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Insider August 25, 2022 — Twitter is becoming a podcast app

A new hub puts podcasts and live audio in the same place

Hello from Dallas! It is very muggy here, and I have seen an alarming number of large crickets. That being said, I have really enjoyed getting to meet with some of you podcast freaks. I’m here ’til tomorrow morning, so feel free to give me a shout if you want to say hello! 

My favorite panel so far was by Sarah Rhea Werner about how her podcast very nearly became a TV show and her view into the Hollywood machine (including slides of her actual Netflix contract — bless you, Sarah). As for that Mark Cuban panel… if you skipped it, you made the right call. Pure, pure shill for Fireside, the streaming app he co-founded with Falon Fatemi (she was on the panel, too). Not the best use of half an hour, but I did get to sit and drink my iced coffee, so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Zuckerberg went on Rogan

I have not had time to listen to this three-hour conversation yet, but you can be sure The Verge folks are on it. I’ll let you know tomorrow if Zuck says anything ridiculous. At the very least, it doesn’t appear to be a repeat of the Elon interview.

Exclusive: Twitter tests new podcast hub

Twitter is officially getting into podcasts. The app will launch a test version of Twitter Spaces today that includes podcasts, letting you listen to full shows through curated playlists based on your interests. 

The redesigned Spaces tab opens with Stations, topic-based playlists combining podcast episodes pulled from RSS with Twitter’s social audio events and recordings. It functions like a Pandora station but for spoken word and is pretty different from the a la carte listening podcast consumers are used to on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Live and upcoming spaces are still in the tab further down the page. The test will roll out to a random group of users across the world, initially only in English.

The more users listen, the more tailored the audio Stations will become. But Twitter isn’t starting from square one — the company is relying on what it already knows about its users’ interests to curate the playlists. It’ll draw from the interests of people they follow, as well. “What we’re really trying to capture here is as if it’s like another user recommending you something,” Twitter senior product manager Evan Jones, who focuses on audio, told Hot Pod. 

Podcast discovery is notoriously difficult, limited either to top 100 charts, hand-picked selections on apps, or — more often than not — word of mouth. No platform has managed to crack it yet.

It’s easy to imagine the promotional possibilities around being able to share and listen to podcasts in the same app, but it’s not quite there yet. The test does not yet have a clipping capability, and listening can only happen in the Spaces tab, not on the timeline. That being said, Spaces has a clipping feature that could be applied to podcasts at some point.

Twitter and podcasts could be a fruitful fit. Twitter Spaces, which launched in 2020 on the heels of Clubhouse’s pandemic success, already gives the app a foothold in audio. Jones said that, based on company data, 45 percent of Twitter users are also monthly podcast listeners (given how news-oriented Twitter is, that makes a lot of sense). Meanwhile, data uncovered by tech sleuths earlier this year revealed that Twitter was experimenting with a podcast tab. 

That turned out to be partially true. “We were testing out different ideas,” Jones said. “As we were whittling down the stone, we came to this, but podcasts were always going to be part of Spaces.” 

Jones would not say when users can expect an official launch, but he said the final version of the feature would be influenced by how people respond to the test. If you are one of the selected guinea pigs, feel free to hit me up about your experience!

SiriusXM offers Stitcher Premium as a perk to (some) subscribers.

SiriusXM is taking a big step toward integrating Stitcher, the podcast network it bought in 2020, with its flagship product. On Wednesday, SiriusXM announced that it will bundle Stitcher Premium, a $4.99 per month subscription podcast service, with three of its membership plans. Subscribers to the in-car and app $22.99 per month Platinum plan, the app-only $10.99 per month Streaming Platinum plan, and the two-car $34.99 per month Platinum VIP plan can now get ad-free listening and early access to Stitcher shows like Office Ladies and Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

Although this is likely the biggest step the company has taken to introduce its satellite radio listeners to podcasting, it’s not the first. SiriusXM acquired Conan O’Brien’s production company, Team Coco, in May for $93 million. The deal also included a new Team Coco channel for SiriusXM. 

SiriusXM has reason to sweeten its offerings. Last month, the company reported that it lost about 445,000 subscribers in the past year, driven in part by the decline in new car sales (if you’ve noticed, when you get a new car, you often get a trial period of SiriusXM for free or at a heavily discounted price). 

George Lopez is suing Pandora, too

The heat is on. George Lopez is joining the likes of Lewis Black and the estate of Robin Williams in suing SiriusXM-owned Pandora for allegedly using his work without a proper license and without paying royalties. He is seeking $5.5 million from the streamer.

Lopez, who used the same attorney as the other plaintiffs, is working off the idea that comedy, like music, is entitled to two separate copyrights — one for the recording and one for the underlying literary work (or publishing). The combined lawsuits could cost Pandora north of $75 million if it loses and have larger consequences for the industry. Streamers have leaned on spoken-word content as a cheaper alternative to music, which is expensive, in large part, because of the copyrights and royalty requirements that come with it. You can check out the full story here and my deeper dive into the issue when Lewis Black filed suit last month.

That’s all for today! See you tomorrow, pals.