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Tracking: July 7, 2020

This Week in Spotify. Two stories that are part of the same thread:

First, today, Spotify is releasing localized versions of Sandra, Gimlet’s scripted podcast series from 2018, in four non-English speaking markets: Brazil, France, Germany, and Mexico. According to the corporate blog post, the effort involved script alterations, casting choices, and local production teams that’s collectively meant to make the production more culturally specific to the corresponding market.

Second, the company has created a team to “develop original audio programming for the growing U.S. Latino podcast audience,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The team will be led by Piñol, who previously served as the head of Spotify studios in Latin America. I should note: this news comes shortly after the release of Edison Research’s first Latino Podcast Listener report, which found that “36% of U.S. Latinos have listened to a podcast in English and 24% of U.S. Latinos have listened to a podcast in Spanish.”

So here’s the big takeaway, in my mind: as we’ve previously discussed, a major pillar of Spotify’s podcast strategy seems to be its pursuit of international markets, and the most noteworthy thing we’re seeing from these two stories is the development of tangible infrastructure to meet those ends. Keep a close eye on this front.Turmoil at WNYC, continued. Last week, the New York Times reported that staffers are expressing considerable disappointment after station leadership hired a new editor-in-chief who was almost the complete opposite of what they had indicated was needed in the role during listening sessions that were held in the wake of station’s 2017 fallout over its toxic institutional culture. (For full context on that, go here.)

From the report:

Reporters and producers sought a person of color, someone who deeply understood New York and who had experience in public radio. So it was with great consternation that the staff greeted the news, delivered on June 11, when the rest of the world would hear it as well — and 45 minutes or so before they met their new boss on Zoom — that the editor in chief of WNYC was going to be a white woman who lived in California, grew up in Kansas and was not from the world of audio.

I have to say: it’s an exceptionally brutal stab-in-the-back to hold listening sessions — principally in the interest of rebuilding much-needed trust between leadership and staffers following a calamitous reckoning — only to make a high-level decision that runs almost completely against much of the feedback that was delivered in those sessions. The hire, at the very least, rendered those trust rebuilding efforts as being nothing more than empty performative gestures, further contributing towards the utterly tiresome sense that you simply can’t really trust the station’s leadership to do the right thing on its own.

To be sure, there is every evidence that the new editor-in-chief, former San Francisco Chronicle EIC Audrey Cooper, is an exceptional newsroom leader, as WNYC CEO Goli Sheikholeslami told the Times in her defense of the hire, but, man, that isn’t necessarily the same as a newsroom leader who’s emblematically right for the moment.

WNYC’s leadership was already well on the back-foot when it comes to trust with its staffers, and any marginal goodwill that it could possibly have had with some “turning of the page” narrative is now effectively squandered. By doing this in this way, they have placed their staffers, particularly those who aren’t white, in an extremely difficult position — same goes for Cooper as well, I imagine! — when management could’ve facilitated a much-needed breakthrough. What a shame.Show Notes. Reveal is launching its first serialized podcast, “American Rehab,” which comes out of a three-year investigation. Also, I updated my Best Pods of the Year (So Far) list for Vulture, now that we’re at the half-way mark. Meanwhile, in my inbox, a reader asks why there hasn’t been a daily news podcast in Spanish yet. Good question; let me know.