Podcasts Are Becoming Big Business – And They Are Starting To Unionize

As podcasts get bigger, workers are starting to organize to form unions.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“When Bill Simmons, the popular former ESPN sports columnist set up The Ringer in 2016, he drew legions of fans to his irreverent sports podcasts. As the L.A. site grew, however, so did the demands of his employees. This summer they formed a 66-member union with the Writers Guild of America East and management moved quickly to recognize it . . .

[B]ringing union benefits to podcasting startups and other digital media firms is a high priority, said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East.

“We see how the media landscape is changing, and our goal is to keep pace with it,” Peterson said. “There is very much the sense that unions are more essential than ever . . .”

Podcasts are expected to take in $514.5 million in ad dollars this year, up 28% from 2018, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC. There are already more than 550,000 podcasts globally on the Apple Podcast app, one of the most popular outlets for podcasts.

‘Wherever there’s the distribution of content and the distributors get content for free or cheap, there’s a strong incentive for the content creators to unionize,’ said Daniel Stone, partner in the litigation and entertainment and media groups at Greenberg Glusker. ‘People think of podcasting as new but in many ways podcasting is just another form of radio. That industry that has been unionized for decades. It’s a natural fit for entertainment unions to go after that space . . .’

Other Hollywood unions also expanding their presence in digital radio. The Los Angeles-based SAG-AFTRA, which represents about 160,000 actors and other performers, has ‘seen an increase in productions in digital media in recent years and covers thousands of projects a year under various new media agreements, including podcasts,’ a spokesperson said.

The move to unionize podcasting firms is part of a broader drive to bring higher wages, benefits and improved working conditions to digital media ventures.”

For the full story, visit the Los Angeles Times here.

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