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Insider January 28, 2022 — City Cast is on a roll

And Bongino gets banned

Well, damn, it’s February basically. Hope you like valentines?

Quick correction from last Friday before we get started: Spotify’s new CoComelon podcasts are not exclusive to the Spotify Premium Family plan, but they are playable on the Spotify Kids app, which is exclusive to the family plan. You’ll also find these shows on the main Spotify app.

Hot Pod Summit is almost here! Hot Pod Summit is the invite-only industry conference for the people building the future of the audio industry. It will kick off On Air Fest, the audio industry’s premier cultural festival, featuring Jad Abumrad, Chuck D, Dr. Jane Goodall, and more. Buy your tickets here.

If you’re interested in applying for an invitation to the Summit, please let us know by filling out our lottery form here. You can also indicate if you’d like to be considered for financial support. Make sure to submit your name before the lottery closes on Tuesday, February 2nd.

City Cast grows, citing existing engagement and sales

It’s been less than two years since City Cast launched, and man, am I surprised by how fast and wide it’s expanded since.

City Cast is a for-profit network of podcasts / newsletters that deliver news about select cities, meant to bolster or stand in for local outlets that may not be as robust as they used to be. The org is upfront about being owned by Graham Holdings Co. (which also owns Slate, among other companies), so I was curious to know if all its recent hiring — in eight new cities, on top of its initial five — was being funded upfront by its owner or if City Cast as a venture was actively making money.

Over email, David Plotz, City Cast’s CEO, told me that it’s both — kind of. The budget for these newest hires is entirely from Graham Holdings, but it was approved because engagement in the initial cities is high. He adds that City Cast’s existing outposts are also getting pitched ads, which bring in money even without dedicated staffers seeking it out. As Plotz says, “there are enough of those that we’re feeling confident about how much we can sell when we start making an effort,” which should start in earnest this spring, once City Cast hires its “first sales folks.”

Streaming companies — and Twitter — react to Neil Young’s removal from Spotify

After Spotify removed Neil Young’s discography from its service this week, meeting his demand to not be affiliated with a company that supports Joe Rogan, people have been making some noise. As Ashley wrote yesterday, Spotify’s trade-off still makes sense, since Rogan is a huge moneymaker for the company, but the decision to side with him over Young is giving competing companies a bit of an opening.

For one, other streaming services have taken the opportunity to promote themselves by highlighting Young’s music. SiriusXM revived its Neil Young Radio channel on-air and online, offering music and exclusive commentary from the musician, and Apple Music upped the placement of his albums in its app, with both companies ostensibly hoping that disappointed fans will turn to them. They seem to be making a play for younger listeners, too, complementing their actions with plenty of cheeky social media posts; at time of publishing, a Neil Young promo was even the pinned tweet on Apple Music’s account.

While Twitter shouldn’t be the only barometer for consumer opinion, the hashtag #DeleteSpotify has also been getting some play in recent days. As an example, among the people using it is a member of the Federation of American Scientists, who happens to have almost 700K followers. At the same time, there are also people using the hashtag to share that they’ve actually started using Spotify because of its support of Rogan or that they’ve upgraded to Premium, including one user who offered the very tactful suggestion to “[s]uck on that cancel culture wierdos” [sic].

Acast announcements: creator incubator and wide access to subscriptions

Three future podcasters will receive funding and mentoring through Acast’s new incubator, Acast Amplifier. The company will give recipients original branding and logos, production support for a handful of episodes (three, to be exact), and quite a bit more, marking the first time Acast has done something like this during its decade of operation. Applications are open until March 14th.

Also this week, all shows hosted by Acast are now able to offer paid podcast subscriptions through Acast Plus, a feature previously in beta. Alongside this announcement, the company shared findings from the initial trials, which saw average revenue increases of 25 percent. Note: Acast charges 15 percent of that revenue, plus a third-party payment-processing fee.

And other milestones for other audio companies

Yesterday, Lemonada Media reported raising $8 million in Series A funding. The company “is entering its third year of operation with a growing slate of 20 original podcasts,” according to the press release, with CEO Jessica Cordova Kramer saying that the funding will help to “not only grow our slate, but to expand our team, brand and organizational partnerships, and creator community.”

Crooked Media, now five years old, just made its first acquisitions of existing shows, Strict Scrutiny and Hot Take. Variety reports that the shows’ “production, advertising and merchandise” will now be handled within Crooked’s network and that their hosts will regularly appear on the network’s other shows.

Earlier this week, Transmitter Media gained a new production partner that it’ll stick with for the next few years: the TED Audio Collective, “cementing” a relationship that began with the show WorkLife with Adam Grant in 2017. 

And Meadowlark Media, founded by a former ESPN president, recently formed a partnership of its own and will soon begin producing Spanish-language audio content for US listeners through a partnership with the Mexican company Ocellated Media. Weirdly, neither company in this final announcement appears to have a website… but still, go team?

Dan Bongino announces he’s quitting YouTube, then gets banned anyway

After one of his videos violated YouTube’s COVID misinformation policy — a “first strike” that resulted in a week-long suspension — conservative talk-show host Dan Bongino uploaded a response to another YouTube channel he runs. In the video, Bongino called YouTube a “communist platform” and said he would no longer be posting there; given that he was already under suspension, that video led to a permanent ban. Hope he meant what he said ‘cuz that video really sealed the deal.

If you’ve been paying attention… 

  • Remember my 2021 recap about all the voice communication folks were doing? WhatsApp just keeps developing features that facilitate it: most recently, its desktop app started testing the ability to pause a recording you’ve already started capturing, then resume.
  • As a second follow-up, there is yet another celebrity-hosted rewatch podcast, this time for the show Supernatural. No offense, but I think the celebrities are… sliding in caliber. Neither of the hosts is Jared Padalecki! I only recognize Jared Padalecki!
  • And yes, I’m still watching How I Met Your Father, and in case anyone’s counting, we’re now up to three casual podcast references, with one in the first episode and two in the third. (In episode three: a young barback dips out of a shift early, claiming he needs to go record his podcast; later, a Bluetooth sex toy malfunctions and starts playing audio from the connected phone, filling the room with the voice of Michael Barbaro. The scene to end all scenes.)

MOVES

BBC Studios created the new and very long title of executive vice president and managing director of digital news and streaming, which has gone to Jennie Baird, formerly senior vice president and global head of product for News Corp (also a long title). Casey Rabin is the new head of podcast talent and experience for Amaze Media Labs, which produces both podcasts and live events. And kids podcast company Tinkercast gained two new players this week: CFO Ali Paksima, who comes from a background in business and finance and has advised Tinkercast in the past, and COO Jodi Nussbaum, who spent decades with the Sesame Workshop and has now given herself the fun LinkedIn title of “Chief Operating Tinkerer.”

That’s all for this week! Hope you’re taking care.