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Insider April 22, 2022 — Podcast deals, deals, deals

The ⚡️⚡️ round continues, the Spotify news never ends, and the moves won’t stop

Well, I need to issue a correction to yesterday’s newsletter. Between the time I scheduled the email, around 11:30AM ET, and the time the email fired off to your inboxes, at 12PM ET, CNN Plus went from “looks doomed” to “shutting down before even turning a month old.” I certainly did not expect the change to happen that quickly.

There were a lot of factors at play here — most notably, a new parent company that didn’t like the service’s strategy — but the network’s immediate crash also shows the limits of what big names can do. CNN Plus landed Chris Wallace, Audie Cornish, Alison Roman, Eva Longoria, and Scott Galloway, among many others worth tuning in for. But stuck inside a confusing product offering (it didn’t include CNN, for example) and competing in a crowded market, it was hard to know who should sign up or why they’d bother.

Obviously we’re talking about a video service here, but as more podcast networks consider subscription offerings, I think it’ll be worth looking at CNN Plus’ fate as a lesson for what can go wrong when your intended audience doesn’t see a coherent messaging around what you have to offer. I’m reminded of how Luminary is now refocusing around a narrower band of subjects — music, sports, and comedy — which means a potentially smaller audience but a richer product for those who’d sign up. I don’t know if the change will work, but the new messaging makes a clear argument for why someone should take a look.

Alright, on to LIGHTNING ROUND: PART ⚡️⚡️.

🎵 It’s Spotifriday again 🎵

Spotify signs an exclusive ad deal with The Fantasy Footballers. “The show is Spotify’s 17th most-popular sports podcast and Apple Podcasts’ top fantasy sports podcast, according to Chartable,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote Wednesday. The thing I find really interesting here: exclusive ad sales arrangements are usually Amazon’s domain, while Spotify has focused on getting people into its app with fully locked down exclusives. There’s one other wrinkle to the deal, which is that Fantasy Footballers will continue their Spotify Live show for three more NFL seasons. So, there’ll be something to tune into over there.

Spotify appears to be moderating search results for Joe Rogan. Nieman Lab spotted a couple things this week worth highlighting. First, Spotify has started sharing that it may “[restrict] content’s discoverability” when it’s problematic — but not so problematic (by Spotify’s standards, at least) that it warrants outright removal.

This is a good policy and something YouTube has done for a long time — though I want to call out that, at the end of the day, Spotify has full control over what stays and goes, and what it says in these rules doesn’t really matter. Spotify later told Nieman Lab that the policy isn’t new but that it’s just now starting to publicize it.

That being said… we may now be seeing the policy in action. Nieman Lab did some searches for Rogan content, and the results suggested that Spotify is hiding his episodes on vaccines from some search results and instead lifting up other shows. (Rogan’s vaccine skepticism has continued as recently as last week.) I look forward to hearing Rogan’s response on JRE.

Riverside partners with Spotify to distribute video podcasts. This was part of yesterday’s news that Spotify is opening up video podcast uploads far more widely. Riverside’s service allows for remote recording of video podcasts, capturing separate local tracks for audio and video from each speaker.

Deals, deals, deals

SiriusXM lands exclusive ad deal with Critical Role; Stitcher to distribute. The Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying podcast has “millions of fans across the globe,” SiriusXM writes.

The TED Talks Daily podcast will launch subscriptions through Supercast. Subscribers will get ad-free episodes they can listen to across platforms. Supercast says its “top 10 podcasters gross more than $12 million per year from podcast subscriptions.”

Adweek is launching Adweek Podcast Network in partnership with Acast. The network is starting off with five new shows, four existing Adweek shows, and three other shows being brought into the fold. “Acast will host and distribute the network” across all platforms, and “Acast will also monetize the podcasts.”

Acast also added a couple new comedy shows to its Creator Network this month. That includes Canadian Politics Is Boring and Berning In Hell. In both cases, Acast will handle distribution and ad sales and offer dynamic ad insertion.

TuneIn Premium is now available on Alexa devices. The service, which adds sports broadcasts on top of its free radio broadcast offerings, is being offered with a three-month trial in partnership with Amazon.

iHeart plans to triple its branded podcast lineup. By the end of the year, iHeart intends to go from 10 to 30 shows, according to Adweek. iHeart’s branded podcast studio “launched in 2018 and now has about a dozen staffers,” Adweek writes.

Marvel and SiriusXM launched a Squirrel Girl show. The first episode is already available.

And in talent news

Audible has a stacked lineup for The Big Lie, which is not an election fraud show but a series about a movie production being investigated during the 1950s Red Scare. Audible says the “cinematic seven-part audio drama” will star Jon Hamm, Kate Mara, John Slattery, and Bradley Whitford, among other familiar names. I know I wrote a whole thing up top about being wary of the draw of big names, but… that’s a pretty good list.

PJ Vogt returns to podcasting with Crypto Island, which is already planning a TV spinoff. Nick has a big writeup on this over at Vulture that I’d encourage you to check out if you’re interested.


Jonathan Peck has joined PRX as senior director of broadcast and podcast marketing. Peck joins from WAMU, where he was the director of station relations and audience development.

Kelly McEvers is stepping back from NPR’s Embedded to launch a new podcast production company. She’ll still appear on the show in a more limited role.

Steven Shanks and Michael Kropko are now co-CEOs at Ad Results Media, with the company’s prior CEO, Marshall Williams, stepping into a chairman role. Shanks served as ARM’s chief revenue officer, and Kropko served as ARM’s chief operations officer.

Linda Byrd is retiring from her role as division president for iHeartMedia Florida. She’ll transition into an advisory role this summer.

Josh Topolsky is starting a podcast with iHeart and Ninth Planet Audio called I’ve Seen the Future. It’s one of the first projects he’ll launch after leaving his role this month as a chief content officer at BDG, where he worked with outlets including Gawker and Input. (Bit of disclosure here: Topolsky was a co-founder of The Verge, which runs this newsletter.)

Speaking of The VergeDavid Pierce joined The Verge this week as editor-at-large and co-host of The Vergecast. He joins from Protocol, where he was editorial director and worked on Source Code, the site’s flagship newsletter and podcast. Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel said Pierce will be part of our team’s work to “expand the show with more episodes, more special series, and more guest appearances from inside and outside The Verge.” (Disclosure: um, obviously on this one.)

That was a long one! Thanks for reading along, and get ready for some fun changes starting next week!