Five on Friday: Podcasts, Publishers and Monetization

Featuring Zoom, TikTok, Squarespace, Apple, Sony and Wondery

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, Zoom has stepped up to bring faraway family and friends closer together, announcing that the video platform will remove its 40-minute time limit for free “meetings” on Turkey Day. Also, we’ll share an update on TikTok’s latest status, Squarespace adds new monetization options, publishers see subscriber increases in spite of COVID, and Apple and Sony are looking at acquiring podcast network Wondery.

Zoom removes 40-minute time-limit this Thanksgiving

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the holidays will not be the same this year. Many gatherings will be smaller than usual, and others will not be gatherings at all as people stay home to protect their loved ones. Some states including Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Washington  are restricting interstate travel, requiring quarantines and/or testing, and limiting the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings. [See your state’s websites for relevant restrictions and limitations, and the CDC website for additional guidance and precautions.]

But there is good news! Zoom wants to bring people closer together this Thanksgiving. The video conferencing platform is removing the 40-minute time limit on meetings for free account users, so friends and families can meet virtually across the miles. Zoom tweeted the announcement on Tuesday.

Keep your loved ones safe this holiday season. #ZoomTogether.

Zoom’s free plan allows for meetings with up to 100 participants and unlimited 1:1 meetings, but they usually have a 40 minute cap. Zoom also offers three paid subscription plans (Pro, Business and Large Enterprise) ranging in price from $149.90 per year per license to $199.90 per year per license. Zoom also offers add-ons such as an audio plan (starting at $1,200 per year), large meetings (starting at $600 per year) and cloud storage (starting at $480 per year).

Virtual turkey will never taste as good as real turkey, and virtual hugs are a little less cozy, but at least we’ll be safe and protecting those we love. Happy Thanksgiving from the Subscription Insider family. Stay safe and healthy!

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TikTok gets two-week extension to make a deal

Last week, the deadline passed for the ban on short-form video platform TikTok. Under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in August, the United States had threatened a ban on TikTok due to national security concerns about TikTok and Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. Since the notice of the initial ban, there has been much back and forth between the federal government, ByteDance, TikTok, and the Chinese government. {See our timeline from our September 25 Five on Friday.}

The Trump administration wanted an American company to buy and control TikTok’s U.S. operations. To facilitate such a deal, Trump personally reached out to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in August. Meanwhile, TikTok sued the federal government over a potential ban, stating it had been deprived of due process. Meanwhile, China imposed new export control rules which could have impacted a sale, and the odd duo of Oracle and Walmart ended up with the winning bid to buy TikTok.

Fast forward to last week and the U.S. Commerce Department said it was giving ByteDance, Oracle and Walmart another 15 days to work out an arrangement, according to CNN Business. The new deadline is November 27. Until then, tens of millions of U.S. TikTok users can enjoy the app without interruption. After that, it is anyone’s guess as to what happens next. In fact, this might even end up in President-Elect Joe Biden’s lap if it is not resolved by January 20. We’ll keep you posted.

TikTok gets two-week extension to make a deal

Squarespace adds Member Areas as content monetization options

Squarespace is adding new Member Areas to help their customers monetize their content. Users who host a website on Squarespace can now create, share, and manage free or paid content. They can offer free content, if they choose, or offer one-time and recurring payment options for virtual classes, training, newsletters, podcasts, video series, and other content. The new Member Areas also help customers build an online community for their users.

Pricing starts at $9 per month paid annually or $10 per month paid monthly for the Starter plan, $18 per month paid annually or $20 per month paid monthly for the Core plan, and $35 per month paid annually or $40 per month paid monthly for the Pro plan. Each plan has a maximum number of member areas available, and transaction fees vary from 1% to 7%, depending on the selected plan.

All plans include the following:

  • Free, one-time, or recurring subscription fee structure
  • Seamless and secure member experience
  • Member management
  • Integrated analytics
  • Members can pay with PayPal or credit card
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Squarespace Extensions to manage a business

In an interview with TechCrunch, Squarespace chief product officer Paul Gubbay said they were testing news ways for businesses to make money, particularly during the pandemic when innovation is key to staying afloat.

“We allow you to sell your expertise, to sell your content,” Gubbay said.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure we have product-market fit,” added Gubbay. “But I think what we’re going to be interested in doing as we move forward is helping people understand that, guiding them to the parts of the platform where they become a multi-modal seller.

Learn more about Squarespace’s new monetization options at Squarespace.com.

With Member Areas, Squarespace customers can offer their content for free or charge their subscribers a one-time or recurring payment fee.
With Member Areas, Squarespace customers can offer their content for free or charge their subscribers a one-time or recurring payment fee. Image courtesy of Squarespace.

Walmart sees 79% spike in ecommerce in Q3

Earlier this week, Walmart released its third quarter earnings, revealing total revenue of $134.7 billion, an increase of 5.2%. Ecommerce sales were the most impressive results, growing 79% during the quarter. The company said the pandemic continues to drive up demand across multiple categories. As a result of COVID, Walmart has incurred incremental costs of $0.6 billion.

Other third quarter highlights include the following:

  • Launch of Walmart’s answer to Amazon Prime, Walmart+, a paid membership that offers unlimited home delivery of more than 160,000 items for $98 a year, or $12.95 a month
  • Partnership with Door Dash to deliver prescriptions from Sam’s Club pharmacies
  • A “reinvented” Black Friday shopping experience called Black Friday Deals for Days
  • New drone delivery pilots – Zipline, Flytrex and DroneUp
  • Launch of new clothing brands including Free Assembly and Eloquii Elements
  • Rollout of a new store design focused on the digital shopping experience
  • Plans that target zero emissions in Walmart operations by 2040

Walmart shared the following statistics: 265 million weekly customers at 11,400 stores in 26 countries and ecommerce websites. The company has 2.2 million associates around the world and fiscal year 2020 revenue of $524 billion.

“This was another strong quarter on the top and bottom line. Our associates continue to impress during this challenging year. They are working together to serve customers and communities in new, relevant ways and we’re very proud of them. We think these new customer behaviors will largely persist and we’re well positioned to serve customers with the value and experience they’re looking for,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO, in the company’s third quarter earnings report.

Walmart noted that total net sales were $134.7 billion with $133.8 billion in net sales and $956 million in “membership and other income.” The company did not specify how many paid members its new Walmart+ subscription service has attracted.

On the earnings call, McMillon said, “I do think Walmart+ can be helpful in a lot of ways over time. And the information will help our ability to personalize for customers, and I think we’ll be able to serve them better. And both sides, both the stores and eCommerce, will come to life in a way that helps make Walmart+ even stronger.”

Podcast producer Wondery is for sale

Wondery, the world’s largest independent podcast producer, is up for sale and at least four companies, including Apple and Sony, are considering the acquisition, reports Business Insider. The podcast producer is looking for $300 million to $400 million for the sale. Wondery offers more than 100 podcasts, and is working on TV shows based on the podcasts, says Business Insider.

If you haven’t heard of Wondery, you may have heard of some of their podcasts:

  • Jacked
  • Dirty John
  • Dr. Death, Seasons 1 and 2
  • American Scandal
  • Bunga Bunga
  • Why is this Happening? With Chris Hayes
  • Joe Exotic
  • Little Stories Everywhere

Wondery offers a premium version – Wondery+ – for $4.99 a month or $31.49 a year. The monthly version comes with a seven-day free trial. The annual version offers a 14-day free trial. Wondery+ offers subscribers exclusive programming, an ad-free experience, and early access to new episodes of favorite shows.

Last month, more than 8 million unique U.S. listeners downloaded or streamed podcasts from Wondery more than 58 million times. It is the sixth-biggest podcast publisher in the United States and the largest in the world.

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