One in, one out. David Axelrod has announced on Twitter that his podcast, The Axe Files, is leaving Luminary and returning to its original home at CNN Audio. “My thanks to my friends at Luminary for a great experience and exposure to this grand, new rising platform,” he said, but offered no further explanation for the move beyond noting that the show would now be “available for free wherever you get your podcasts”.
The Axe Files is a co-production with the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, where Axelrod is director. He’s also a senior political analyst for CNN, which presumably informs this move in part. The show was on the first slate to be announced when Luminary launched last April; it’s now the first to move off the subscription app and back to an unpaywalled distribution model. This is obviously going to be a big year for political podcasts, and it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine why a show in this genre prefers to be openly available during a presidential nomination and election campaign.
The door revolves, though, and Luminary is also adding a new show in the form of The Black List Podcast, according to Deadline. It’s a spin off of Hollywood institution The Black List, the annual survey of the “most liked” screenplays that haven’t yet been produced. The podcast looks to be a partial continuation of The Black List Table Reads, which ran until 2017. This new incarnation is co-hosted by Black List founder Franklin Leonard and Kate Hagen, and will feature “unproduced scripts as contemporary radio plays” as well as interviews. It’s slated to drop in March.
Take a pause. I missed this one over the festive period, but: Spotify has announced that it is suspending political advertising early this year on its ad-supported tier and its original and exclusive podcasts, saying that it doesn’t have the resources to properly vet such ads. This only applies in the US, since that’s the only territory where political ads have run on Spotify to date — Bernie Sanders and the RNC among others have previously bought spots on the streaming service.
I do wonder, though, what the position would be on a campaign podcast such as the one Hillary Clinton made with Pineapple Street Media in 2016. As Nick pointed out at the time, that was a kind of branded political podcast, and I’m not sure where that would sit in 2020, given platforms’ more watchful attitude to political communication.
Spotify is just the latest tech giant to grapple with this issue as the US election campaign hots up. Twitter announced back in October that it was permanently banning all political advertising, while on 6 January Google implemented a ban on targeting ads based on voter record or political affiliation, although aiming ads at a specific demographic or location is still permitted. Facebook, meanwhile, is doubling down on its position of allowing political ads, citing beefed up transparency measures around microtargeting.
Daily dose. Bloomberg reports on rumours that Spotify is working on several original daily sports podcasts, which could start dropping soon. This seems plausible given that they hired Amy Hudson, most recently the sports media partnerships lead at Facebook, to oversee its sports programming back in September.
Platform wars. Sonos, purveyors of wireless home sound systems and regular podcast advertiser, has filed two lawsuits against Google over an aspect of its speaker design. It’s alleging patent infringement on tech for syncing a group of speakers over a local network, an important aspect of smart speaker systems. Google deny all the allegations.
So far, so typical as a smaller company fights to defend its business against tech giants on multiple fronts. What caught my eye about this story in particular, though, was the segment in this New York Times write up about how voice assistants from rival companies (ie Google and Amazon) had fought a kind of proxy war ahead of this litigation. Sonos had planned to offer users the ability to use multiple assistants at once on its devices, as a way of staying competitive against proprietary devices. This triggered a whole different set of disputes and negotiations, which eventually led to this legal action. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this.
Translation station. I’ve been following developments with podcasting in India with great interest, since it’s a huge market and big players like Spotify and Audible have been maneuvering there a good bit recently. Now, one of the largest Hindi podcasting providers, aawaz.com, has launched a new service in English. There are ten original shows to begin with, and more will be added in coming weeks. Although Hindi is the biggest language in the country, English is still a de facto lingua franca there, and of course also increases Indian podcasters’ ability to attract an international audience.
Award season. I was intrigued to note from this little item in the Hollywood Reporter that columnist Scott Feinberg seems to consider that successful podcast appearances can be a helpful part of a film’s awards season campaign, giving as an example Greta Gerwig’s recent appearance on the DGA’s podcast, The Director’s Cut. I guess it’s not unreasonable to presume that Academy voters and similar would be listening to industry-focused shows, and that a memorable interview could make an impression.