2019 is gonna be champagne bubbles and podcast dreams: ATOP Vol. 2

Jennie Josephson
13 min readJan 4, 2019


Oh hey hi! Happy New Year!

I figured we’d start out in 2019 with a new edition of the podcast newsletter that darts about the Outer Rim territories of the podcast universe. Think of it as a company newsletter with a special interest in independent podcasts–the ones you don’t always see on top of the podcast charts. In case you didn’t know, this Outer Rim business is a Star Wars reference. Many of these there will be, as a Star Wars podcast co-host I do.

I’m Jennie Josephson, and I produce podcasts for a living, with a side of freelance writing, and a hunk of fresh-baked bread with butter and jam for dessert. Seriously, I bake bread to relieve stress and give my hands a different form of exercise that doesn’t involve editing podcasts.

The New Year’s champagne (or Martinelli’s) bubbles have evaporated, but don’t worry there are plenty of other fun bubbles. Didn’t you know? This is the year the podcast bubble is finally going to burst.



What’s a CPM?

A CPM is a way to set standard(ish) digital ad rates across an industry. It stands for cost per thousand impressions (or to use the Latin, because who doesn’t, cost per mille.)

CPM’s rise and fall depending on available inventory and a bunch of other factors. If you’ve ever worked in digital video, I bet you’ve heard people say, with longing and a faraway gaze, “Oh the days of the $43 CPM are long gone…”

Which is too true.

But podcast CPM’s, as of this exact second and no later, are still doing OK.AdvertiseCast lists the market average for 2019 at $18 for a 30 second ad, $25 for a 60 second ad in a 30 day period. Midroll says $18 to $50, with their biggest podcasts commanding higher CPM’s. Now your typical independent podcast may not get this rate, but there are certainly independent shows that get this much and more.


Even though there are more than 550,000 podcasts in the Apple Podcast store, that’s a blink of the digital eye compared to the billion hours of YouTube video watched daily.

There are lots of other factors that go into CPM rates (host-reads, desirably wealthy or young audience etc) and we can do a deep dive in a future newsletter, but let’s get back to the point…

Oh, Buzzfeed, no…

Back in September, CJR had a take on the latest podcast bubble burst, after Panoply and Buzzfeed laid off most of their podcast staff. There were counter-claims, follow-ups, and more Medium posts than you can read in a lifetime. But the upshot is this:

Podcasts are way less expensive to produce than television or movies, and you can do it yourself for almost nothing. But to produce a high-quality, deeply reported docu-style podcast that competes with Serial or Dirty John — that’s not cheap.

A podcast production company could do it for under 100k–if you kept the staffing down and didn’t include the marketing budget. There are whispers of podcast production companies out there asking corporations for 500k to produce a season of a fully branded podcast. (One of the many reasons you see so many one season corporate podcasts, but that’s another newsletter.)

That might be why some of those podcast production companies are shutting down, or getting nervous about all the venture capital they’ve accepted, and in some cases refusing to take venture investment at all.

Podcasts are not, as it turns out, fast money makers.

This is why I prefer my podcasts bubbles to be more like champagne bubbles. Tiny packets of energy zooming up towards the unknown. Some of them fade away, some make it into your mouth, uh, ears, and uh-oh, dying metaphor alert.

But you know what I mean. Where there’s a podcast, there’s a way to get it heard by enough people to make it worth your while. And though most podcasts don’t get enough listeners to make a profit on CPM’s, especially once the intermediary takes their percentage, I know plenty of podcasters who are successfully monetizing their shows with branded episodes and direct ad sales (lots more emails, lots more profit in your pocket). If your podcast hits a specific audience of say, design geeks who are likely to buy high-quality light switchesthat most of us don’t even think about, advertisers will find you.

And that’s not even getting into merch, Kickstarters and direct audience support via Patreon or other crowdfunding services.

Turns out the best way to stay in the podcast business is to just keep podcasting.

And that’s where we get to Brian Ibbott….

Get up to speed with Brian Ibbott

When it comes to podcasting, Brian Ibbott is first class. Seriously, he’s among the earliest batch of podcasters–Class of 2004, and if you’re being definitional about it, there’s really only a Class of 2003 before that. (Don’t argue with me about uploading to FTP sites. I love you, but don’t.)

Brian is the long-time host of Coverville, a terrific podcast about cover songs, which he launched in 2004. Coverville is one of the longest running podcasts in the Apple Podcast store and it’s a treasure trove of great music you’ve never heard. Brian also co-hosts The Morning Stream, a morning talk podcast which streams live on Twitch and recently surpassed 1600 episodes. His latest venture is America’s Next Top Podcasting Idol, a podcasting competition I’m super excited to experience.

Brian himself is a contender in the competition for world’s nicest human, and I’ll tell you a story about that in a minute. But first, I asked podcaster and Infinite Gain 2018/19 Fellow Rich Stroffolino to get us all up to speed on Brian Ibbott.

Rich Stroffolino: When did you first hear about podcasting and what made you want to get involved?

Brian Ibbott: I heard about it right around the time [the phrase] was getting coined. I heard about these things called “MP3 Blogs” on Screen Savers back in the day. Leo Laporte was talking about this guy who was doing a show called the Daily Source Code, and I swear I didn’t realize it was Adam Curry from MTV until a couple episodes in. I listened for a couple months, and added a couple other shows to the rotation (Evil Genius Chronicles and Dawn & Drew), and then decided I was going to do my own, which was going to be the Cover Song radio show I’d always wanted to hear.

RS: What were some of the technical challenges in the early days of podcasting? How has that changed since 2004? Is there anything that’s “easy” now that was a hurdle back then?

BI: Biggest was sound quality on a budget. Snowball had their USB mics, but trying to get a decent sound without picking up any noise in the room was a major undertaking. I know there were a lot of podcasters in the early days who had to tell their spouses, significant others or roommates to sit on the couch and read a book while they were podcasting so they didn’t make any floor noise.

RS: What has been the biggest change for you as a podcaster since you started, and what has been the biggest change with podcasting in general?

BI: Streaming, for sure. For a medium that started so that people could listen to what they want, when they want, it’s surprising that we’d go back to a scheduled live recording, but that’s what some of the audience wants. And it’s added a new dimension to the show because I can record and get live feedback on the songs I’m playing on Coverville, or groans and LOLs on the jokes I make on TMS, and it’s all in real time. And now that I’ve done it, I can’t go back to NOT streaming.

RS: How did you approach getting music licensing for Coverville? It’s still fairly rare to see licensed music in a podcast.

BI: After about two months of podcasting (I’ve identified that if I do something for two months, I’ll probably stick with it), I decided I’d better get legal. So I did a little bit of research and found out about the two sides of music licensing for cover songs. Cover songs have a songwriting royalty and a mechanical royalty because the performer isn’t (usually) the writer. So I had to contact ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and basically we worked together to come up with a music licensing agreement that worked for podcasting.

RS: You attended the Podcast Movement conference this summer, right? What was the experience like?

BI: It was a very different experience from the New Media Expos and Podcasting Conferences I’d been to before, only because there is so much growth in the space. At the old conferences, there were relatively less of us podcasting, so we knew (or knew OF) each other. At this year’s PM, everyone who was a big fish in their pond (i.e., their basement) was anonymous here, and I kind of liked that, but still missed seeing a lot of the old faces I remember.

RS: What value do these podcast conferences have for newbies and veterans?

BI: I had some freelance clients while I was out there, so I only got to attend one session, but it was tremendously informative for someone who’s been doing this for years. It was about the changes in how people access podcasts, with so much of it coming from things like Spotify & Soundcloud, which I’d always considered to be tools for different uses. It made me work on getting my podcasts on those platforms as soon as I got back from the conference. And that’s info that is just as important to the old dogs as the new ones.

RS: This summer you also successfully crowdfunded a podcaster reality show. What was that experience like? I love that you’re rolling in education for podcasters as well. How do you balance entertainment and education for the listener?

BI: Well, we’re going to see, won’t we?

We start recording the show next week, and I’m really excited. Doing it with crowdfunding does bring in a bigger magnifying glass than if you were to launch a podcast with less fanfare, so there’s more pressure on me to get things right starting with episode 1. The way I look at it, we’ve written the challenges to be educational for pro and amateur podcasters, and we’re relying on the judges and contestants to bring the entertainment. I think the stuff that we’ve set up for the show will generate a lot of unintentional comedy.

RS: Any podcast recommendations?

BI: I always say that I have no time to listen to podcasts because I’m too busy making them, but there are two that I always go to: Five Hundy By Midnight(which is about Las Vegas), and You Can Bet On That (which is about gambling in general). Both of them are done in that perfect combo that we were talking about above: education and entertainment, and you probably can tell I have a one-track mind about the content. I think listening to shows about gambling keep me from racing to the casinos more than once or twice a year.

RS: Do you have a dream podcast you’d start if you had unlimited time/resources?

BI: I still have the dream of creating a Podcast Makeover show, where we help one individual amateur podcaster really hone their show with advice, consulting, and a generous gift from a mixer and/or microphone company. Again, I think it would be that perfect combo of entertainment and education. I also really want to launch a comedy game show podcast. Jennie can speak to my “Game Show Host Complex”, and I think The Hollywood Squares-style aspect of a game show with names people recognize in the podcasting world with listeners picked to be contestants is something that people would listen to. I’d listen to it — and that’s the barometer I use for ALL my podcasting ideas.

OK, Jennie here again. Brian is referring to his excellent emceeing talents at Nerdtacular, a fan con that ran for a decade, centered around the Frogpants Studios slate of podcasts. My husband Matt Flanagan (no social presence) and I attended one year, and we were placed on different teams for the trivia contest. Brian writes up the questions and emcees the event, always wearing the most outrageous suit jacket and hat combo available. One category of questions for Matt’s team was all about The Late Show with David Letterman.

Only conflict? Matt loved that show so much as a kid that it made him want to be a comedy writer, and he ended up getting a chance to join that writing staff, which gave him, let’s just say, a completely unfair advantage in the category. Justin Robert Young has never let us forget it.

But the story I really want to tell you about Brian is this: I went to Podcast Movement this summer, and ended up being the least likely person to inductScott Johnson into the Academy of Podcasters Hall of Fame. I thought I was there pick up the award and go straight to FedEx, but it turns out there was a speech involved. I spent all day perched in corner and near electrical outlets writing it.

I took a quick break for a client meeting, and was thrilled/horrified to run into Brian Ibbott, Scott’s co-host on The Morning Stream. I believe my exact thought was, “Brian’s here! OH SHIT, why the hell am I WRITING THIS SPEECH! I’m (gasp) a usurper!”

Brian reassured me that he did not want to be involved in a public speaking situation, and then took the time to sit with me and work through the speech, giving me a quiet boost of confidence. And really, that’s what Brian does. He gives people a boost. He supports their podcasts. He helps new podcasters learn. And I figured you should know about it.

Follow Brian Ibbott on Twitter, subscribe to Coverville, check out TMS, and don’t forget, America’s Next Top Podcasting Idol is coming soon to a podcast platform near you!

This Week in The Audience Always Knows Best

As someone who has yes really eaten a whole poundcake in one sitting and yet still somehow wondered how I could get more poundcake, I’ve always been vaguely uncomfortable with the term “binge-listening” or “binge-watching.”

Fortunately, Twitter, as usual, has the solution:

i prefer to call it “through listening”, “through reading”, or “through watching”, as in “i through hiked the appalachian trail.”

— ƶϵᴱ یᨒﻨɨђ (@zeefreak) January 4, 2019

New phrase, instantly adopted, done and done.


The internet is built of lists. And tubes. But mostly lists. In honor of the record-setting number of women sworn into Congress this week, here’s a list of podcasts about, by and for women. Most are independently produced, others are awesome enough to include anyway. Fair Warning: I produce several of these podcasts, which are marked with little asterisks * * so you know I have a helluva bias there. What can I say, it’s a company newsletter ; )

Call Your Girlfriend — Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are two long-distance besties who talk about any and everything. It’s a great show, it’s probably got the best word art logo I’ve ever seen, and even more bonus points for having a terrific producer, Gina Delvac, who is very cool–she doesn’t so much walk places as float there, trailing competence in her wake. If anyone tries to tell you that it’s too late to do a podcast where two people just talk about the things they love, point them here and say, “It depends on the people.”

Favorite Episode: White Fragility with Rachel Cargle.

*Brave Not Perfect* — Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani talks with women about conquering their fear of perfection and doing what they really want. Reshma and her GWC producers (not me) have a really great sense of who to book, and you see a lot of names in the guest list that you’ll be hearing a whole lot more from soon.

Favorite episode: Reshma talks with Rayouf Alhumedhi about how she helped create the “women wearing a hijab” emoji.

Everyone Else — A photographic podcast that tells the story of strangers on the streets of London. I love combining two media to tell two different parts of the same story, and really, I just love the different accents and dialects.

Favorite episode: Mae

*Under The Hood* — A midwife and a doula walk into a podcast and talk about women’s health. This podcast is an example of the way that women with twenty or so years of experience are finding podcasts a safer less argumentative way to get their expertise out there, without being interrupted on a panel. But really I just love the hosts. They are exactly as awesome as they sound.

Favorite episode: #ListentoBlackWomen when Patti Quintero and Aleks Evanguelidi talk with Kim Durdin about maternal mortality risks for Black women.

And a special fond farewell to 2 Dope Queens, which aired their final podcast episode this year featuring Michelle Obama. But don’t cry, you can watch theirHBO special! Podcast to HBO content deals, now that’s the Dom Perignon of podcast revenue deals.

Cheers and talk soon!


Newsletter Credits

I made the newsletter art in Google Drawings because that is the limit of my artistic skill.

Rich Stroffolino helps with this newsletter, he made a Trello and everything, go follow him!

And special thanks to Brian Ibbott for taking the time!


At Infinite Gain Productions, we help clients launch podcasts and help them improve the quality of podcasts they’re already producing. Our clients are non-profits, journalists on a mission, and individuals with a dream.

Take a listen to this awesome podcast teaser from our newest client.

She Built It with Melanie and Dr. Michele — Launch alert! A new podcast launching January 8th, 2019, featuring two of the most successful and generally together women I’ve ever met. They’re all about the career leap, and the episodes are short, informative and fun. Check out the teaser while I go finish the final edit on Episode 1!