Skip to contents
Hot Pod Insider

Insider (May 28, 2021): Bob Garfield already has a next thing, Spotify’s take on drivetime radio, Alternate uses of Apple Podcast Subscriptions

Well, that was quick. About a week following his termination from New York Public Radio for “a pattern of behavior that violated NYPR’s anti-bullying policy,” Bob Garfield has made his next move public: something called Booksmart Studios, described as “a series of podcasts that, together over time, will help explain us to us.” Not much to go on, but in his tweet on the matter, he noted that one of the shows will be an “interview&commentary show on media, politics, society and culture” (sic).

Again, not much to go on, but worth noting are his collaborators on Booksmart Studios: John McWhorter, the Columbia University linguist (and departing host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley), and Amna Khalid, a history professor from Carleton College. By way of orienting the three as a cohort, I suppose it’s worth noting that McWhorter and Khalid have espoused positions that some would argue run counter to… well, what’s pejoratively called “woke” culture.

Anyway, the new venture was announced on Substack, natch.

Two Spotify things. Firstly, this job posting stood out to me:

Spotify is launching a new daily show based in Los Angeles, publishing on weekday afternoons. This show will mix music and talk segments, in a modern take on afternoon drivetime radio. We are assembling a new production team to develop and launch a show that focuses on music, news of the day, and pop culture. This production will work under the direction of Gimlet’s New Formats team. 

Three concepts rattling around in my head reading this: Spotify’s Music + Talk format, Your Daily Drive, and Car Thing. Might expand upon this on Tuesday, if I somehow muster an original thought between now and then — the odds of which, frankly, aren’t looking all that good right now.

Secondly, earlier this week, the company announced a new program that it describes as being dedicated to identifying and supporting up-and-coming artists. Spotify frames the effort as building upon the work it’s been doing with its Fresh Finds playlist — in fact, the program will carry the same name — and that it will involve selecting artists in the program and providing them access to “one-on-one mentorship with members of Spotify and a personalized Masterclass to learn how to best use Spotify for Artists tools (like Canvas and Marquee).”

With the caveat that there’s a considerable slice of the audio community that’s generally skeptical of these kinds of platform efforts, I find this non-podcast effort somewhat interesting, in that it feels to me like a minor adaptation of some tiny portion of A&R work. In any case, my head made a small connection to podcast stuff: one could argue that they do a similar version of this with podcasting via the Sound Up program.

Alternative Subs. If I was a particularly craven headline writer, I’d pitch this item as something along the lines of: “The Real Opportunity with Apple Podcast Subscriptions Doesn’t Actually Have To Do With Podcasts.” Or something like that. I hate writing headlines.

Anyway, I won’t go so far as to make that claim just yet, but I do think there’s something interesting going on with respect to companies that aren’t podcast publishers exploring the possibilities of what can be built using the newly rolled-out Apple Podcast Subscriptions (a.k.a. “Channels”) infrastructure.

Two in particular that stood out to me over the past week: Headspace, the meditation app that I’ve previously written about as a solid model for anybody thinking about a subscription-first audio business, and Blinkist, the… well, what’s the best way to describe them? They’re basically CliffNotes: The App, in that they deliver to users itemized summaries of nonfiction books.

Anyway, take a look at how Headspace describes its Channels offering:

Headspace Studios, the multi-platform content studio from Headspace, announced today the launch of a new Headspace Channel on Apple Podcasts. Access to the channel is set to be free for Apple subscribers, with an additional $3.99 a month Sleep Subscription available as an add-on — featuring 10 meditations exclusive to Apple Podcasts, as well as sleep music, wind downs, and ‘Sleepcasts,’ audio content designed specifically to create the right conditions for healthy, restful sleep.

And here’s how Blinkist describes its own Podcast Channels offering:

Blinkist, the ideas app that inspires people to learn and grow is collaborating with Apple later this month to make Blinkist’s innovative new format Shortcasts available through Apple Podcast Subscriptions… This channel will launch with 12 different Shortcasts, spanning a variety of themes. Listeners can learn about productivity from Erik Fisher in the Shortcast to “Beyond the To-Do List”, get to grips with emotional wellbeing and mental health with Natalie Lue’s in the Shortcast to “The Baggage Reclaim Sessions,” understand goal-setting and creative entrepreneurship with Emily Thompson’s Shortcast to “Being Boss”, get healing nutritional advice from Dr. Rupy Aujla in the Shortcast to “The Doctor’s Kitchen,” and much more. 

The hook that initially drew my attention here is the fact that both Headspace and Blinkist were originally app-first businesses that primarily operated under the terms of the App Store. Also interesting: the fact that the Headspace app will continue to be subjected to the App Store’s 30% revenue cut in perpetuity, while the Headspace Podcast Subscription Channel would get some more return when the subscription tool’s 30% cut drops down to 15% after the first year.

I’m spotlighting this mostly to advance the idea that there’s a ton of different ways that we can think about new businesses being built on this infrastructure that’s mostly been talked about as being podcast publishers. A related notion to consider: the bulk of podcast listeners might need considerable acculturation to internalize the idea of paying for a podcast, but what if the product being sold isn’t spiritually a podcast?

Miscellaneous Notes.

From Deadline: “SmartLess, the podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett, has signed with CAA.” I mean, no surprise here. Bateman switched from UTA to CAA in 2010, and Arnett signed with the agency in 2007.

From the Verge: “You can join Twitter’s Clubhouse-like Spaces rooms from a browser starting Wednesday.” Join… but not host.

From SiriusXM: “SiriusXM partners with TikTok on a new music channel, Pandora Playlists and more.” How do you do, fellow kids.

From the Wall Street Journal: “Rush Limbaugh’s Radio Show to Be Taken Over by Clay Travis and Buck Sexton.” This comes, of course, on top of Dan Bongino being slotted into Limbaugh’s hour in some markets as well.