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Tracking: April 6, 2021

Well this is certainly interesting. Yesterday, Clubhouse announced that it is implementing the platform’s first monetization feature: Payments, which allows users to send… well, payments, directly to creators. The tool is being rolled out in an uneven fashion; as of today, every user can send payments, but only a “small test group” can receive payments for now, so it might be a while before the whole thing opens up for everyone. (The payments, by the way, will run through Stripe, which will take a small processing fee.) Take note: The announcement also notes that Clubhouse will not be taking a cut from any payments, so TBD on the revenue front. In any case, the heat is on.

Wondery is reportedly planning to double its staff this year now that it’s under new ownership by Amazon Music, according to Variety. Jen Sargent — who took over the company’s CEO role since Hernan Lopez stepped aside to focus on his foundation, and presumably to also deal with his legal situation — told the trade publication that the company ended last year with around eighty employees.

Speaking of Amazon, Audible has hired Zola Mashariki as Head of Audible Studios, a role that oversees the development of all original content. Mashariki is a Hollywood veteran who has worked at Fox Searchlight and BET/Viacom. According to the press release, she’ll continue to be based in Los Angeles and will report to Rachel Ghiazza, EVP, Head of US Content.

Also from Variety: “Serial Box Renames Itself Realm, Launches Free Podcast Strategy.” FYI, Realm (née Serial Box) was founded in 2015 as a destination app that focused on delivering audio fiction experiences that are broken out into short installments. Over the years, it has evolved to include programming based on existing entertainment properties, including various Marvel stuff, DC stuff, and Orphan Black, and the company has principally driven revenues through a mix of subscriptions, à la carte sales, and rights sold for distribution over audiobook channels. This shift in strategy, CEO Molly Barton tells me, comes as the company sees podcast monetization evolve to a point where they’re more comfortable putting their shows out for wider distribution. She didn’t disclose monthly active users or revenues when asked, but the press release notes that the company “has had 1.3 million listeners worldwide.” Realm has about 25 employees and has backing from Graham Holdings, Forerunner Ventures, and Boat Rocker Media.

Select show notes: Comedian Tig Notaro and actress Cheryl Hines’ podcast, Tig & Cheryl: True Story, moves to ART19’s new original content division, called Misfit Toys. Meanwhile, reality star Bethenny Frankel signs a multi-year deal with iHeartMedia that will see her producing a new slate of shows for the company, plus bringing her self-titled podcast over to the network.