Issue 270,  published August 18, 2020

Tracking: August 18, 2020

Introducing: Vulture’s 1.5x Speed. Starting next week, I’m going to be writing a new podcast recommendation newsletter for Vulture. We’re calling it “1.5x Speed,’ and let me just say: it took quite a journey to get to that name.

This newsletter isn’t meant to replace my work writing reviews for the publication. Instead, the hope is for 1.5x Speed to serve as a supplementary space for me to talk about new and on-going show releases in a way I don’t naturally get to with Hot Pod and in a manner that’s more consistent than my show-specific pieces for Vulture. There will be some flow of information between Hot Pod and 1.5x Speed, and if all goes well, you’ll see that connective tissue expressed somewhat organically.

All of which is to say: keep sending me information about your upcoming projects. We hope that 1.5x Speed will be a better way to get more shows in front of more people who would like to hear them.

You can subscribe to 1.5x Speed through this link. The first edition will drop on August 26.

Hmm… Spotify appears to be hiring for a Head of Audio Books, based either in New York or Los Angeles.

Not to be tool about it, but called it. From my June 2019 column, “Audiobooks are not exempt“:

if I were a betting man, I’d sprinkle some action on the notion that there will come a time, not too far into the future, when Spotify might begin looking into the possibility of securing audiobook distribution rights here in the United States. After all, the audiobook category falls directly into Spotify’s underlying interests in becoming a ubiquitous, all-consuming audio platform, which would involve expanding into other on-demand audio markets — audiobooks included.

Do I get a cookie for this, or something?

Follow-up to PRX. Quick update on last week’s story on a departing PRX staffer, Palace Shaw, drawing attention to systemic racism at the organization: two other employees, Eric Dhan and Se’era Spragley Ricks, have written an open letter pushing back against CEO Kerri Hoffman’s internal memo on the matter that was publicly circulated over Medium last week.

It reads:

The letter from our CEO does not reflect the views of all staff members at PRX. It is not easy to openly disagree with the head of our company, and we write this message with no intention to “burn the house down.” We are dedicated to the values and mission at PRX; we believe in openness, trust, and empathy, and we strive to increase the diversity of voices in public media. We are committed stakeholders who care deeply about the wellbeing of our organization, and we want to do our part to hold our leadership accountable and ensure that PRX can live up to the values that drew us to work here in the first place.

The letter, which also listed named support from ten other PRX employees and affiliated individuals, also laid out a series of specific next steps that they believe should be taken to ensure necessary changes to the organizations. Those steps include: a direct apology to Shaw, the determination and distribution of back-pay to employees who have left the organization in part due to structural pay disparities, and increased transparency mechanism in the recruitment and hiring process for the new Director of Diversity and Inclusion, among others.

You can find the full letter, which was published on a Google Doc, here.

In other news…

  • The New York Times is officially relaunching the Modern Love podcast in the fall. The podcast will now be completely produced by the Times’s audio division — it was previously a co-production with WBUR, and was primarily made by the Boston public radio station — and its new iteration is said to feature a completely new sound.
  • RedCircle, a podcast monetization startup we’ve written about before, has launched an “automated ad insertion platform.” Sounds like a programmatic-ish ad exchange.
  • Spotify has partnered with C-SPAN to distribute the speeches from both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention over the platform. Also, Daily Sports playlists.
  • Spotify has also launched a new video series called The Input aimed at helping “podcasters big and small” use the platform’s tools. Unlike the recently Gimlet Academy podcast series, which focused on producing a narrative documentary series, The Input is aimed at audio makers working in any style.
  • For Vulture, I wrote about the Michelle Obama podcast.
On Servant of Pod. In tomorrow’s episode, I talk with ESPN Daily’s Pablo Torre and Eve Troeh about making a daily sports podcast when sports is… you know, super weird right now.

Some background: ESPN Daily first rolled out last October — remember October? Geez — where it was positioned as the sports media giant’s flagship podcast. That framing has always been sorta interesting to me, given that ESPN already had a fairly robust podcast portfolio to begin with, one that’s rich with a mix of popular broadcast repackages and an assortment of more interesting nichier stuff. (Shout-out to the Lowe Post, the Woj Pod, and the amazing 30 for 30 podcast team.) The introduction of ESPN Daily, then, projects a feel of going after a sense of prestige, or at least the creation of a focal point to concentrate the way people might think about ESPN’s on-demand audio machinations separate from its formidable radio presence.

There’s been some reshuffling with ESPN Daily of late. It originally launched with Mina Kimes behind the mic, but she recently left the production to serve as ESPN’s new NFL analyst, which is said to be her dream job. She was ultimately replaced by Pablo Torre, who was just coming off the cancellation of High Noon, the afternoon sports talk show he hosted with Bomani Jones. (An aside: I was actually a big fan of High Noon, though if I were to be honest, I wasn’t surprised that it got cancelled. There was something about its deliberate, thoughtful nature that didn’t seem like a good structural fit for the broadcast context. A streaming service, perhaps. Maybe a podcast?)

But the production has retained a strong sense of continuity, due in no small part to Eve Troeh, the show’s senior editorial producer and constant variable. She’s shepherded the podcast through its opening innings, the great sports shut-down — which kicked off in earnest shortly after the NBA ceased operations when Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11 — and now, the erratic high-wire attempt to rebuild the sports world in the shadow of a pandemic.

I had a particularly good time speaking with Torre (whose work I’ve followed for years) and Troeh (whose name I’ve heard tossed around, also, for years), not least because I’m a fairly ardent sports nut. Additionally, it’s always fun for me to talk to a Very Public Asian, of which there simply aren’t enough.

You can find Servant of Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the great assortment of third-party podcast apps that are hooked up to the open publishing ecosystem. Desktop listening is also recommended. Share, leave a review, and so on.


I run this thing.