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Tracking: January 15, 2019

Three Big Things

(1) Forgot to mention this last week, but it’s a pretty intriguing story: Before the new year, Sam Harris, the author and creator of the Waking Up podcast, moved his operations off Patreon after accusing platform for “political bias” following its decision to ban controversial fringe figures in early December.

Waking Up was one of the more prominent podcasts making money off Patreon, with nearly 9,000 paying supporters and a revenue line estimated to be in the tens of thousands per month.

I reckon this story is far from over. I’d counsel keeping a close eye on both parties.

(2) I appreciated reading Sinclair Target’s chunky feature on the rise and fall of the RSS feed over at Motherboard, in which everything feels universally recurring: “Regular people never felt comfortable using RSS; it hadn’t really been designed as a consumer-facing technology and involved too many hurdles; people jumped ship as soon as something better came along.”

(3) This is less a noteworthy story and more an observation of taste. So, I generally like this recent new wave of daily news podcasts, but I would appreciate more differentiation in aesthetics. As it stands, there’s a distinct sameness to the way a lot of these newer shows sound and feel — most explicitly expressed, perhaps in the music deployed when transitioning between scenes. It should be noted that the mushrooming of daily news podcasts already exacerbates the fundamental challenge of the genre — i.e., delivering the same headlining story without repeating what a competitor has done — and so the problem of aesthetic genericism strikes me as…an unfortunate unforced and unnecessary hurdle.


  • Panoply has signed iHeartMedia as a client for its Megaphone platform. Guess the whole “we’re an ad tech company now” is really working out for them, huh?
  • This is interesting: The New York Times appears to be using The Daily as the launchpad for experimentation with smart speaker content. Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen has the goods on that story. And you should pair that with this find from Axios’ Sara Fischer: “The New York Times plans to build custom Alexa skills for advertisers through its branded content studio for roughly six figures. The campaigns will be sold as a white label service, with no distribution offering — just production.”
  • On a related note: “Apple officially announces HomePod is coming to China on January 18th.” (9to5Mac)
  • PRX and Google have announced the inaugural cohort of their Creators program.
  • “Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate, Brings Her Podcast to Public Radio.” (The New York Times) Note that American Public Media has the pickup on this one. Speaking of which: I wonder how they’re doing?
  • Over at Vulture, I reviewed Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, which has prompted me to rethink my theory on the celebrity podcast. Will likely develop a column on it over the next few weeks. On a related note: Dr. Phil has a podcast now, and Midroll is handling ads for that one.
  • A quick shoutout to Preppi, which is apparently a “Dollar Shave Club but for disaster emergency kits” company, for its wherewithal to buy an ad on KPCC’s podcast about earthquake survival. Brand integrations, baby. *chef’s kiss*
  • This is fun: A gentleman by the name Yi Yang is trying to make a Hot Pod, but for on-demand audio in China. It’s mostly written in Chinese, though.
  • Shouts to Georgia Public Broadcasting, which has its own director of podcasting and which recently launched a show in partnership with Atlanta-based magazine The Bitter Southerner.

This time last year. I’m copping this new feature from my old friend (and former co-worker) Ali Griswold, who writes a damn good newsletter on the sharing economy called Oversharing, where we go over the headlines from this point last year.

In the January 16, 2018 issue, we were talking about Slate’s “pivot to audio” that came with some sweet numbers — though, oh man has a lot changed for that crew. Panoply was still in the content business and had just lost the head of its kids programming division, BuzzFeed Audio was still around and had just lost its chief to Pineapple Street, and Gimlet Media, still prior to its full turn towards the Hollywood pipeline, had just hired former Hulu exec Jenny Wall as chief marketing officer. Also: This American Life changed its logo to the red splash.