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“Pushkin Industries,” Jacob Weisberg and Malcolm Gladwell’s audio venture, steps into the open

The Hair Returns.

The other significant narrative from the Panoply-getting-out-of-content story was the surprising announcement that Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg was leaving the organization to form a new audio company with the famous Canadian Malcolm Gladwell. In that departure, Weisberg and Gladwell would be taking the popular Revisionist History podcast, plus the piloted Broken Record project, along with them.

Broken Record officially launched earlier this week, and with that development, we know now the name of WeisbergGladwellCo: Pushkin Industries, presumably named after the early-19th century Russian man of letters Alexander Pushkin, which is a suitably Gladwellian name. Anyway, Gladwell popped up on the Bill Simmons Podcast earlier in the week as well to plug the show’s release.

As a reminder: what’s particularly interesting about Pushkin Industries on the fact that it’s being positioned less as a podcast venture and more an all-round audio venture. In the original coverage of Weisberg’s departure from the Slate Group, the line about the new company was that it was going to focus on creating “new podcasts, audiobooks and short-form audio content.” I.e. podcasts, stuff for Audible, and stuff for smart speakers.

On a related note

(1) This Recode piece on smart speakers has a nifty data point for us: “This time last year, 4 percent of National Public Radio’s live listening hours came through smart speakers. It’s now at 19 percent, according to Tamar Charney, managing director for personalization and curation at NPR.” That’s eye-catching growth, y’all. Anyway, seems to me that the main outcome that we’re seeing from the smart speaker boom is a corresponding gain by linear radio, and modest-to-middling gains by on-demand audio. That’s worth keeping an eye on. Also, as always, the tricky thing about smart speakers is the relative uncertainty we have about how Amazon, Apple, and Google’s endgames with the category will affect the positioning and autonomy of publishers on those platforms.

So, you know, stay paranoid, my friends.

(2) Did you know that Audible just rolled out in India last week? Now you do, in case you didn’t.