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Insider March 2, 2023 — Gossip sells

Normal Gossip lands at Radiotopia and Spotify ditches the heart button.

You know that feeling when you get a cool person to like something you like and then you feel cool? I finally got my best-taste friend to listen to Normal Gossip, and it feels like a win. 

Today, Normal Gossip’s new deal, Spotify’s new button, and my new segment for Vergecast.

Normal Gossip inks deal with Radiotopia

We love to see it! Normal Gossip, everyone’s favorite new-ish podcast, has cut an advertising and distribution deal with Radiotopia, the podcast collective founded by Roman Mars and PRX. Normal Gossip host Kelsey McKinney and producer Alex Sujong Laughlin announced the move at On Air Fest last weekend and released a very candid podcast episode detailing how the deal came to be.

The episode is worth a listen for its clear breakdown of how it all came together. After being rejected by the major podcast producers in 2021, the show became a prime target for the industry after it blew up. The Radiotopia deal allows McKinney and Laughlin to maintain full ownership of the show (which, according to them, was not the case with many of the other offers they got), and the show remains part of Defector. Radiotopia will sell the ads and handle marketing, which takes a big weight off a smaller outlet like Defector.  

Normal Gossip stands to benefit from Radiotopia’s support and platform, but as Nick Quah noted in his newsletter this week, it is a big get for Radiotopia. The network lost two of its biggest shows in 2021: 99% Invisible was acquired by SiriusXM, and Criminal is now part of Vox Media Podcast Network (disclosure: Vox Media owns The Verge and Hot Pod). Normal Gossip should give Radiotopia the cred it needs right now. 

Plus! The show returns on April 5th. I know I’ll be tuning in.

New YouTube chief’s priorities include podcasting

Last week at Hot Pod Summit, we had YouTube head of podcasts Kai Chuk and Google podcast product lead Steve McLendon discuss their plans for the streamer’s podcasting future. While things are still in the works, they made it clear that podcasts (both audio and video) are going to have far more support than they have previously. The biggest change will be the addition of podcasts to YouTube Music, but the hope is that users will flip back and forth between that and the flagship streamer.

I also had the opportunity to ask whether YouTube’s new leader, Neal Mohan, was on board with the plan as well. Chuk and McLendon said that he was, and a new post from him on YouTube’s blog underscores that. “One area creators are increasingly interested in is podcasting,” he wrote. “This year we’re making it even easier for creators and artists to showcase their podcasts on YouTube. New features in YouTube Studio make it easier to publish podcasts, and we’ll also start bringing both audio and video-first podcasts to the millions of people who use YouTube Music in the United States, with more regions to come.”

He also noted that “later this year, RSS integration will offer podcasters another way to upload their shows to YouTube and give our users more listening options.” I will be curious to see what that integration looks like, whether it pulls directly from RSS or will convert RSS into a standard YouTube file. If it’s the latter, and it sounds like it is, podcast creators will need to become more familiar with YouTube’s ad program, which is separate from the kind of dynamic ad insertion that’s used across all standard podcasting platforms.

Spotify replaces its heart icon with a revamped “plus” button

Spotify has ditched the heart icon and has introduced a new and improved plus icon that does double duty. When on a song or a podcast, you press the plus icon once to add it to your library and twice to add it to a specific playlist. According to my Verge colleague Emma Roth, the streamer started testing the feature last year, and the update will reach all Spotify users in the coming weeks.

Personally… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. A button is a button. I’ll figure it out, you’ll figure it out. But people really care — just look at the comments on The Verge piece! Maybe you have feelings — feel free to email me about it (but not more than once). 

How bad is misinformation in podcasting? Well, it’s not great!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Brookings’ groundbreaking study on misinformation on podcasting. The gist: there are a number of political podcasters who actively spread misinformation an alarming amount of the time. For this week’s episode of Vergecast, I interviewed the author of the study, Brookings senior data analyst Valerie Wirtschafter. I really appreciate how willing Valerie was to get in the weeds with me about her findings and the potential ramifications they have for the medium.

The study found that some of the worst offenders published false or unverified claims in as many as one out of five or one out of six episodes. And among all the podcasts studied, 70 percent had shared misinformation at least once. One question on my mind was how that compares to other types of media, like cable news and terrestrial radio. 

“Seventy percent is very high, but based on the nature of the medium, that doesn’t necessarily surprise me,” Wirtschafter said. “I still think that it is comparatively high but not so high that we’re entering this very troubling space.”

If you do listen, I would love to hear your thoughts! I think this is going to be a fruitful thread to follow as we enter another presidential election cycle (also, how the hell are we back here again?).
That’s all for today! I’ll be back tomorrow with iHeart earnings and details from Edison’s Infinite Dial report.