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Insider October 22, 2021 — Facebook drops hints about podcasts

And Amazon beats Spotify at something

Happy Friday. And ooh, happy almost Halloween. All of the news today has creepy keywords — “cryptic,” “crooked,” “horror” — and I didn’t even try. Which is weird because I always try when it comes to Halloween.

A cryptic podcast update from Facebook

On Wednesday, two Facebook employees were on the New Media Show podcast to discuss what the heck Facebook is doing with podcasts. They offered a whole lot of nothingness, but they were clear that one thing was on the horizon: monetization.

What they were unclear about was if they meant monetization for podcasters or monetization for Facebook. If it’s the latter, one way Facebook could do that is by becoming a podcast-hosting service, since it’s currently just a place to direct RSS feeds from external podcast-hosting companies — like the companies that employ the two hosts of New Media Show. Rob Greenlee is VP of Libsyn, and Todd Cochrane founded Blubrry Podcasting, and the two playfully pleaded that the Facebook reps not move into the space that their companies currently occupy because it might cost them their jobs… then they all moved on. 

One of the Facebook employees did say that the company didn’t have any plans in place to host, but IDK, it could very well still happen — especially since they also said that, hypothetically, they want Facebook’s efforts to power not only show discovery and user-to-user connection but the monetization of podcasts, “which can also be the hosting” of podcasts. Hmmm.

Other than those dramatics, the discussion was mostly a rundown of current capabilities for Podcasting on Facebook. Here are a few:

  • Even though only people in the US can currently listen to podcasts on Facebook, anyone in the world can upload them
  • You can’t natively play an episode within a newsfeed post (but might be able to soon)
  • Same goes for Facebook ads — as of now, you’re apparently not able to buy an ad that’s specifically linked to your podcast

Crooked Media’s straight-up growth

Remember when Biden got elected, and people thought all US government watchdogs would cease to exist? Yeah, lol. Crooked Media, primarily a podcast company, definitely escaped that fate, according to an Axios article from Tuesday. The company’s staff reportedly grew by 75% since the start of the pandemic.

Crooked Media made its name dissecting Trump’s actions and policies, as well as rallying people to get civically engaged. (As a refresher, its founders worked for the Obama administration and named the company after Trump’s insult of choice for Hillary Clinton.) The US continues to have/create massive problems and conflicts, which is good for these guys if literally nothing else.

The Axios piece reminds us that Crooked “has never taken any outside funding, [and it] makes its money from ads, touring, merchandise, and licensing its franchises for streaming shows.” Co-founder Jon Favreau took the opportunity to insist that they’re very much on top of the licensing part. Their co-produced podcast Wind of Change has been licensed to Hulu, and he hinted that another show of theirs, Keep It, may soon be adapted for TV, too. Signing such deals was a big reason for Crooked to hire Sarah Geismer as creative development and production in 2019 since she was formerly an executive for Netflix.

Amazon extends spatial audio capabilities to all headphones

Amazon Music has officially caught up with Apple in offering this enhanced listening experience, and that means it’s pulled ahead of Spotify, which announced plans to integrate the tech but hasn’t yet done it.

Before now (and starting in 2019), if you wanted to listen to something on Amazon Music that was recorded with spatial audio, you could only do it on certain devices, like an Echo Studio speaker. Now, if Amazon has a spatial-audio track, you’ll be able to listen to it on “whatever pair of headphones you’ve got,” as our buddy Chris Welch put it.

Oh, but here’s the catch — you have to be an Amazon Music Unlimited customer. That’s $9.99 per month or $7.99 per month if you already have Prime. When I first found that there was an additional, paywalled tier of music on Amazon that wasn’t included if you already paid for Prime, I actually lit something on fire. No I didn’t. But still. How dare you?

Another movie-length podcast coming your way

In April, the studio Two-Up described Shipworm as a “first of its kind feature-length audio movie” — and the audio-horror feature Treat, from Cadence13, appears to be the second of that kind? I’m sure someone somewhere has tried this concept before, but the internet has a way of swallowing the smaller things. Anyway, Treat debuts on Monday, and it’s part of a slate of several movie-length audio projects that Cadence13 announced back in February. 

It also stars Kiernan Shipka, who Ashley tells me was in Mad Men? Maybe I should’ve known that, but I don’t do stressful entertainment. Relatedly, I wish I hadn’t listened to this trailer while eating lunch! Being scared ranks low on Aria’s favorite things! Also, I have a feeling this will eventually get turned into a movie, the way Homecoming was turned into a TV show. Why not wreck it like that? Why not wreck me like that?

Let’s immediately change topics.


  • Melissa Harris-Perry, interim host of the public-radio news show The Takeaway, is now permanent host. She’ll also serve as managing editor of the show, which is a collaboration between PRX, WNYC Studios, and WGBH in Boston.
  • On the PRX thread, two of its staffers have moved into newly created roles. Julie Shapiro — executive producer of the show Ear Hustle and former executive producer of the Radiotopia network, which PRX runs — will become vice president of editorial for both PRX and Radiotopia while continuing to hold down her Ear Hustle role. Audrey Mardavich, who’s worked at PRX for 10 years and held various roles before now, will become senior director of content for Radiotopia.
  • Annnnnnnnddddddd QCODE got a new VP of Sales, Mike MacDonald, according to this very polished tweet.

Was hammering something yesterday, and my neighbor opened their door because they thought someone was knocking. Felt like God. Anyway, hope you do something cool this weekend.