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Insider January 7, 2022 — Netflix Audio is in the queer

Plus, how to freak out listeners

Hello, fine fellows! This week, I talked to some folks at Netflix about a fun, queer podcast that drops on Monday. Once you eat all that up, the newsletter gets considerably scarier. We contain multitudes.

Netflix’s agenda, gay and otherwise

Ashley recently wrote about the war for our ear-ttention, and Netflix continues to do its part with the launch of a new podcast called The Gay Agenda on Monday. Before now, the division of Netflix that promotes LGBTQ+ content has largely been rallying queer pride on social media (mostly by way of clips and memes from Netflix shows), but with the company’s first queer podcast, the team will soon have a designated, longer-form place to do it.

“With the podcast, it was kind of a no-brainer because audio is such a quickly growing category,” says Gabrielle Korn, the editorial and publishing manager of Most, the Netflix subdivision that promotes the company’s queer content and is behind the new podcast. Up until now, Most’s work has existed (and attempted to address Dave Chappelle’s anti-trans comedy routine) only on Twitter and Instagram, but Korn says “we really want people to be able to interact with us as much as possible, no matter what they’re doing.”

One of Most’s larger messages is that creators should be able to be as openly queer as the characters they create or portray. You can get a sense of that goal in the occasional social media video, but short-form posts don’t fully get the message across. A podcast is the place to drive the point home. 

As Korn stated in a press release, the podcast will ideally “mak[e] it easier and more fun than ever to discover Netflix’s LGBTQ+ talent, titles, and storytelling,” but as a chatty interview podcast, The Gay Agenda is also more casual than a blue-checkmark social media account, open to guests who aren’t actively promoting a Netflix product, like the comedian Caleb Hearon or the director Natalie Morales, though both have worked with the streaming service in a professional capacity. The content of the episodes is actually skewed toward non-Netflix conversation: TV shows mentioned during a game segment are sometimes, but not always, from the Netflix catalog, and mentions of the network are limited to the credits.

Korn says she hopes the podcast’s message will benefit both creatives and those who hire them since queerness needn’t be a casual background detail in order to signal integration or progress for LGBTQ+ people. “No, no — these are queer people. This is how their queerness informed who they are and what they’ve done,” Korn says. “It can be a source of strength and joy and can help them stand out in a good way.”

When asked how Most and The Gay Agenda might mirror the company’s larger ambitions for audio, Netflix declined to comment. Still, the project, which is co-produced by the company Multitude, will be yet another thing Netflix can add to its recently announced audio hub on Spotify. The war for our ears wages on.

Luminary lives?

In a move satisfying concerns about how long a 100 percent paywalled audio company can last, Luminary has announced a forthcoming show that will be not a Luminary exclusive but a windowed exclusive that will go wide after one week. What’s interesting is that the recent Luminary show The Midnight Miracle, a true exclusive, ended up being popular and widely praised, yet this new move still leaves that setup behind.

The new podcast, The Roxane Gay Agenda, is the second show that writer Roxane Gay has had with Luminary and, um, the second show this month with that naming convention. On January 25th, episode one will debut on all platforms, and episode two will be available (and ad-free) only on Luminary’s app and Apple subscription channel. If that first episode hooks you right away, you might pay to hear the second. Or you might just wait seven days, when you can hear it for free on Pocket Casts.

That Apple Watch ad is actually really good

I know that this recent ad, using real audio from emergency calls placed from Apple Watches, has taken some flak for using fear to sell a product, but you can be mad and acknowledge how strong of an example it is for audio marketing. 

It’s a master class in tension. The ad starts with a question (“911, what’s your emergency?”), and you wait for the answer. The audio transcripts pop up quickly, one word flashing onto the screen at a time, and the background videos move in slow motion, flying over landscapes reminiscent of where the 911 callers are trapped.

Does everyone have Apple dollars? Nope. But can this still serve as inspiration for how well visual ads or posts can serve your audio? I hope.

A use case for patchy recordings

Relatedly, The Times (The Los Angeles Times’ daily news podcast) just aired an episode featuring the publication’s congressional reporter Sarah D. Wire, and it’s also a strong example of how to make the most of audio.

Wire was at the Capitol on January 6th of last year, originally on site to cover the counting of the electoral college votes; she suddenly feared for her life as the building was attacked, then she attempted to keep doing her job, pivoting to interview the congresspeople around her. Her resulting audio recordings vary in quality, with some loud and clear enough to use in place of narration in the episode of The Times. The others are somewhat muffled as Wire lay on the floor of the chambers, but they also bring value: they trigger Wire’s memory as she retells the parts of the story she’s forced to recreate, and they provide the eeriest background sounds as she does.

I think it makes a solid case for not only recording as often as possible but thinking creatively about how the recordings can be used afterward. It’s pretty common to think up workarounds for less-than-stellar audio, but amid an ocean of coverage on the anniversary of January 6th, this one really stands out.

Lil’ whispers of collaborations

Digiday ran a piece on Wednesday about forthcoming “podcast partnerships,” meant to pool production resources and reach wider audiences, similar to what Futuro Studios did with public radio stations over the past year or so. Vice Media Group, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and ViacomCBS all hinted at to-be-announced partnerships, keeping it pretty tight-lipped; predictably, when asked how these organizations and their partners will split any money their shows bring in (a good question to pose, I’ll say), only one offered a response. It was The LA Times, which will apparently do so “equitably” — and vaguely.

Circling back

  • First Acast. Then Libsyn. Now Audacy: the company has partnered with Samsung to make its catalog of podcasts automatically available on Samsung Free, the media-aggregation app on Samsung Galaxy phones. Different specs for each deal, but pretty similar overall.
  • The Obamas’ media company Higher Ground announced The Big Hit Show, another podcast that will at least start as exclusive to Spotify, in keeping with the original terms between the two companies. As Ashley reported in 2020, The Michelle Obama Podcast went wide after a few months, and Higher Ground’s other two shows can also be found elsewhere, so we’ll see.

And moving forward

Podchaser just announced its first full-time podcast librarian (I’ll have more on this later!): Norman Chella, following in the footsteps of Ma’ayan Plaut and her prior work for RadioPublic. Rob Byers, previously working on the podcasts Criminal and This is Love in a part-time capacity, will now serve as full-time technical director for the team producing these shows. And Acast’s own first, a vice president of marketing, has been found in Patrick Butkus, most recently in charge of acquisition marketing within a division of The Discovery Channel.

Toodle-oo, friends. Do something that makes you happy.