Stitcher and Talk Python Podcast: A Farewell Letter

I have decided to remove my Talk Python To Me podcast from Stitcher. This has probably caused some grief to a number of my listeners and to you all I apologize about that. This post explains why I did this.

If you run a podcast yourself, you might want to read this carefully too.

Why did I do this?

Why would I not want more listeners of my podcast? Do I already have too many? No, please subscribe if you haven’t – see below ;).

I have always been a little suspicious of Stitcher’s business model. After a number of listeners requested I add Talk Python there, I figured I’d do it because, hey, I really do love you guys and gals.

But, agreeing to have your show listed on Stitcher is a bit of a deal with the devil. You agree to:

  1. Crappy audio: They can take your RSS feed and episode MP3s, copy them to their server and re-encode them with a super crappy bit-rate. I spend a lot of money and effort producing and distributing HQ audio and don’t appreciate this.
  2. They sell your work, they keep the money: Stitcher takes your creative work and slices it apart, and sell their audio ads in your track without paying you at all (or if you partner with them extremely low revenue). Nevermind I spend almost 15 hours a week creating and producing the show.
  3. Sell it in other ways, keep the money: Similarly, they sell banner ads around your content in their player. They keep all of this money too.
  4. Stitcher is bad for podcasting: If they are wildly successful, they will undermine independent podcasting in general. Successful podcasts like Talk Python To Me currently work directly with sponsors, negotiate a fair rate based on product / audience fit and reach. If we are all in stitcher with their ads replacing ours, and them sending a few % back to us, podcasting will look very different (and not in a good way).

But don’t take my word for it

It’s not just me being paranoid or greedy. Here’s what John Gruber from Daring Fireball has to say about the situation.

Midroll owning Stitcher is not good for the podcast ecosystem. Stitcher is popular, but my show is not on Stitcher because Stitcher re-hosts the audio, compresses it to hell, and unless you opt out, inserts their own ads. That’s not how podcasting is supposed to work. I firmly believe podcasting should be open, like the web.
John Gruber – https://daringfireball.net/linked/2016/06/06/midroll-stitcher

Here are a few commenters on articles / posts about the subject:

I’ve been using stitcher for years. I had no idea how they worked. I’ve found this blog as well as some others highlighting this issue. I’ve deleted stitcher and now I’ve found an app that I can paste the rss feed into that gives me the same ability to stream or download. May not be compressed, but I want the people who worked hard to deliver me free content to make the most of their own shows. Furthermore, for people taking others ad revenue, they don’t even put it into making a good app. Stitcher had been getting buggier by the version. So people on top take it all and don’t even pay good money to decent developers. Stitcher is a capitalism-based-parasite in my opinion.
KennadianNerdist: The Stitcher Situation

And from an older article:

I have an iPhone and I use the default app. I downloaded Overcast and it is amazing but only does audio. Stitcher’s business practices are a little suspect amongst the industry.
@ericelawrence – Deezer buys podcast app Stitcher

Ben Thompson, from the amazing Exponent podcast wrote a great article called “The Future of Podcasting” and did an episode with his co-host James on it called “A podcast about podcasts“.

In the article Ben writes:

Stitcher is thought to be the 2nd most popular podcast player, although it has long been controversial in some circles for its default practice of hosting podcasts itself (instead of directing users to download them directly from a podcaster’s server) and inserting ads. That model, though, was likely attractive to Scripps/Midroll: controlling the files and the player means the possibility of making meaningful measurements of play data plus dynamic ad insertion at scale.
Ben Thompson

Finally, Marco Arment, who created Instapaper, hosts the Accidental Tech podcast, and created the Overcast player mentioned above wrote:

Podcasts are hot right now. Big Money is coming. Big Money isn’t going to sell nicely designed, hand-crafted, RSS-backed podcast players for $2.99 or ask you to pay what you want to support them, because that doesn’t make Big Money. They’re coming with shitty apps and fantastic business deals to dominate the market, lockdown this open medium into proprietary “technology”, and build empires of middlemen to control distribution and take a cut of everyone’s revenue… I don’t know if Overcast stands a chance of preventing the Facebookization of podcasting, but I know I’m increasing the odds if my app is free without restrictions. As long as I can make money some other way, I’m fine.
Marco ArmentApple’s actual role in podcasting: be careful what you wish for

Why now?

There are two events coming together to make me take the entirely manual step to hunt Google intensely to discover the email address to personally write and request removal of my podcast from Stitcher (this is not at all offered to publishers willingly from Stitcher). Oh, and I can save you the work. Email them and request your show to be removed via partners@stitcher.com if that’s your choice. Lock-in via obscurity is a poor long term business model.

Event 1: In February 2016, I struck out on my own to start Talk Python Training and focus on the Talk Python To Me podcast. These are my two income sources. The online courses and podcast revenue (from sponsors, the podcast is free for listeners) are how I pay my mortgage, my twin daughters upcoming college tuition and housing fees, and everything else in life that costs money when you have a family.

You can read the whole story here. You can bet this means I care more about a sustainable business model for my show and for everyone’s shows than if this was just a hobby.

Event 2: Midroll (the largest podcast ad network) bought Stitcher for $4.5M USD. They intend to double down on the dubious business model I mentioned in the opening 4 points. You can read about this at the Wall Street Journal: E.W. Scripps Buys Podcast Company Stitcher

Where can you listen to Talk Python To Me now?

Talk Python To Me has been available in many places and will continue to be. I even offer an OGG-Theora version for pure open source players. Please pick your favorite podcast client (mine is Overcast on iOS but there are many on all platforms including native ones on iOS and Android).

  1. Via iTunes directory
  2. Via Google Play podcast directory
  3. Direct RSS from talkpython.fm
  4. Direct OGG-Theora RSS feed from talkpython.fm
  5. Via SoundCloud page or even our RSS feed for SoundCloud
  6. Our YouTube channel

There are probably more places to find Talk Python To Me. But I think the 6 options above offer multiple high-quality choices no matter your platform or preferences. Don’t want to download the episodes to your device but would rather stream them like Stitcher? Many apps like Overcast allow you to subscribe but only stream the episodes on a per show basis.

Thanks to my listeners

Thanks to everyone who subscribes to the show. If you used stitcher, this kinda sucks for you I know. But, in the long run, this will help me keep the show going by letting me dedicate my time to creating content rather than doing this podcast as a side hustle (which I did for awhile, it’s exhausting!).

If this message resonates with you, please share this post with your friends and on social media.

Image credit: Alex Gooi via Flickr

6 comments

  • Michael, I think Marco Arment nailed it, and also Gruber’s “I firmly believe podcasting should be open, like the web.” There’s a constant struggle on the web to “intermediate”, to insert middlemen to extract value; that’s why middlemen exist.
    I don’t (and won’t) use Stitcher, and support your decision to drop it. Onward!

  • Excellent move on your part. I have never used Stitcher before and from the sounds of it I do not see myself ever using it. You have to protect your content.

  • Very late to the show here, but I absolutely love listening to the show via Pocket Casts on Android. It has a really nice set of options without getting crazy, and the audio quality is top notch (but so is your production quality).

    • Thanks so much! I’ve been using Pocket Casts on iOS myself. Switched from Overcast. Still like overcast a lot but I feel like the development on it isn’t as active as I’d like to see. The in-app purchases really cut me the wrong way (although I’ve paid some because I want to support Marco). Could I merge the two? I wish!

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