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Insider March 18, 2022 — Spotify gets its royal podcast

And how Clubhouse is staying relevant in Russia

Happy Friday, everyone. It’s supposed to be 67 degrees in New York today, and I get to close out this week’s Hot Pod, so I’m feeling pretty good. Let’s get into it.

Spotify finally gets a royal podcast

After more than a year of waiting, Spotify will get its first podcast from Archewell Audio “this summer.” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s production company signed a deal to host and produce shows for Spotify back in December 2020, but so far, that’s only resulted in a single holiday special episode — which surely is not what Spotify was hoping for.

There were plenty of rumors about the arrangement turning kind of rocky around the end of 2021 as Spotify recognized the deal’s lack of progress… and then things got even rockier in January when that whole Joe Rogan situation blew up. (Is that officially over? Over for now? Over till the next time?) In response, Archewell announced that it had raised concerns about COVID-19 misinformation spreading on Spotify.

Now the company tells me it has been meeting with Spotify’s team “as well as their senior leadership” on “policies, practices, and strategies meant to raise creator awareness, minimize the spread of misinformation, and support transparency.” They declined to share whether there were any specific changes being made on their behalf, but Archewell Audio spokesperson Toya Holness said the launch of Meghan’s first podcast comes as a result of those meetings.

There are no details yet on what the show will be about. But rumor is Gimlet is playing a role in producing the series, per a report in The Sun earlier this year.

PRX for kids — and finance nerds

A couple pieces of news out of PRX this week.

First, PRX is partnering with Sensical — a relatively new streaming service for kids — to stream a curated selection of podcasts. That includes a number of fictional series and a science podcast aimed at younger children to fit the service’s focus on the 2-10 age range. The whole thing is free to use. (One disclosure here: one of the podcasts is co-produced by Seeker, which, as of last month, is part of Vox Media and, as of this week, part of The Verge.)

Second, PRX put out its first annual report this week, offering an overview of what the nonprofit does, what successes it’s had, and where its money goes. There are lots of big stats — PRX delivered close to 67 million downloads in 2021, with shows hosted on PRX Dovetail reaching 18.7 million listeners every month last year — but the thing that stood out to me most is the breakdown of how PRX’s money is spent.

The biggest bucket of PRX’s finances, coming in at nearly half of its expenses, is a $23 million chunk spent on support for creators. PRX spokesperson David Cotrone told me that support includes helping sell sponsorships, land donations, make licensing deals, and so on. The non-profit’s second-largest bucket is $21 million on content production and distribution.

And one nice extra touch to the report: it opens with a little audio intro explaining what PRX is all about. Very fun and very on-brand.

Amazon now owns MGM

Amazon announced Thursday that it had completed its acquisition of MGM, the studio behind titles like Rocky, Legally Blonde, and Real Housewives, among others.

Am I reaching for a podcast connection here? Maybe. But I thought it was worth including nonetheless. Here’s my thinking: we know WarnerMedia / HBO have used their roster of franchises to launch podcasts — they made a Batman show, an Insecure spinoff, and, for some reason, a companion podcast for The OC  — and we know that Amazon explicitly bought MGM for its franchise potential. “The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP,” Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said when the deal was announced last May.

So is there a world where Amazon taps into those franchises to beef up its podcast library? Amazon hasn’t made any comments to this effect just yet, but I’d bet someone’s thinking about it now that all that IP is under the company’s control.

Clubhouse remains a lifeline in Russia

Input had a story this week on Russians using Clubhouse to connect with the rest of the world as their country shuts down discussion of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The good news for Clubhouse: it’s gone overlooked as other social networks, including Facebook and Instagram, have been blocked in the country, and services like TikTok have blocked uploads in response to the country’s new misinformation law that’s designed to stifle news of the war. Apparently, one room in the app has been hosting a discussion about Ukraine for two weeks nonstop.

The bad news for Clubhouse? These two sentences from the article: “The use of the app has astounded Ilya Yablokov, an academic at the University of Sheffield, U.K., who studies censorship in post-Soviet countries. ‘I had totally forgotten about [Clubhouse],’ he says.”

I’m sorry, we have to talk about NFTs for a minute

Truly, just a minute, though: Spotify has a pair of job listings up that mention Web3 (aka decentralized web technologies, aka blockchains, aka NFTs). Now, NFTs have been a lot bigger for musicians and music labels than they’ve been for podcasters, but this suggests some kind of integration could be offered down the road.

OK, we can stop thinking about that now.

MOVES

Jessica Yung is leaving Gimlet, where she’s been a producer with Reply All for four years.

And Lemonada Media has been hiring up, as spotted by PodNews. Steve Nelson has joined as VP of content and productions, and Rachel Neel has joined as senior director of new content; both were previously at NPR. Kyle Shiely is also joining Lemonada as senior producer for In the Bubble; he was at Minnesota Public Radio before this.

That’s it for this week. Aria will be with you on Tuesday.