Issue 258,  published May 12, 2020

Tracking: May 12, 2020

Spotify dips back into video. Last week, The Verge reported that the Swedish audio streaming platform are testing a new “video podcast” feature, an effort that they’re seeding with material coming from two YouTube stars, Zane Hijazi and Heath Hussar, who also host a podcast called “Zane and Heath: Unfiltered.” The experimental feature — which would allow podcasters to upload accompanying video assets to their episodes — will appear for about half of Zane and Heath: Unfiltered listeners using Spotify.

Some thoughts on this. To begin with, it’s worth noting that Spotify often phrases its approach to new product development as “opportunistic,” which, in my mind, is another way of saying “why not try this thing out as we get the chance to do so.” Which is to say, I’d counsel against assuming that there’s a grand long-term strategy to this.

Still, there is a very clear lane of opportunity. There is a good number of podcast operations that distribute supplementary video of their recordings onto YouTube, in large part as a way to further expand their surface area and possibly tap into the vast audience pool that’s on the online video platform. The Ringer, now a Spotify company, continues to do this quite a bit, as do other personality-driven podcast operations like Rooster Teeth and Kinda Funny Games. What this new Spotify feature offers, I think, is an opportunity for those type of podcasters to get a little more bang for their supplementary video buck: it’s a chance to add a little more utility to their Spotify presence off the workload they already have.

It will already be interesting to watch and see if this Spotify video feature actually drives deep or new engagement of some kind. And it will be even more interesting to see if YouTube will do anything about it, should anything actually come of it.

TRAX, the podcast network focused on kids between 9 and 13 from PRX, has officially launched. The effort was first announced back in December, and the key figure you’d probably want to know about is Michelle Smawley, who serves as the executive producer of the operation. You can find more details about the roll-out here.

On a related note… Julie Andrews is making the press rounds for Julie’s Library, the American Public Media-distributed kids podcast she’s hosting with her daughter. Meanwhile, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy also just launched its own podcast for kids, which involves re-vamps of the early nineties radio show that the former first lady used to do.

Show Notes. Seems like everybody’s waiting ’til the summertime to roll out the big guns. Wind of Change, which comes from the stacked Pineapple Street-Crooked Media-Spotify triumvirate, dropped yesterday, and I reviewed the thing for Vulture. I liked quite a bit! It also had things that bothered me a bunch. Another launch to watch: Articles of Interest Season 2, out today. Also, shout-out to Flash Forward, which celebrates its fifth birthday on this very day.

Speaking of Vulture, I had three other pieces up on there: one about Dead Eyes, one about the Oh Hello p’dcast, and a good ol’ the best pods of the year so far list. I know, lists are so dumb, blah blah blah.

Okay let’s move on.