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Insider June 23, 2022 — I’ll have a coffee with a side of existential dread

Crooked Media launches a coffee brand, Acast partners with Facebook, and an NFT is now a podcast host.

I know I’ve said this before, but working crazy hours in broadcast news forms some weird habits. Aside from my love of recap podcasts, I also got a taste for absolutely everything Starbucks. It was the only thing open at 30 Rock at 7AM on a Sunday, and I, not previously a regular coffee drinker, got hooked. Seven years later, I still find the bacon, egg, and gouda breakfast sandwich oddly comforting (a predilection my husband finds absolutely disgusting), and my body simply cannot function without Starbucks iced coffee.

Let me be clear: this is not an endorsement of the product for other people. It definitely does not taste as good as some of the fancier coffees at Blue Bottle or La Colombe, and it could truly be made out of rocket fuel, I don’t know. But people have deeply personal and often illogical reasons for choosing their signature brew, so why not throw on some podcast branding? Crooked Media is betting that at least a fraction of its millions of listeners will pony up $19 a bag for coffee that is ideologically (and hopefully literally) palatable.

Plus, Acast and Facebook partner on a community feature, Spotify and Clubhouse test more social options, and NFTs get into podcasting.

Crooked Media now selling branded coffee as fans mull impending doom

I guess those Obama boys really know their audience. Crooked Media, the podcast network behind hit political shows like Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It, has launched a coffee brand for its deeply anxious liberal listeners. The new brand has two varieties, What a Morning in dark and medium roasts, and it doesn’t come cheap. At $19 for a 12 oz. bag, What a Morning is 73 percent more expensive than my Starbucks french roast and 36 percent pricer than a similarly ominous coffee brand by David Lynch (which is sold at Whole Foods). 

Crooked Media was founded by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor in 2017 and became one of the biggest political podcast brands during the Trump years. In March, the network signed an ad rep and distribution deal with SiriusXM through the 2024 presidential election. The political landscape may be bleak, but at least Crooked fans can sip on tailor-made brews as they watch democracy crumble.

Acast shows’ newest perk: subscriber-only Facebook Groups

Hey all — Jake here again. I’m tapping in for the rest of the issue to talk about some fun tech items.

Podcasters who offer a premium subscription through Acast Plus will soon be able to give their listeners one more perk: access to a Facebook Group that’s only for subscribers. The tie-in is meant to give creators a way to create a fan community where they can offer additional content or engage with listeners. A lot of creators do something similar with Patreon and Discord already. I’m not immediately convinced that Facebook Groups have the same cool factor, but they do have the advantage of being on a platform most people already use.

Facebook just announced that it would allow this kind of integration — subscribe elsewhere, join a group of Facebook — earlier this week, and Acast says it’s the first podcast company to announce a partnership to support it. Acast says some podcasters are now testing the integration, which will launch to everyone using Acast Plus down the road with the specific time TBD.

Spotify and Clubhouse test more social features

Speaking of community features, two new tests out of Spotify and Clubhouse surfaced recently.

Spotify appears to be working on a mobile version of its stream that shows what your friends are listening to, as spotted by TechCrunch and Chris Messina. I don’t see any podcasts on the snippets that Messina has shared so far, but presumably, you’ll be able to see which of your friends is tuning into Call Her Daddy each week. This feature already exists on desktop, but it could be a useful new discovery option on mobile.

Clubhouse, meanwhile, is testing a new room format that lets everyone speak at once, according to Bloomberg. These are supposed to be smaller, private rooms, which will be open only to members of specific groups, which are reportedly being called “Houses.” This feels like a very different format (normal Clubhouse rooms are moderated and have a small group of speakers), and it’s almost certainly meant to re-energize interest in Clubhouse, which has seen its download numbers plummet over the last year.

iHeart actually launched a podcast hosted by NFTs

I’m so glad Ariel handed the newsletter off to me for this ludicrous item.

As promised, iHeart is spinning up a series of podcasts “hosted by” NFT characters, who are, obviously, just voiced by some folks brought on to play them. The network’s first show is called Prop Culture, and it covers TV, music, crypto, and other things in pop culture.

The show isn’t hosted by any big-name NFTs, though — no Bored Apes here. Instead, we have two Quirkies (circular alien-looking things that I hadn’t heard of before this announcement) and Loot Bag #2020 from the Loot NFT series. If you’re wondering what Loot Bag #2020 looks like, well, I’m happy to be the one to inform you that it is a black box filled with white text listing items that the titular bag contains: a Warhammer of Perfection, a Holy Chestplate of the Fox, a Bronze Ring. What can these items be used for? Nothing, really*. It is just a list of made-up fantasy gear.

Prop Culture is, at least, in on the joke of all this. “Does everything feel dumb? NFTs? Podcasts?” asks Loot Bag #2020. “We’re all those things in one … everything people hate in one convenient loathsome package.”

*Technically, people can build games around Loot’s NFTs, but my feelings about this are basically: 🙄.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with an issue written by Verge Bot #2401.