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Insider (June 24, 2021): Netflix hires new VP of Editorial and Publishing, Headgum hires VP of Biz Dev for Gumball, WaPo hires new Director of Audio

Netflix hires Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee as VP of Editorial and Publishing. In the role, Lee will “lead and oversee Netflix’s team focused on social media channels, podcasts and other initiatives, including the streamer’s Queue magazine,” according to Variety.

(In other news, TIL Netflix has an in-house magazine. Somewhat gimmicky as the concept might be, I’ll always appreciate a corporate magazine effort. Good night, American Way. I’ll miss you.)

Netflix’s non-film and television activities continue to be curious. Lee’s purview strikes me as being pretty clearly allocated within the company’s branding and marketing efforts, in that the works produced by the team are largely meant to further expand the company’s brand presence as well as the brand presence of its original programming in the minds of audiences. Podcasts, of course, are part of this, and as I’ve written about before, the audio shows produced by Netflix chiefly conform to this marketing framework.

But there has also been a persistent belief, at least in some corners, that Netflix is building up these alternative publishing channels into standalone media businesses in their own right. That lens has been supercharged in recent months with the reports that the company is supposedly hiring an executive to expand its efforts around video games. And when it comes to podcasts, the suspicion has been that Netflix is well-positioned to use the medium as lower-risk testing grounds to test and cultivate new IP, a la QCODE.

The reality is likely somewhere in-between: not just content marketing, but not quite a ladder into a sprawling conglomerate either. (For now, anyway.) On that note, I found this Bloomberg piece from earlier this month super useful.

Still, I have noticed that Netflix’s podcast efforts — for which it’s still hiring an executive, by the way — has gotten increasingly ambitious. The latest project I’m aware of is something called Rebel Robin: Surviving Hawkins, a fiction podcast set in the Stranger Things world that follows Robin Buckley, the character played by Maya Hawke in the third season. Hawke reprised her role in the podcast, and of particular note: the project was co-produced by Atypical Artists, Lauren Shippen’s fiction-centric podcast studio.

Anyway, something to mull over.

Headgum hires Dane Cardiel as VP of Business Development for Gumball. In case you’re unfamiliar, Gumball is the LA-based podcast company’s ad tech platform that’s dedicated to scaling up the buying and selling of the premium host-read ad — which, frankly, is a gambit I hope works out.

Cardiel joins from Simplecast, where he held the same role for the past five years as a founding member of that team, straight through to the company’s acquisition by SiriusXM last summer. At Headgum, Cardiel will lead the Podcast/Customer Acquisition Team.

For more details on the thinking around Gumball, hit up my column from November 2019.

On a related note, Cardiel was last spotted in Hot Pod walking “into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico.’”

The Washington Post names Renita Jablonski as its new Director of Audio. According to the announcement post, Jablonski joins from Spotify, where she was the editorial lead on Gimlet’s New Formats team.

That team, of course, is responsible for a range of efforts that blend the division’s audio production chops with the Spotify platform’s experimental features meant to deliver novel, possibly differentiating experiences to its users. The chief example of one such New Formats product is The Get Up, Spotify’s take on the morning drivetime show that layers together in-house talk segments with personalized music and podcast tracks within the context of a regenerating playlist. Another is Murder Ballads, the Spotify owned-and-operated take on the platform’s mixed Music+Talk format.

Before Spotify, Jablonski was a veteran staffer at NPR, where, among other things, she served as senior editor on All Things Considered for more than four years.

That mixture of news and experimental format experience should be the thing to watch. I imagine we’re due to see more of the paper getting into audio adventures that go far beyond just podcasting.

Jablonski starts at The Post on July 26. 

FYI: The Apple Podcast app continues to be… challenging. Since the June 15 issue of Hot Pod, where I groaned about the sorry state of the app post iOS 14.6 update, I’ve continued to receive a stream of complaints from readers about the thing.

Worse still, some people think it’s just them that’s been experiencing the trouble. Rest assured, folks: it’s not just you. The app has been atrocious for everybody, and even Lifehacker got a new whole blog post out of it

Reading… 

  • From Digiday: “Nielsen studies show ‘light’ listeners make up nearly half of podcast audience.” Pulling from a Nielsen webinar from earlier this month, the write-up highlights the way in which casual listeners — i.e. listening to a podcast one to three times per month — have grown as a share of overall listenership over the past pandemic year. On the one hand, this is a positive, in the sense that podcasting is growing its pie. On the other hand, it shifts a long-held trait about the medium: that people who listen tend to really love listening.
  • From the Hollywood Reporter: “Jemele Hill Launches Podcast Network With Spotify.”
  • This was linked in Brian Stelter’s newsletter last night: “Is Clubhouse already over?”, asks Digital Music News. The brief analysis hinges on the notion that people seem to be talking about it less, which, I dunno, might not be a sufficient data point. 
  • From TechCrunch: “WaitWhat raises $12M to double down on what comes after podcasts.” The phrasing of “what comes after podcasts” is unintentionally hilarious, given that what we’re seeing here is a basic intent to diversify.
  • This is cool. From The Verge: “The Airwaves of Navajo Nation.”