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Tracking: March 23, 2021

Selected Notes

This morning, the Vox Media Podcast Network announced that it is expanding its partnership with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, who currently host the Pivot podcast for New York Magazine. This expansion includes a push into video projects over the next year — insert Pivot to video jokes here, come on — as well as more work around live programming, which took the form of the Pivot Schooled virtual event last year. Pivot’s listenership was said to have grown by about 50% in 2021 over 2020. Notably, the expansion of this partnership will also include bringing over Galloway’s Prof G podcast into Vox Media, starting April 1. Previously, that show had been distributed by Westwood One.

Relatedly, Liz Kelly Nelson, Vox’s VP of Audio, told Digiday last week that revenue for the podcast division apparently doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. (As always, quick disclaimer to note that I’m a contributor to Vulture, which is a New York Magazine brand, which is a Vox Media property. Russian doll, and so on.)

Speaking of Westwood One, the radio company announced that Dan Bongino, the conservative radio and podcast host that it has cultivated over the past few years, is taking over the late Rush Limbaugh’s time slots in a few major markets. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Bongino will fill the three-hour show’s slot in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Most other stations will continue to air old tapes of Mr. Limbaugh, which has been the practice since he died.” This is the natural end point for the growing trend of rising right-wing podcast development, which I wrote about last November.

Relatedly, today Westwood One is also announcing new distribution partnerships with Gaby Dunn, who makes Bad With Money, and DCP Entertainment, the publisher behind podcasts like Say Their Name and Toure Show.

Meanwhile, it’s been a pretty busy period for Slate, which is in the middle of a stretch where they’re launching three new shows in three months: Last month saw the debut of A Word … with Jason Johnson; this week sees the roll-out of ICYMI, a new internet culture podcast with Madison Malone Kircher and Rachelle Hampton (the first episode, I’m told, is about “how the pandemic killed online celebrity culture”); and they’re also releasing a collaboration with Arizona State University called Mission: Interplanetary, which is, as the title suggests, about SPACE. And I hear there’s some Slow Burn news up ahead…

From Variety: “The Media Roundtable, a group of organizations that aims to promote civility and stronger dialogue in media, is launching a chart of what it considers to be the podcasts that display the most and least bias.” I’m not putting too much stock in this, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

Last week, Spotify rolled out a web portal called “Loud and Clear,” meant to serve as a messaging campaign presenting data on how money generated off streams on the platform is paid out to musicians, the music labels, and themselves. Pitchfork framed the portal as a response of sorts to protests by the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers over the effects of Spotify’s dominant streaming position on the wider universe of musicians distributed over the platform. The long-running tension, very broadly speaking: Spotify argues that its incentives are aligned with music artists, while the union argues that the platform has cultivated an unfair payout system. Dig into the Pitchfork piece for more details on this.

Meanwhile, Spotify is adding a few new features to its mobile Home tab, which the company is pitching as adjustments to improve navigation and discovery. Three features were specified: a “Recently Played” view that pulls up your listening history; a module within the Home hub that lines up a collection of new and unfinished podcast episodes (only available for Premium users, apparently); and a new recommendation module oriented around discovery that it describes as “personalized, timely, and reactive to your taste.” These are all… fine, but personally speaking, my biggest gripe continues to revolve around basic podcast management in the “Your Library” tab. Still feels really messy.

Last week, the BBC announced that it is shifting some of its key jobs, departments, and productions outside of London, spreading out operations across the rest of the United Kingdom. The organization phrases the move as an effort to make “the corporation more reflective of the UK as a whole.”

Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi has an interview-driven look at the state of Rooster Teeth, the video-podcast-centric media company owned by Warner Media. The company pushed into audio-only podcasts last year, and according to Takahashi, its podcasts “saw a 20% increase in listeners in 2020” and has added 22 new partnerships in its bid to become a “fan-driven, community-built entertainment company.”

For Vulture, I spoke with former Binge Mode co-host Jason Concepcion about what he’s doing at Crooked Media, his typical work day, and his approach to the art of the take. Both of his new projects, the Takeline podcast with Renee Montgomery and the ALL CAPS NBA digital video series, launched last week.

Finally, shout-out to The Sporkful‘s Dan Pashman on the debut of his new pasta shape, which looks like a tasty little sea creature.