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Tracking: March 8, 2019

Pandora builds an original content team, and so on.

(1) In my write up of the new Pandora Stories feature in an Insider last week, I said that I couldn’t see this ability to create hybrid music and spoken word playlists on the platform taking off unless there was some investment in production for it. Fast forward a few days, and we hear that SiriusXM is creating a “Pandora Media content team” which will produce original content in music, sports, talk, comedy, politics and entertainment. Current SiriusXM chief content officer Scott Greenstein will lead the team of 25 staffers. In a statement, he said:

“Our talk shows and channels are loaded with talent, and Pandora will be adding select SXM content from over 20 SiriusXM shows to its podcast platform. It will be derived from our radio shows but produced as a podcast containing the best material from our radio shows.”

It sounds like the aim is to repurpose a lot of existing content on the Sirius network (as well as that extensive music catalogue) and turn it into podcast content that will both get existing Pandora subscribers spending more time on the platform and attract new listeners. It’s about a month since SiriusXM finalised the acquisition of Pandora, a move that CEO Jim Meyer said was “an exciting next step in our efforts to expand our reach out of the car even further.”

Podcasts and playlists are the obvious way to do that, as well as keeping the newly-enlarged company in competition with Spotify, which has been producing its own non-music podcast content for a while now, and as we all know, has serious ambitions for growth in that area. For the moment, I can’t see any suggestion that SiriusXM-Pandora is going to start acquiring existing podcasts and making them exclusive to the platform, but Greenstein has said they are interested in “joint content deals with musicians that can include everything from a show or channel on SXM to a playlist or interactive channel on Pandora”. Expect more celebrity and music-orientated playlists in the short-term, then, perhaps with entire original podcasts following further down the line.

(2) Julie Snyder, senior producer at This American Life and co-creator of Serial and S-Town, is adding a new string to her bow with a new “producer-at-large” role with Signal Co. No1, a new company that describes itself as “a podcast label dedicated exclusively to music culture”. She isn’t leaving TAL, though, as Nick has confirmed — she’s just working with Signal on the side.

In addition to announcing Snyder’s involvement, Signal Co. No1 is also publicising new deals to make podcasts with Ziggy Marley, Sigur Rós and Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino. In the press release, Snyder says: “I genuinely believe Signal are building a foundation for a great company. They are creating podcasts that are creative, boundary-pushing and artful.” Snyder isn’t the only big audio name on Signal’s rosta — Radiolab co-founder Mikel Ellcessor is on board as an “advisor”.

(3) Luminary might be new in town but they’ve really got the podcast world talking. Their social media presence has raised some eyebrows (although that has now been walked back slightly) and some creators who have signed up are feeling the need to defend their decision to put their shows behind a paywall. Lauren Shippen, the creator of The Bright Sessions, was one such, and she laid out her position in a couple of fascinating tumblr posts (here and here). I recommend reading everything she has to say, in particular as she says she “wasn’t expecting people to feel betrayed by me making a decision that would benefit my amazing team”. A lot of what she says resonated with the discussions I’ve been having about the burnout piece I published in Tuesday’s newsletter. “I’m trying to find a balance between giving everyone in the world access to the stories I’m telling and paying my employees/having a personal life and keeping my own mental health in a safe place,” Shippen wrote. She also confirmed that although her new show with Luminary, The AM Archives, is part of the same universe as The Bright Sessions and features five of the same characters, the latter show will always remain free to access.

(4) The latest hotel luxury: an in-house podcast studio. (Apparently, luxury apartments are also building them in as standard now too.) In this trend piece from The Ringer, it emerges that plenty of hotel chains are building booths and stocking up on recording equipment so that their guests can record their show in comfort during their stay. It’s also a reasonable revenue stream, the piece argues, since hotels can charge for studio hire for non-guests (and even for guests, I guess, if they feel so inclined). I’d love to know if any hotels have or are hiring in-house audio producers too. Being able to call the concierge and be connected to someone who can mix your show for you seems like the ultimate bougie move, in my opinion.

(5) Barstool Sports, which recently reported that it brought in $15m in revenue from its 25 podcasts in 2018, has been criticised this week for its behaviour in a long-running copyright dispute with comedian and Punch Up the Jam podcaster Miel Bredouw. You can read details of the whole saga here.