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Hot Pod Insider

Insider: March 19, 2020

Follow-up to Coronavirus and Pods Revolving Door Axios-Pushkin daily pod... and more!

Follow-up to Coronavirus and Podcasting. First of all, I feel compelled to apologize for that monster newsletter on Tuesday. Heading into the weekend, I thought we were going to pull off a tight issue for the week, but by the time we trundled into Monday, it became pretty apparent to me that we needed to push out as much material as we could to emphasize the extraordinariness of the circumstances. The downside with that, however, is a certain unwieldiness, which I personally dislike. Hence the apology.

Second thing: there hasn’t appeared to be much reader interest in that living Google Doc experiment, which was initially intended to compile various podcast-specific resources during this Moment of Doing Things By Necessity. But I’m going to keep throwing stuff into it, I think. As an editorial resource for my own devices, I’ve found that having a designated place to mark down all the coronavirus-related podcast development that stood out to me makes for a pretty helpful exercise.

Finally: as you’ve probably already come to determine, the coronavirus story — and how it impacts just about everything — is not going anywhere soon. As such, we will very likely be running the bulk of our stories through that lens from here on out. On that note, for Tuesday’s newsletter, I’ve begun looking into what folks on the podcast advertising revenue side of things are seeing right now and how they are thinking about the future. I will, eventually, move on to explore how various podcast publishers — big or small, indie or corporate — are thinking about the next twelve months of their businesses. So, if you have something to contribute on that front, I’m all ears.

Before we move on, two related stories that stood out to me:

(1) From the Daily Beast’s Will Sommers: “A White Nationalist Has Rebranded Himself as Coronavirus Expert. And People Are Flocking to Him.”

The podcast in question was the one I referenced, without overtly naming, in my write-up of coronavirus podcasts for Vulture last week. Two things continue to stand out to me about this: first, the manner in which this is the innate cost of open publishing, and second, the thorniness of the ethical conundrum this poses for major podcast distribution platforms. On the one hand, it’s genuinely unsafe of this content type to exist on those platforms. On the other hand, is there a policy approach to content moderation that doesn’t attribute too much power to the platform, lest they be viewed as active but possibly arbitrary editors of the open podcast ecosystem?

This isn’t new territory by any stretch. The social media landscape has been grappling with infinite variations of this problem for a long time now. Podcasting has already faced a version of this problem as well back in the summer of 2018, as part of the Alex Jones deplatforming episode.

Shout-out to Will Sommers, by the way, one-time Hot Pod contributor. The guy is outstanding on his beat.

(2) From Axios’ Sara Fischer: “Coronavirus dwarfs election content online.”

Not particularly surprising, but that doesn’t take away from its significant implications for media publishers of all stripes moving forward. For now, anyway.

Three stray thoughts on this: first, it’s been said that all news podcasts are coronavirus podcasts right now, which is true and the nature of news; second, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask whether there will be, at some point, a kind of fatigue around coronavirus news or whether it will be a deep sustained anxiety-driven engagement (similar questions have been asked about the Trump coverage); and finally, I’ll be curious to see if this causes a kind of polarizing consumption effect. By this I mean, as we move deeper into this situation, will strong media appetites be strictly allocated between coronavirus material and material specifically designed for coronavirus escapism, or will interest be more spread out?

On a related note, what does this environment mean for journalistic and investigative projects that focus on non-coronavirus-related subjects?

Ears open, eyes peeled. Pair this story with Nieman Lab’s “At least coronavirus has been good for online news traffic (we’re trying to be optimistic).”

Speaking of Axios…Axios strikes a partnership with Pushkin Industries, which revolves around the development of a flagship daily news podcast for Axios. This joint venture would be Pushkin’s eleventh production and Axios’ second podcast, after the Axios Pro Rata podcast with Dan Primack, which is… uh, decidedly differently produced, let’s just say that.

Anyway, also worth noting is the fact that the upcoming production is seeking to fill four positions: an Executive Producer, a Senior Producer, an Associate Producer, and finally, a Host!Revolving Door. This week, two moves of note:

(1) Tony Phillips, formerly the VP of On-Demand Content at WNYC Studios, is heading over to Broccoli Content, where he will serve as Chief Content Officer. Phillips, who I believe is a native Brit, was also previously a commissioning editor for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

To refresh your memory, Broccoli Content is the London-based audio production studio founded by Renay Richardson, which became a joint venture with Sony Music last October. The studio was Sony Music’s first podcast investment in the UK. In February, the music conglomerate announced a partnership with Somethin’ Else, a nearly three-decade-old audio production house also based in London.

(2) Alicia Montgomery, a member of NPR’s Morning Edition leadership team, is moving over to Slate, where she will be the new Executive Producer of the audio division. At NPR, she was a Senior Supervising Editor/Producer at Morning Edition, and before that, she was the editorial director at WAMU, the public radio station that serves the Washington DC area.

With this hire, Slate is filling the position left open by Steve Lickteig, who left for MSNBC in October 2018. Those responsibilities were largely assumed by Gabriel Roth, who holds the title of Slate’s editorial director of audio. Roth’s role will remain unchanged with the addition of Montgomery.Meanwhile… From Nieman Lab: “The Dispatch surpassed $1 million in revenue by being newsletters-and-podcasts first and taking it slow.”Quick Reminder. Edison Research is holding its webinar for the Infinite Dial 2020 report in about an hour. We’ll do a quick thing in tomorrow’s Insider, and then do a slightly longer thing for next Tuesday’s newsletter.