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Quick… Bites?

Today, the Vox Media Podcast Network is launching a new audio product called Vox Quick Hits, billed as “a daily morning podcast playlist.” The product takes the shape of a podcast feed that publishes three ten-minute episodes every day, with each installment sourced from a different subject area. Some of the episodes will be short adaptations of existing Vox Media podcasts like Today, Explained and The Weeds, while others will be material produced specifically for the feed. Examples of the latter include stuff like Vox critics doing quick dives into a new cultural thing or a reporter serving up a brief story from their beat.

Vox Quick Hits partly comes out of the company’s experience developing a Google Assistant-oriented project that was released last summer. Liz Kelly Nelson, Vox Media’s editorial director of podcasts, told me that her team was pleased with how that experiment went, and she framed Vox Quick Hits as an effort to adapt the learnings from that project for the broader podcast ecosystem.

The project also seems like a natural evolution of Recode Daily, Vox’s daily short-form tech news podcast hosted by Teddy Schleifer. That show also publishes ten-minute episodes, but it goes by a one-a-day cadence, ultimately offering an experience that comes off as a tighter, specific alternative to the existing daily news podcast conventions a la The Daily, Post Reports, What Next, and The Journal.

There’s a modularity to Vox Quick Hits’ publishing thesis, suggesting an attempt to reconcile a design tension that’s inherent in the daily news podcast format: offering choice without sacrificing the specificity of each episode experience. Nelson pitches this as a way to broaden out the feed’s appeal, as the multi-drop nature of a day’s releases cuts into the possibility of someone pulling up the podcast and not finding something they’d want to check out on any given morning.

I’m tempted to suspect there are other, more subtle managerial functions to creating Vox Quick Hits. It strikes me that the show is well positioned to serve as a testing ground for potential new podcast hosts on staff and as a way to quickly pilot new show ideas. A release valve, perhaps, for a problem I’ve been hearing more about lately in newsrooms everywhere: Lots of writers want to host their own podcast, though management only has so much real estate and resources to give. Seems like a good way for companies to manage the tension between those two things, on top of being a nifty new habit-forming experience.

You can find Vox Quick Hits here.

Tangentially… While we’re on the subject of Vox Media, a quick thought. So, another example of a thing you’d find in the Vox Quick Hits feed will be short-form adaptations of Vox Conversations, the podcast formerly known as The Ezra Klein Show, which has been reskinned and retooled since Klein left Vox Media to join the New York Times Opinion section, where he is also due to launch a new interview podcast. Now, I totally get the logic of refashioning the feed, as you’d want to maintain the subscriber base for whatever the new show is going to be. But I think there’s a net loss somewhere here: I had the disorienting experience over the weekend of wanting to revisit an old Ezra Klein Show episode over the weekend, plugging the title into my podcast app search bar, and coming up with nothing familiar — only later remembering that the entire archive is now sorted under the new Vox Conversations banner.

We’ve covered the notion of podcast preservation in this newsletter before, and I feel compelled to bring it back up: Maybe consider spinning out a new feed around The Ezra Klein Show for archival purposes?

One last thing about Vox Conversations: That show has been restructured to feature a different interviewer speaking to a guest in every episode. I’m curious to see if this will work, as one of my long-held convictions is that interview shows are all about the constant of the interviewer, and that listeners tune in for the consistency and eventual comfort of being around that person’s worldview or galaxy of preference. We’ll see if this approach works.

This also makes me think it could be interesting to build a whole interview show around a constant interviewee. Okay wow that’s so stupid, sorry, let’s move on.

(Oh, and a disclaimer: You probably know that Hot Pod is syndicated by Vulture, to which I am also a contributor, and that Vulture is owned by Vox Media, which makes this all a spaghetti bowl situation where I’m writing about a partial employer. I believe the integrity of my independence should be apparent to most, built on this newsletter’s six-year history, but you’re free to believe whatever you want to believe.)