Issue 288,  published January 12, 2021

Tracking: January 12, 2021

Selected Notes…

  • From Deadline: “Former CAA Agent Vanessa Silverton-Peel To Head Spotify & Chernin Entertainment Partnership.”
  • From The Verge: “Amazon marked free podcasts as costing $8.95 with a discount for Audible subscribers.” For what it’s worth, someone close to the matter at Audible would later tell me that this was due to a “technical error” in one of their promotions.
  • From the New York Times: “Cumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro, has ordered its employees at 416 stations nationwide to steer clear of endorsing misinformation about election fraud or using language that promotes violent protest.” Well that’s going to be awkward.
  • Hmm. From Billboard: “SiriusXM Expected to Write Down Pandora by $1 Billion, Citing Royalty Costs.”
  • In a big week for deplatforming, here’s the local angle: YouTube pulled Steve Bannon’s video podcast channel, War Room, from the platform, after Rudy Guliani popped up on an episode to falsely blame the insurrection at the Capital on the Democrats. Here’s the Business Insider write-up on the matter. This is the second incident of Bannon getting kicked off a platform in recent months. In November, War Room was pulled from Spotify, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook after Bannon called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray.
  • For some reason, the Associated Press wrote up Michael Cohen’s rehabilitation-through-podcasting efforts. As always, Bryan Curtis’ piece on “The Pariah Podcast” remains a key text for These Times.

In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod Crooked Media chief content officer Tanya Somanader joins the show this week.

Quick point of context: we recorded this interview on January 4, the day before the Senate runoffs in Georgia… and two days before the insurrection at the Capital. Obviously, the conversation was designed with the ambiguity around the Georgia outcomes in mind, and without any idea that the latter would happen. Still, I don’t think this affects the actual substance of the conversation one bit, though I suspect the tone would’ve been a little different if we had taped, say, last Friday.

In any case, I went into the interview with the intent to unpack an obvious question about Crooked Media, the political media company founded by former Obama staffers at the start of the Trump presidency: what’s it going to look like in an America where the Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House? (Albeit with thin margins, of course.)

Of course, that question is based on several premises that can be hotly debated, chiefly the notion that Crooked Media is supposed to be some avatar on some variation of the so-called “Resistance” during the Trump era. Indeed, those premises were formed on top of an even broader query I’ve long held about the company: what is Crooked Media supposed to be in the first place, anyway? A left-wing podcast-first mirror to right-wing talk radio? A somewhat unprecedented blend of a conventional media company and a direct organizing vehicle? And how does the company’s growing adventures with entertainment products more generally — see, among others: Wind of Change — fit into all this?

I brought these questions to Somanader, who joined Crooked Media in the summer of 2017 after serving in the Obama White House. 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, so on.

I run this thing.