, Sam.

Sam Sethi:

Well, very quickly, james, obviously I said to you we hit a lovely milestone 15 million sat's paid over the platform, $10,000,. I'm very pleased. I think it's a good start. And we also launched our new podcasting host recommendation engine. So when you come into Truefans, you get your RSS feed. We tell you what tags you've got and then, if you change any of those tags using your admin dashboard, we will then tell you which hosts support all of the tags you've now selected and then you can export your new RSS to that host.

James Cridland:

Well, that's all very cool, excellent. I look forward to having a play with that and fiddling around. My week is mostly spent on planes. I'm off to Oslo, in Norway, in a few hours, and then Munich in Germany, and then London again, which is where I will speak to you next week from, but that's it for this week. Thank you to Evan, thank you to Gretchen as well and, yes, if you want to, you can listen to very much more of this every day the Pod News Daily, which is a quick five minute show, and you should be subscribing to the Pod News newsletter, of course, podnewsnet.

Sam Sethi:

You can give feedback to James and I by sending us a boostergram. If your podcast app doesn't support boosting, grab a new one from podcastingtoorg forward slash apps.

James Cridland:

Our music is from Studio Dragonfly. Our voiceover is Sheila Dee. We're hosted and sponsored by Buzzsprout Podcast hosting made easy. Get updated every day. Subscribe to our newsletter at podnewsnet.

Eva Prodromou:

Tell your friends and grow the show and support us. The Pod News Weekly Review will return next week. Keep listening.

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