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Tracking: February 14, 2019

(1) Spotify has confirmed the upcoming launch of a new original podcast series, the first since its big acquisitions of the past couple of weeks. (Though, given the timing, the show was probably in development way before the acquisition stuff.) Stay Free: The Story of the Clash debuts 28 February and will see Public Enemy’s Chuck D narrate an 8 part series about the British punk outfit The Clash — i.e. “a band that changed everything.”

Two things to note about this. First, I think it’s a template for the kind of thing we’ll see much more of from Spotify in the future: the expansive music documentary series. For obvious reasons, Spotify is better placed than most to negotiate the rights and relationships required for this kind of show. (Shouts to Tom Webster for pointing this out earlier.) Second, it’s interesting to me that the production partner on this series is BBC Studios, a commercial offshoot of the publicly-funded BBC. Now that the BBC itself is investing in podcasting and running its own app ecosystem, it seems a little bit odd that a BBC-branded division is making podcast content for a competitor.

(2) Speaking of BBC Sounds, a reader got in touch with an update about the windowing strategy experiments in the app that caused such podcast listener furore a few weeks ago. The show that went app-exclusive, Fortunately… with Fi and Jane, is seemingly now back out on its original free feed in its entirety to the delight of its audience. From what I can see, the previously Sounds-only episodes trickled out one a day between 4 and 8 February. As I noted in the original piece, BBC Sounds launch director Charlotte Lock said in her appearance on the podcast in January that the new publication style was a time-limited experiment, so that has presumably now come to an end — she didn’t say in that interview how long it would run for. I’m sure plenty of valuable data was gathered — probably? maybe? I guess? — and I’ll be fascinated to see how the strategy around the app evolves as a result.

(3) A new “Audio Content Fund” has been announced in the UK. It’s a non-profit company supported by a £3m government grant from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and will support projects pitched by audio production companies intended for UK radio broadcasters. The fund is chaired by Helen Boaden, formerly director of BBC Radio, and she will be assisted by others with backgrounds in commercial and independent production.

I’m keen to dig into the thinking behind this more, but at first glance this looks to me a bit like a move by the government to separate the notion of “public service radio” from what is currently supported by the licence fee (the lion’s share of which goes to the BBC). The new fund’s website states that “it exists to provide financial support for radio programming that is difficult to fund on a commercial basis”, which is pretty much the argument for the current licence fee arrangement, except this will support work for “a wider range of UK radio stations”.

You can read this one of two ways: it could be an attempt by a BBC-sceptical Conservative government to divert funding away from the BBC, or it could be a much-needed bolt-on to the old-fashioned licence fee arrangement intended to address the diversity issues that have turned younger people away from traditional radio. I suspect which of these options you prefer, and how you perceive the fund’s success in the long run, will depend very much on personal political preferences.

(4) PRX CEO Kerri Hoffman looks back on the 100 days since the merger with PRI, and says that “change is on everyone’s mind,” but that she sees the recent big acquisitions in podcasting as “proof of value.” She also emphasizes the need for organisations like hers to invest in the next generation of talent, in order to enhance the open access to journalism, at a time when more and more paywalls are springing up. There are some interesting nuggets there, go read her whole piece.

(5) RadioPublic has just announced a new feature called “Podsites”, which is aimed at improving podcast discoverability and pushing more people towards the RadioPublic “Paid Listens” programme, which rewards podcasters for listens on the RadioPublic platform. To me, this new Podsites endeavor looks essentially like a website-building tool tailored to podcasters, with the offer a free domain name on sign up. As someone who regularly needs to link to podcasts, I do wish more shows had easy-to-find websites, so maybe this will provide some with an alternative to SquareSpace, Wix, etc.

(6) Amanda Knox is deepening her involvement in podcasting with the announcement of more episodes of her true crime podcast with Sundance. Each one accompanies a Sundance true crime documentary, and Knox has said that — given her own past experience with the way criminal justice cases are reported — she’s excited “to bring nuance to these stories.”

(7) In an interview with Vice News to mark the launch of her new Netflix podcast, Strong Black Leads, Tracy Clayton (formerly of Buzzfeed’s Another Round) seems to confirm that her old show won’t be coming back any time soon, despite listener demand and the fact that she and co-host Heben Nigatu were offered ownership of the feed. “Once we took ownership of the podcast, it could have been us trying to get back on it, but we were just tired. Not only physically but negro spiritually tired,” she said.