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Insider October 7, 2022 — We don’t need 100K new songs a day

Spotify takes steps to moderate its ever-increasing mass of content

Yesterday was rough. Spotify axed 11 of its original shows, resulting in layoffs and reassignments (though, so far, I am only seeing news on the layoffs). I’ll have more on that story next week.

Today, Spotify gets some new content moderation tech, and NYPR gets a new CEO.

Spotify acquires content moderation firm Kinzen

On Wednesday, Spotify announced it has acquired Irish company Kinzen, which uses AI to identify harmful content. Kinzen’s tech will be used to moderate the increasing amount of content being uploaded to Spotify, particularly with the expansion of podcasts and the move into audiobooks.

“The combination of tools and expert insights is Kinzen’s unique strength that we see as essential to identifying emerging abuse trends in markets and moderating potentially dangerous content at scale,” Spotify’s head of trust and safety, Sarah Hoyle, said in a statement.

The acquisition doesn’t come as a huge shock. Spotify has worked with Kinzen since 2020 to mitigate harmful content on the platform, and it named the company to its Safety Advisory Council earlier this year. The company has been vocal about getting ahead of dangerous content as it pushes further into becoming a creator platform rather than a streamer for traditional media.

100,000 (!!) new songs are being uploaded to streamers daily

Podcasts aren’t Spotify’s only content moderation challenge. According to Music Business Worldwide, Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge said that 100,000 new tracks were being uploaded to audio streamers on a daily basis. Not to be a grouch, but I think that might be too many.

I talked on The Vergecast last week about how the glut of music content is making it more difficult for emerging artists to break out of the pack, save a fleeting moment of fame on TikTok (and that was when experts estimated it was a quaint 74,000 tracks uploaded a day — life comes at you fast!). But in addition to the problems it causes for artists and tastemakers, that’s also an enormous challenge for audio streamers.

While we often associate harmful content with podcasts, music can present a challenge as well. The ADL recently criticized Spotify for not moving quickly enough to remove violent fascist music from its platform (Spotify has since removed the identified bands). But Apple Music also had defunct pages for those artists, and YouTube had recently uploaded videos from one of the bands as well (YouTube has since removed them after Hot Pod flagged the tracks). 

It makes sense that Spotify is investing so heavily in content moderation tech. The company has the explicit goal of becoming the top destination for creators. And with 4.4 million podcasts, tens of millions of new songs added to the platform every year, and now DIY audiobooks, it’s getting there. But Spotify is not the only streamer leaning on scale — this week, Apple Music celebrated 100 million songs on the platform, “a number that will continue to grow and exponentially multiply.” Scale is all fine and well, but the more content that floods in, the more these platforms are going to need to evolve their content moderation strategies.

New York Public Radio names LaFontaine Oliver as president and CEO

LaFontaine Oliver has been appointed the new president and CEO of New York Public Radio, which is home to WNYC, WNYC Studios, WQXR, Gothamist, New Jersey Public Radio, and, of course, my patron saint Brian Lehrer. Oliver comes from WYPR in Baltimore, where he has been the president and general manager since 2019. He also serves on NPR’s board of directors.

“I am beyond excited to join the talented team at New York Public Radio,” said Oliver in a statement. “This opportunity brings together my career’s work and passion for our ever-evolving medium with one of public media’s most innovative and successful organizations. To continue that work in service of one of the most diverse communities in the country will be a true honor.”

NYPR’s previous president and CEO, Goli Sheikholeslami, left the outlet in February to run Politico. NYPR board member Cynthia King Vance has been serving as interim CEO ever since. Oliver will take the helm in January.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be back Tuesday.