Yesterday I got an e-mail from Apple, said that the Pirates Prospects Podcast (P3) had been removed from iTunes. I assumed this was because I hadn’t uploaded a new podcast in a few months, and figured I would just re-submit the show when a new episode came out (which was coming in the next week or two).
Today, Aaron Gleeman tweeted that his podcast, “Gleeman and The Geek” was removed from iTunes at the request of Major League Baseball.
"Gleeman and The Geek" was removed from iTunes after 144 episodes because we're told MLB requested several team-related podcasts be removed.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) May 7, 2014
It appears that several other podcasts have been removed as well. Here is a Yankees podcast that was removed. Here is an Orioles podcast. You can find a lot of others by searching through Twitter. It seems a common trend is that a podcast was removed if it includes a team name. In the case of Gleeman’s podcast, the title of the show didn’t include a team name, but it was identified as a Minnesota Twins podcast.
The move by MLB is typical, considering their history of alienating fans and removing content that could help promote their sport. In this case, the podcasts are free, and most people doing the podcasts earn nothing from the show. There’s a reason I haven’t done a podcast in several months. I’ve been focused on adding things to the site that generate revenue, rather than spending time and money (hosting fees) for a show that brings in next to nothing.
There is a benefit to doing the show. It adds some publicity for the site, and reaches a different audience than the audience that reads the site articles each day. It also can attract new readers who discover the podcast on iTunes. But the benefits of the show don’t make a huge difference, which is why this site was a full time gig before I started the show, and why it has been full time since I stopped producing shows.
Here is an example of the typical work that goes into a podcast. I’m assuming it’s the same for every other team.
**Set up a time to talk with the other guests on the show. The more people you have, the harder this process can be. We would have the minor league writers on, followed by the major league writers. That was a process that usually involved interviews over the span of three days.
**Create the script for the show. Usually at the start of the Skype call, we would just agree on a few topics to discuss, knowing that we’d eventually get off topic and add other discussions to the mix.
**Once all of the recording was done, the editing begins. This involves listening to the entire show (usually about an hour and a half of audio) and removing all of the small breaks, mistakes, times when Skype dropped the call (happens a lot, and that adds to the interview times), and adding music and effects to the show. I’ve found that a good rule of thumb is to anticipate double the time of the show. If it’s an hour and a half, then it will take three hours to edit the show, usually getting the final time down to about an hour.
**When the podcast is complete, you have to upload it, write a summary, and do all of the promotions. This is usually half an hour.
If the recording is an hour and a half, that probably means we spent about two hours doing interviews and planning the show over the span of three days. Add in the editing time, and the time to promote the show, and you’re talking about 5-6 hours of work for a one hour show. Sometimes it’s a little bit less, but it’s never less than four hours. And keep in mind, this is for a free product that is dedicated to discussing Major League Baseball on a weekly basis. Whatever benefit the site is getting from the podcast, MLB is getting the same benefit from an hour of free publicity.
I can see the argument from MLB’s perspective. They own the rights to the team names, and it’s their right to shut anything down that uses those names. But it’s not like we’re creating unofficial t-shirts and hats with the team name and selling them for a profit outside of the stadium. We’re creating a product that is free, and that gives free publicity to the league.
The fact that Gleeman’s podcast was removed is more concerning. That’s just a podcast that identified itself as a Minnesota Twins podcast. By that standard, you can’t even have a podcast about a team. Or you can, but you can’t tell anyone what it really is about.
The whole process makes me wonder what would happen if MLB starts coming after blogs. This site is named Pirates Prospects. That’s not uncommon. I named it Pirates Prospects to try and create a Pirates version of Sox Prospects. I also included some features from one of my favorite blogs, Rays Index. A few weeks ago I linked to prospect sites from other teams, and many of them included the team name. And as we saw with Gleeman’s podcast, if you just mention that your product covers a specific team, then you’re at risk. That involves every sports blog.
I can actually see a better argument for MLB going after blogs, since people actually make money off of blogs. I’ve turned mine into a career. At the same time, I’m providing news about the game, much like any newspaper or magazine. So it’s definitely a gray area, since there’s not much of a difference these days between blogs and traditional media — most of which are more like blogs these days.
Overall, it’s kind of ridiculous that MLB — an industry that receives billions of dollars per year — would flex their muscles to take out a bunch of podcasts that are free, generating no revenue, and providing free publicity to the sport. It’s not like MLB is hurting for money, and it’s not like podcasts are eventually going to put MLB out of business, or even take away revenue from the league.
As for our podcast, it’s still available through our hosts. We’ll be bringing that back soon for the 2014 season. We may even re-brand it as “A Podcast About the Prospects in the Minor League System of the Baseball Team Located in Pittsburgh”, just to avoid using team names.
UPDATE 2:33 PM: MLB has issued a statement to HardballTalk. They call this a mistake, although Craig Calcaterra points out that this doesn’t add up.