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Tracking: January 19, 2021

Selected Notes…
  • Almost three years after Pocket Casts was acquired by a consortium of public radio organizations, the podcast app appears to be in the process of being sold off again. Current’s Tyler Falk has the report on this.
  • Pour one out for WNYC’s Trump Inc, which ends its run this week as the Trump presidency comes to a close. This is also presumably the end of the Trump podcast era… maybe?
  • This open-letter initiative by Celeste Headlee went live yesterday: “An Anti-Racist Future: A Vision and Plan for the Transformation of Public Media.”
  • Freakonomics Radio, the flagship show in Stephen Dubner’s growing podcast network, has made its entire ten-year archive free over the open podcast ecosystem. Previously, only its latest episodes were made easily accessible, with the remainder of the show’s catalogue kept behind Stitcher Premium’s paywall. Here’s Axios on the matter.
  • Follow up to the last blurb in my preview column last week. From the AP: “Extremists exploit a loophole in social moderation: Podcasts.”
  • From Reuters: “China’s Tencent buys audiobook platform Lazy Audio for $417 million.” Lazy Audio also distributes podcasts and radio shows in addition to audiobooks.
Selected Notes…
  • Almost three years after Pocket Casts was acquired by a consortium of public radio organizations, the podcast app appears to be in the process of being sold off again. Current’s Tyler Falk has the report on this.
  • Pour one out for WNYC’s Trump Inc, which ends its run this week as the Trump presidency comes to a close. This is also presumably the end of the Trump podcast era… maybe?
  • This open-letter initiative by Celeste Headlee went live yesterday: “An Anti-Racist Future: A Vision and Plan for the Transformation of Public Media.”
  • Freakonomics Radio, the flagship show in Stephen Dubner’s growing podcast network, has made its entire ten-year archive free over the open podcast ecosystem. Previously, only its latest episodes were made easily accessible, with the remainder of the show’s catalogue kept behind Stitcher Premium’s paywall. Here’s Axios on the matter.
  • Follow up to the last blurb in my preview column last week. From the AP: “Extremists exploit a loophole in social moderation: Podcasts.”
  • From Reuters: “China’s Tencent buys audiobook platform Lazy Audio for $417 million.” Lazy Audio also distributes podcasts and radio shows in addition to audiobooks.
Selected Notes…
  • Almost three years after Pocket Casts was acquired by a consortium of public radio organizations, the podcast app appears to be in the process of being sold off again. Current’s Tyler Falk has the report on this.
  • Pour one out for WNYC’s Trump Inc, which ends its run this week as the Trump presidency comes to a close. This is also presumably the end of the Trump podcast era… maybe?
  • This open-letter initiative by Celeste Headlee went live yesterday: “An Anti-Racist Future: A Vision and Plan for the Transformation of Public Media.”
  • Freakonomics Radio, the flagship show in Stephen Dubner’s growing podcast network, has made its entire ten-year archive free over the open podcast ecosystem. Previously, only its latest episodes were made easily accessible, with the remainder of the show’s catalogue kept behind Stitcher Premium’s paywall. Here’s Axios on the matter.
  • Follow up to the last blurb in my preview column last week. From the AP: “Extremists exploit a loophole in social moderation: Podcasts.”
  • From Reuters: “China’s Tencent buys audiobook platform Lazy Audio for $417 million.” Lazy Audio also distributes podcasts and radio shows in addition to audiobooks.
Some public radio stations have dropped The Daily from their schedules. Over the past week, at least four stations — including Houston Public Media, KUT in Austin, Marfa Public Radio, and KCRW in Los Angeles — suspended broadcast of The New York Times’ popular daily news podcast in response to the scandal around Caliphate.

I first wrote this development up for Vulture last Friday, and it’s unclear to me if more stations have joined the list since then. Also worth noting: The decision of these stations to drop syndication did not come with a specific ultimatum or request for remedy.

Over the weekend, The Daily host Michael Barbaro posted an apology on Twitter, chiefly for his behind-the-scenes attempts to influence how other journalists framed the Caliphate story in their writings and public speech. Those efforts, and the way it clouded the Times’ management of the Caliphate aftermath more broadly, were previously reported by NPR. “At a moment when I should have been open to examining our shortcomings and hearing out those who had concerns, I failed,” Barbaro wrote. “I’m sorry.”

Whether any of this will affect Andy Mills, the Caliphate co-lead and producer on The Daily whose professional behavior came under renewed scrutiny in the fallout of the scandal, remains unclear.

In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod Willa Paskin of Slate’s Decoder Ring is on the show this week. Listen, Decoder Ring is prooobably one of my favorite podcasts of all time, and I strongly suspect it’s somewhat underrated… whatever that means when it comes to podcasting. Anyway, come for the blue food, stay for the talk on the recent Jane Fonda two-parter.

Oh, and if you’re watching this season of The Bachelor, I’m willing to bet this Decoder Ring episode is a key to understanding what the heck is up with Victoria.

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.

Some public radio stations have dropped The Daily from their schedules. Over the past week, at least four stations — including Houston Public Media, KUT in Austin, Marfa Public Radio, and KCRW in Los Angeles — suspended broadcast of The New York Times’ popular daily news podcast in response to the scandal around Caliphate.

I first wrote this development up for Vulture last Friday, and it’s unclear to me if more stations have joined the list since then. Also worth noting: The decision of these stations to drop syndication did not come with a specific ultimatum or request for remedy.

Over the weekend, The Daily host Michael Barbaro posted an apology on Twitter, chiefly for his behind-the-scenes attempts to influence how other journalists framed the Caliphate story in their writings and public speech. Those efforts, and the way it clouded the Times’ management of the Caliphate aftermath more broadly, were previously reported by NPR. “At a moment when I should have been open to examining our shortcomings and hearing out those who had concerns, I failed,” Barbaro wrote. “I’m sorry.”

Whether any of this will affect Andy Mills, the Caliphate co-lead and producer on The Daily whose professional behavior came under renewed scrutiny in the fallout of the scandal, remains unclear.

In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod Willa Paskin of Slate’s Decoder Ring is on the show this week. Listen, Decoder Ring is prooobably one of my favorite podcasts of all time, and I strongly suspect it’s somewhat underrated… whatever that means when it comes to podcasting. Anyway, come for the blue food, stay for the talk on the recent Jane Fonda two-parter.

Oh, and if you’re watching this season of The Bachelor, I’m willing to bet this Decoder Ring episode is a key to understanding what the heck is up with Victoria.

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.

Some public radio stations have dropped The Daily from their schedules. Over the past week, at least four stations — including Houston Public Media, KUT in Austin, Marfa Public Radio, and KCRW in Los Angeles — suspended broadcast of The New York Times’ popular daily news podcast in response to the scandal around Caliphate.

I first wrote this development up for Vulture last Friday, and it’s unclear to me if more stations have joined the list since then. Also worth noting: The decision of these stations to drop syndication did not come with a specific ultimatum or request for remedy.

Over the weekend, The Daily host Michael Barbaro posted an apology on Twitter, chiefly for his behind-the-scenes attempts to influence how other journalists framed the Caliphate story in their writings and public speech. Those efforts, and the way it clouded the Times’ management of the Caliphate aftermath more broadly, were previously reported by NPR. “At a moment when I should have been open to examining our shortcomings and hearing out those who had concerns, I failed,” Barbaro wrote. “I’m sorry.”

Whether any of this will affect Andy Mills, the Caliphate co-lead and producer on The Daily whose professional behavior came under renewed scrutiny in the fallout of the scandal, remains unclear.

In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod Willa Paskin of Slate’s Decoder Ring is on the show this week. Listen, Decoder Ring is prooobably one of my favorite podcasts of all time, and I strongly suspect it’s somewhat underrated… whatever that means when it comes to podcasting. Anyway, come for the blue food, stay for the talk on the recent Jane Fonda two-parter.

Oh, and if you’re watching this season of The Bachelor, I’m willing to bet this Decoder Ring episode is a key to understanding what the heck is up with Victoria.

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.

Meanwhile, in Sweden… It’s been a curious week for the aspiring all-consuming audio platform. Spotify was the beneficiary of a big Bloomberg profile last Tuesday, which stitched together most of the myriad threads the company had been unspooling over the past two years into a single narrative package.

For close observers of podcasting, the profile is distinct for two things. First, it contains some new data snapshots suggesting that Spotify is materially heading in the right direction with its strategy, including the notable finding that Spotify is said to have “already converted more than 20% of its 320 million total users — about 70 million people globally — into podcast listeners.” And second, it reaffirms the central question about the platform: How, exactly, is all this supposed to lead to more money and greater profitability for a company that has historically been hamstrung in such areas due to its intertwined position with the music labels? Those two things are held in tension throughout the profile, which ultimately maintains Spotify in the narrative position of being the ambitious, risk-taking upstart. In the larger picture of how tech companies like to be seen, that’s generally a win.

On Friday, though, Spotify was met with another flavor of headlines. Analysts from Citi, the banking and investment group, published a note to its investors expressing fresh skepticism over Spotify’s big podcasting bet. According to CNBC, the analyst note focused its attention on a lack of positive movement in terms of Spotify’s premium subscriber and app download counts, tying those metrics to its broader interpretation of whether Spotify was sufficient building a foundation of independence away from music labels. Citi ultimately downgraded its assessment of Spotify’s stock, moving from neutral to sell. (Spotify’s narrative would take another hit on Friday afternoon with the news about Apple’s possible subscription podcast service.)

A few things here. I think it’s still a little too early to tell whether Spotify’s actually failing in its spend podcast-oriented gambit to build out an audio streaming service free from the pressure of the music labels. For one thing, Spotify still has a bunch of cards that it hasn’t fully played yet: There’s still tremendous leakiness and inconsistent application with respect to the relationship between its owned content and exclusivity; the company still hasn’t really flipped the switch with its Streaming Ad Insertion play and what is clearly a gambit to pursue a “YouTube for Podcasting” playbook; and there’s an element of assumed threat from would-be competitors like Amazon or the theoretical Apple Podcast subscription service, when neither of those parties have yet to actually exhibit any evidence of being able to execute on their own podcast interests.

But the Citi note is nevertheless distinct for how it illustrates that Spotify’s running out of the goodwill that comes with bold moves. Spotify may very well believe in its big bet according to a longer-term timeline — Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently opined as such over Twitter — but the Citi situation indicates that Spotify still needs to balance the potential with the actual in the eyes of those with the money. Long-term strategy or otherwise, the company’s gonna start putting up numbers if it wants to preserve its new toy shine.