WSJ reported today that The Midroll’s parent company is buying Stitcher, to be operated under The Midroll.
Stitcher is the original proprietary-podcast platform, built on business deals and marketing instead of quality. Podcasters must register with Stitcher and agree to their onerous terms to be playable in the app at all, and Stitcher users don’t play the podcast files directly from the podcasters’ servers like nearly every other podcast app — they hear more-compressed versions re-hosted by Stitcher, with worse audio quality and Stitcher’s ads inserted between them.
John Gruber covered the acquisition better than I could have:
I worry that it’s toxic to combine advertising sales with an exclusive app for playback. Advertisers want tracking? You got it — in Stitcher. The end goal here is lock-in, and so I think it’s worth fighting right from the start, even at the expense of a few thousand additional listeners for my show.
He’s right. Wide-appeal shows only get about 3% of their audience from Stitcher, and tech-focused shows get much less (possibly because Stitcher’s app is awful). Given these tiny rates, it’s not worth giving up control and contributing to the locking-down of an open medium that’s doing just fine without these middlemen.
See also: even larger advertising company launches another proprietary podcast player, which is extremely similar to Stitcher in every way, and it probably won’t be the last time someone tries this.
Big Money is here, and we’re only getting started.
I’ve never been more proud to be operating a large podcast app that’s built on standard RSS, open access, and standard playback of podcasters’ original files directly from their servers, with no garbage ads being inserted, no behavioral tracking for advertisers, no proprietary lock-in, and absolutely no requirements that podcasters register with me, do anything differently, lose any control, agree to any terms, or even be aware of my app at all to be played, shared, and promoted in it.
Don’t let proprietary podcast platforms convince you that we need them.