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Insider April 8, 2022 — Call this the MOVES edition

Spotify moves, Aria moves, and other moves

Hi, everyone. Before we dive into today’s news, I have a couple big announcements to share.

First, I’m very excited to announce that we’ve hired a new lead writer to join the Hot Pod team. Who is it? Well, consider this just a teaser: we’ll have a proper announcement next week, but I wanted to let you all know first that we’ve got something coming. They’re a fantastic fit for the newsletter, and I can’t wait for them to start later this month.

In the spirit of changes, I also have a bittersweet announcement to share: my wonderful colleague Aria Bracci has decided to step away from reporting on audio to spend more time working with audio. I’m really going to miss working with Aria — she was a bright presence in the newsletter and newsroom, and I’d encourage you all to reach out to her if you have an interest in working with her in the future. I have a note from Aria below (plus a little something to listen to).

Finally, I want to thank everyone who’s been reaching out to me with news, advice, and introductions during this transition. It’s been a great help, and it’s made filling in as your writer a true pleasure. I’ll continue writing Hot Pod for the time being, but I’m looking forward to the strong future ahead for Hot Pod ahead as we introduce a new team.

Now, a word from Aria before we get into the news.

Aria signs off

With nothing but a full heart, I’m letting you know that I’m leaving my position at Hot Pod.

Thinking about audio all the time has really made me miss making it — go figure. I’ve been producing music and making a narrative podcast that’s really important to me, and I’m going to be dedicating myself to those things for a little while — or a long while. We’ll see. Please do be in touch if you’d like to work with me! (First name last name at gmail dot com) I will indeed need to make money eventually.

As for the podcast, the premise is people calling up folks who ghosted them, laying bare the things they never talked about. It’s fun! It’s cathartic. It’s spicy in good ways. If a dating situation of yours has ever fizzled unceremoniously, and all parties would be down to revisit it on mic, you should email me. Again, that’s first name last name at gmail dot com.

This has been such a fun ride; thank you for all the sweetness and support and suggestions you’ve offered. Even though I know very little about the future, I’m excited for who’s coming next to Hot Pod and what’s coming next for me.

Alright. Now onto that stuff you came for.

The return of Spotifriday

Look, no one can stop me from using “Spotifriday” as long as I’m still writing. We’ve got three big — but relatively quick — pieces of Spotify news to go through today.

The first: the Parcast Union reached a deal with Spotify late Wednesday night. Terms of the deal will likely be shared early next week, I’m told, but first, they need to be approved by the bargaining unit. We’ll have more once details are available. But big picture, this means Spotify now has three podcast unions with locked down contracts, and it should be free from bargaining for a couple more years… as long as no one else joins in. (The usual disclosure here: the Parcast Union is organized with the Writers Guild of America, East, which I’m also part of through the Vox Media Union.)

Second, Megaphone cut off service in Russia this week, as reported by Podnews. I suppose this makes sense given the malicious law the country passed designed to stifle the spread of accurate information on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That being said, Megaphone isn’t just shutting down its service in Russia — it’s fully blocking downloads to Russian IP addresses, according to a note from the company. This seems like a somewhat more extreme step to me, and I’m uncomfortable with the idea that information available on the open web is being blocked. Megaphone says the impact shouldn’t be substantial: “There are currently very few downloads being attributed to Russian IP addresses,” the team writes.

Spotify spokesperson Erin Styles confirmed to me that the company began “notifying Russian users and partners” on Thursday that its services would be suspended starting April 11th, including Megaphone.

Third, Lydia Polgreen is leaving Gimlet after two years to return to The New York Times. Polgreen was seen as a big score for Gimlet when she joined in 2020 as managing director, coming off a three-year stint as editor-in-chief of HuffPost and nearly 15 years at the Times. She was featured in Spotify’s “Stream On” event last year to talk about the company’s podcasting efforts, and part of her goal was to “get people into the habit of listening to content on Spotify that’s not music,” Polgreen said back in 2020.

While that shift is certainly underway, Gimlet has had a bumpy path over the past couple years. Business Insider reported that Gimlets’ shows were lagging behind other Spotify series in terms of download numbers a few months after Polgreen joined in 2020, and the network very publicly struggled with diversity issues in 2021 that were brought to light during the Reply All debacle. There’s no word on who’ll be taking over at Gimlet just yet.

All the RSS’s a stage

Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network is developing two new shows to go alongside his Ron Burgundy Podcast, according to Inside Radio. And one of them has a concept that I find pretty clever: the show is called The Feed, and a cast of 10 comedians will rotate hosting duties. “You are basically launching an RSS that becomes a stage that you hand over to comedians for weeks at a time,” Conal Byrne, CEO of the iHeart Digital Audio Group, said at Podcast Movement. It’s planned to launch in June, according to the report.

More More Perfect is on the way + The Experiment shuts down

WNYC Studios announced this morning that it’s bringing back More Perfect, its much-loved podcast series that ran from 2016 to 2018 and explored the impact of the US Supreme Court. In a memo to staff, WNYC chief content officer Andrew Golis said “we’re eager and excited to bring back this timely and relevant podcast” in light of yesterday’s confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson and “what’s likely to be a dramatic period for the Court ahead.” The show is planned to relaunch in early 2023.

The show will be hosted by Julia Longoria, who worked on the series’ original run. Longoria has been hosting The Experiment, which Golis said will be ending production because “our co-producer, The Atlantic, is moving their podcast strategy in a new direction, and has decided to not continue with the partnership.” (If you know what that new direction is, I’m all ears!) Golis said the show was a “resounding success” while it was airing, hitting peak download figures in February and landing on a number of best-of lists at the end of the year.

MOVES

Serita Wesley is joining Sony Music Entertainment’s Global Podcast Division as its first head of US entertainment podcasts. Wesley, who joins from Fresh Produce Media, will “oversee the development of new shows across a range of genres, including comedy, pop culture, self-care, chat and more,” according to Sony.

Gitte Bendzulla is joining Deezer as its new COO. Bendzulla was previously the COO at the dating app company Spark Networks and is now tasked with executing Deezer’s “ambitious growth plans.”

That’s all for today — I’m excited to share more next week. Also, a quick programming note: I’m going on vacation for a week starting Wednesday, so I’ll have some fun guest columns to fill in the gap while I’m out.