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Insider: April 16, 2021 — Amazon (Un)Originals in India, New Pods, and Life Imitating True Crime


The Los Angeles Times is stepping into the daily news pod mosh pit,

Digiday reportsThe Times: Daily News from the L.A. TimesThe Bay

Warner Music Group and Spotify have entered into a production partnership, reports Variety, that will see the two companies “develop a series of original podcasts built around WMG’s extensive and diverse artists’ and songwriters’ catalogs.” Given Spotify’s eagerness to show off the Music-Talk Mixed Format, there likely more potential returns here for the Swedish streaming platform than the music conglomerate.

Apple Music tells artists it pays a penny per stream, according to a letter reviewed and written up by the Wall Street Journal. The report continues: “The disclosure, made in a letter to artists delivered Friday via the service’s artist dashboard and sent to labels and publishers, is part of a growing effort by music-streaming services to show they are artist-friendly. For Apple, it can be seen as a riposte to Spotify Technology SA, which last month shared some details of how it pays the music industry for streams on its service.” The Spotify messaging mentioned refers to its “Loud & Clear” initiative rolled out last month, which sought to provide further clarity around the (rather convoluted) way money is doled out when music is streamed on its platform.

Arcade Mindfulness. From Pitchfork: “Arcade Fire Share New 45-Minute Song for Headspace Meditation App.” Longtime readers will know I’ve long been fascinated by Headspace… but even this is far weirder than I was expecting. On a separate note: Funeral is one of the best beginning-to-end album experiences of all time.

Interview Watch. I’ve been overflowing with praise for The Ezra Klein Show lately — for this, I feel compelled to apologize, even though I stand by the advocacy — but his recent interview with the sociologist and writer Tressie McMillan Cottom is packed with ideas that I find incredibly useful to think about with respect to the media universe in general and the podcast world in specific. In particular, the idea of “thick conversation” and how it clashes with scale, and the notion that one can be a microcelebrity in some digital space while not actually having the opportunity to translate that celebrity into any form of power or capital anywhere else. Do check out the interview in full if you have the time, but here’s a link to the transcript just in case.

Data Watch. New study on linear radio listening by NPR and Edison Research: “Although often eclipsed in the media by other audio platforms, AM/FM radio commands 41% of all time spent listening to audio by those in the U.S. age 18+. Even with the growth in available online audio and other options, this new research finds that 33% of AM/FM radio listeners say the platform is becoming a more important part of their lives.” Key chunk from the methods section: the study is “based on a national online survey of 1,500 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted January 13-21, 2021. All respondents reported listening to AM/FM radio (traditional or streamed) in the last week.”ARIA’S NEWS

Amazon attempts to follow up Spotify’s curated expansion in India.

According to Inc42Amazon Prime Music released a slate of shows

Here’s what stands out to me: While some of the latter products are Amazon Originals — and are therefore presumably unique to that company — they seem to all be American, English-language shows (e.g., Disgraceland). The offerings don’t seem personal, and the ones that are specific to Indian locales are noted as already being “popular shows.” Which makes me wonder: What newness is Amazon actually offering its Indian listeners?

Spotify, on the other hand, appears to be pursuing an originals strategy that’s specific to the Indian market, with a new show portfolio that includes, as Inc42 staff writer Romita Majumdar notes, “Tamil talk show The RJ Balaji Podcast, Hindi comedy podcast Andar Ki Baat, psychological horror show Darr Ka Raaz, and true crime series Crime Kahaniyan.”

Majumdar also notes that Spotify “recently launched a marketing campaign in India, to popularise podcast use cases” (one of several “localisation initiatives” by the company). In that way, Spotify appears to be more intentionally reaching out to this market. The Amazon move already looked like a too-late afterthought, and its non-unique offerings may not make up for it.Middle East, North Africa gets its “first daily tech podcast.” Through a collaboration between Kerning Cultures Network and Digital Digest, listeners of the MENA region will be getting their first Arabic-language daily podcast about technology news. Kerning Cultures Network has been putting out both Arabic and English work in the six years since launching, but according to the company’s press release, this new show, Akhbar el Tech, marks the debut of a particular intersection that’s thus far been unoccupied.

A company rep noted that Kerning already publishes a newsletter as well as breaking news via Telegram and Whatsapp, making Akhbar el Tech a “a seamless addition” to existing offerings. The show will be hosted by Farah Nakouzi, co-founder of project partner Digital Digest.Conan O’Brien’s “new” “call-in” “podcast.”Conan O’Brien’s special podcast project that launched yesterday feels like… Clubhouse? But as a podcast? Have we come full circle yet? Really, Conan O’Brien Needs A Fan, a weekly show where listeners ask questions over Zoom, is a replica of a talk radio show, but, considering how Nick queried in March if social audio would kill talk radio, the distinctions are negligible. This is like talk radio, or it’s like Clubhouse. Either way, it uses a lot of words to disguise a use of one platform that’s already been done on another platform. And as if this format wasn’t already redundant, Conan O’Brien Needs A Fan is actually meant to be a companion podcast to another show of Conan’s, with more or less the same premise, if not the same guests: Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend.True crime podcast leads to arrests. After 24 years, arrests were made in an ongoing missing-person case in south-central California, partly due to a podcast about the victim in question. Kristin Smart, a student at California Polytechnic State University, disappeared in 1996, and Chris Lambert, a local freelance reporter, started doing his own research over two decades later, when the investigation, dragging on because of a lack of physical evidence, came on his radar. He launched the resulting podcast, Your Own Backyard, in 2019.

One of the men arrested, Paul Flores (the other was his father, Ruben), had already been a person of interest in the case, but acquiring additional information specifically over the past two years allowed investigators to search the Flores’ homes, receive a court order to surveil digital communication, turn up more evidence, and upgrade Paul Flores to a “prime suspect,” whom they could subsequently arrest. The new movement on the case isn’t necessarily because Lambert discovered something himself but because, as more people found out about the story through his show, the reach appears to have included people previously unfamiliar with the case or unaware that something they knew could aid the investigation.

Some (tabloidy) coverage of the story mentions the podcast; some doesn’t, and the press release from the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s office doesn’t, either. But local reporting that gives a glimpse of Wednesday’s in-person press conference quotes Sheriff Ian Parkinson as saying Lambert “took a local story and generated it internationally” and that “it did produce some information that I believe was useful”; also mentioned is that Smart’s family thanked Lambert in a statement for his “exceptional skills, indefatigable work and unselfish dedication.” During arraignment proceedings yesterday morning, the defense requested (and received) both a schedule extension and a protective order prohibiting involved parties from discussing the case with the public. The process will resume on Monday, meaning that after 24 years, the wait continues.Revolving Door. Got a new job? Tell me — would love to Let The People Know.