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Insider: February 27, 2020

Crooked Media expands beyond politics. This piece of news is going out on the wire right now: the Hollywood-based progressive media company is announcing a new slate of shows that would broaden its publishing concerns beyond its core focus on politics.

There will be four new projects joining the network: a show that focuses on the biggest sports scandals in history hosted by Rachel Bonnetta and Rachna Fruchbom (Hall of Shame, out next month); a religion podcast hosted by Phillip Picardi, the former editor in chief of OUT Magazine (Unholier than Thou, out in April); a podcast from Damon Young, the founder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas (name TBD, out in May); and a limited-run series featuring Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist who endured an eighteen-month imprisonment in Iran back in 2014-2015 (Prisoner, out this summer).

Crooked Media also declared that its network has brought in over one billion downloads, in case that data point is interesting to you. As a reminder, the company was founded in early 2017.

On a related note… For Vulture, I wrote a lengthy essay that looks at election podcasts and what the 2020 presidential election cycle means for the genre. If you’ve been following the newsletter since the last elections, none of this might be new to you, but it was really fun to bring it altogether in a bid to look forward.iHeart in Australia. Ok, it’s Caroline again now. iHeartMedia has strengthened its partnership with the Australian Radio Network (ARN). The latter has this week announced the launch of the iHeartPodcast Network Australia, which comes via an agreement to use iHeart’s branding. You may remember that back in October 2019 ARN became the exclusive sales representative for Australian downloads of shows on the iHeartPodcast Network, and now ARN’s “complete audio offering” — known as Defining Audio — will be branded under the iHeart name.

ARN claims 30 million monthly impressions in Australia, including catchup for its 12 radio stations across the country as well as original podcasts. The pitch to potential advertisers is that they can run campaigns reaching Australian listeners of big iHeart shows like Stuff You Should Know and also now integrate them into ARN’s programming from homegrown talent. This is a similar arrangement to iHeart’s other ventures in Mexico, New Zealand and Canada. It’s also part of a trend we’ve been tracking for a while now, as US companies seek local partners to monetise and expand their audiences overseas — consider ART19’s recent move into South Korea, for instance, via its acquisition of BirchSound.Acast in Mexico. Acast has opened an operation in Mexico and appointed Sergio Domínguez, former Corporate Sales Director for the Publimetro newspapers, as managing director. Domínguez will be based in Mexico City, and “the mission [is] to become the region’s go-to podcast company”, according to the announcement.

We’ve covered Acast’s international strategy before — the company puts a lot of effort into being early into emerging podcasting markets, so as to tie up deals with both legacy publishers interested in monetising their podcasts and medium-sized independents that can be grown into future big hitters. The press release for this move cites a Reuters report that says “57% of the Mexican population listened to podcasts in the last month”, so it’s not hard to see why they’re opening up shop now. More details about the company’s specific commercial strategy for the region should be forthcoming next week, when it holds a seminar at AdWeek LATAM.Also from Acast:this week they’ve launched Acast Marketplace, a one-stop shop for all their advertising services. They’re claiming $40 million in advertiser spend in 2019 (an increase of 90 percent on the year before) and saying the number of brands they work with also increased by 65 percent in the same period. For now, the marketplace looks to be a consolidation of all aspects of Acast’s existing advertising business tools in one place, but more features that use AI and voice recognition are promised for the future.New podjock. Following on from my piece last week about the new Podcast Radio station started in London (which airs non stop podcast episodes, but doesn’t pay creators to use them) — they’ve announced a new on-air “podjock” in the form of Gene Baxter, former host of the morning show on KROQ in LA. Baxter will act as an announcer between podcast episodes, introducing shows and explaining to listeners the concept of the station.Awards season. The Scripps Howard Awards has published their finalists for this year, and the radio/podcast category consists of Uprooted from APM Reports, Amazon: Behind the Smiles from Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting, and A 911 Emergency from The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island. Congrats to all involved