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Insider July 8, 2022 — Bannon goes after Rogan

Plus, why radio is still a bastion for right-wing conspiracy theories

Gonna keep the intro short because it’s a summer Friday. I hope you all have fun plans for the weekend. I am seeing Bikini Kill tonight and will be back Tuesday if I do not in fact ascend to Nirvana.

Today, Bannon sees Rogan as a nemesis (though I doubt Rogan thinks the same), Netflix ups its audio game, and apparently we are all underestimating right-wing talk radio.

Rogan snubs Trump, and Bannon smells blood in the water

DeSantis fan Joe Rogan made waves earlier this week when he said on Lex Fridman’s podcast that he will not have former President Donald Trump on the show. “I’m not a Trump supporter in any way, shape, or form,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to have him on my show more than once. I’ve said no, every time. I don’t want to help him. I’m not interested in helping him.”

It was a surprising statement from someone who has been willing to host conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his show multiple times, and Trump fans were not thrilled. On Wednesday, Steve Bannon took the opportunity to slam Rogan (and his Spotify “blood money”) on his own podcast, Bannon’s War Room. “No offense. He doesn’t need your platform. He doesn’t need your low-information voters. Trump deals with high-information people. Your audience couldn’t handle War Room — couldn’t follow it,” he said.

Bannon has an interest in going after Rogan. Rogan has the undisputed top podcast in the world, while War Room has been banned from YouTube and Spotify, the two biggest podcast platforms (it is still available on Apple Podcasts, where it ranks at number 62). He still has a massive audience, but a recent profile of Bannon in The Atlantic indicated there may be financial problems with his operation, in part because so few advertisers are willing to be associated with him. 

While his statements about Rogan’s “low-information” audience might seem to be pure insult, it looks like classic negging to me (he would!). Bannon is daring Rogan listeners who may be put off by his stance on Trump to switch over to his side. If the past is any indication, nothing Rogan does will eat into his numbers, but it’s possible Bannon has used this moment to pick up steam himself.

Bannon’s move is also an indication of how conservative political podcasting functions versus left-wing shows. According to Sounds Profitable’s creators report, Republicans make up a measly 17 percent of all podcasters. But if you look at the charts, conservative shows hosted by the likes of Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino chart insanely well. There is definitely a sizeable conservative podcast audience, but they tend to be consolidated among a handful of shows. Rogan is not exactly a conservative host, but part of his gonzo numbers is due to the fact that he has successfully been able to hold onto listeners across the political spectrum. Bannon is fighting for those that sit on the right end of that spectrum. 

For right-wing election conspiracy theorists, radio is still king

While there has been a lot of focus on audio streamers’ responsibility in moderating misinformation, The New York Times reported surprising findings that talk radio is still one of the biggest outlets for false election fraud claims. Data analyzed by Critical Mention found 5,000 claims along the lines of “Democrats cheating” on radio so far this year, compared to a couple hundred mentions each on podcasts and television shows. 

The article lists a few reasons why radio is such a bastion for unmitigated election fraud claims. Thanks to big syndicators like Premiere Networks and Salem Radio Network, one host’s false claim can quickly spread to hundreds of markets. And unlike podcasts and videos, which can be streamed over and over, false statements on radio have to be caught in the moment, making it extremely difficult to moderate. Plus, radio hosts can engage false claims from listeners who call in without actually bringing it to the table themselves.

I really recommend giving the article a read. It’s a look at a side of a less-buzzy but still critical slice of media that rarely gets much attention.

Spotify and Apple lagged in taking down Highland Park shooting suspect’s albums

Robert Crimo III, the 21-year-old man charged with killing seven people at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Illinois, distributed multiple albums and singles on Spotify and Apple Music under a rap alias. While social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter quickly took down his profiles after his identity as a person of interest in the shooting became public, Jake reported for The Verge that Spotify and Apple left his music up well into the night of July Fourth.

The tracks had been pulled down as of midnight, but the lag points to the changing nature of audio streamers. While most users may turn to Spotify or Apple to listen to established artists and podcasts, the barrier to entry for audio creators has never been lower, thanks to DIY music and podcast distribution tools. Spotify, in particular, is banking on creator growth for the future of its business, but that influx of content also means that it (and other audio streamers) needs to start thinking more like social platforms in terms of content moderation.

To its credit, Spotify has taken steps of late to do just that, updating its content guidelines and forming a Safety Advisory Council. The company also told Jake that it worked with Crimo’s distributor to have the music removed, which sounds like it could have delayed the process (Apple did not respond as to whether it had to follow a similar protocol). I wonder if this incident will compel executives at the streamers to figure out how to respond more quickly to similar situations going forward.

Netflix introduces spatial audio for some of its top shows

Netflix is partnering with Sennheiser to replicate the kind of surround-sound experience you would get at the movies. The streamer is using Sennheiser’s AMBEO 2-Channel Spatial Audio to translate surround sound or Dolby Atmos audio mixes into theoretically more immersive-sounding two-channel tracks for viewers who have stereo systems. The new audio capability is available on 27 of Netflix’s titles, including Stranger Things, The Witcher, and Red Notice. The streamer will add spatial audio to more titles, which will pop up if you put “spatial audio” into the search bar.

See you all next week!