Good Tuesday, peeps. We’re so close to Thanksgiving that I can taste the cornbread stew. Yes, that’s my right, and yes, I’m from the Midwest. No further questions, thanks! We have a relatively light one today, which seems to be due to the fact that many companies take it easy the rest of the year. However, the social sound companies continue to land the deals and come up with the news. No rest for startups. Although I have a lot to say about Spotify’s acquisition of audiobook company from Thursday, I’ll hopefully save it later this week. (If you work in the literary world and have some thoughts on the audiobook market, feel free to grab it!) Otherwise, let’s get to it.
New York Times says that COVID misinformation is widespread in audio
New York Times has germinated on how podcast and radio hosts handle the pandemic – they spread misinformation, follow their own advice and die because of it. Dark. The piece names and shames one who is who of radio and podcasting companies, including iHeart Media, Spotify and Apple, who have allowed some of these shows to distribute their programming on their respective platforms. (Shockingly, Cumulus does not come up in the play despite being the place where a star podcaster and radio host protests a company vaccine mandate.) The play focuses specifically on where these podcasts are distributed, not who makes or makes money on them.
To give you a sense of what we’re working on in this story, among the quotes is one from a priest and podcasts who say the virus is “an egg that hatches into a synthetic parasite and grows inside your body.” (His show is available via the iHeart app, the newspaper reports.) Someone saw too much Alien and did not know it was fiction, I think. This was the same person who apparently also said that a “Jewish coup” was behind the efforts to sue former President Donald Trump.
I feel like I’ve already read the same story a lot, but what I see and wonder about that Times‘paragraph mentions is how technology companies’ moderation policies are likely to be stricter than many audio-specific companies. It connects iHeart’s content policies, as well as Spotify’s and Apple’s, but one that does not come up – and I’m curious to know if it exists at all – is Cumulus’. iHeart also declined to tell Times whether it had any kind of policy around COVID misinformation. I worry in part about this because I think that as more listening time goes to the technology platforms, including Facebook, there may be a world where a podcast cannot be released on the major technology platforms, and podcast companies need to distribute their shows through other means. (Also, moderating these podcasts will be difficult, if not impossible, which I was long on here in February and is probably the more pressing concern.) I sense an impending drama, and I’m ready.
Let us now enter the technological world.
Spotify keeps trying to make Greenroom happen
Spotify announced yesterday that it has a new list of live social audio shows being launched along with the news that people no longer need to log in to listen, which is great. They can do it from their browser or phone, which means that the promotion of programming becomes much easier. The less friction the better. Among the shows is one about being a Taylor Swift fan and going in depth with her music and another from Spotify Original podcast host Lauren Simmons, where she will answer Gen Z’s questions. IDK! Spotify did promises to make its audio content and product about fans, and this seems to fulfill that promise quite specifically. However, will that be enough to compete with Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces?
The clubhouse hosts Oprah, only 23,000 people tuned in
Last night, Clubhouse’s head of global marketing Maya Watson came on the app, and with her came Oprah Winfrey and her bestie Gayle King. The group, along with other clubhouse people, discussed Winfrey’s Adele interview and how it all came together. This is a great advantage for any platform; an exclusive Winfrey chat immediately after the premiere of a long-awaited two-hour interview? I think.
But here’s the thing, the recording of the show indicates that only 22.7K people have tuned in at all, including people who may have just been past shortly before they left. At CBS, where the thesis premiered, 10 million people tuned in. We could interpret this in a few ways. One could be that if the app can not attract a large audience to the TV queen, then why try at all? The other is Winfrey, and the clubhouse team suffered from a lack of marketing. If CBS had promoted the specialty and the clubhouse’s aftermath at the same time, it might have been a better shot at success. But alas, here we are. As a side note, I would say this is the first clubhouse iteration I have seen and the experience is well built. You can jump around, see who’s speaking, and essentially relive the event as if you were in the app when it happened.
Okay a few more little things and then we pack up.
Snapchat continues to sign music deals for its TikTok copy, Spotlight
I wanted to check in with Snapchat’s TikTok clone Spotlight and finally have an opportunity for an update. Now you might be wondering why here in this audio-centric newsletter? As I would argue, these are short videos, yes, visual experiences, but those that are highly dependent on sound, especially sound with the chance of going viral. So with that context, Snapchat announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment to bring its artists’ tracks to the platform. It is now on par with TikTok, having signed agreements with all three major labels – Sony, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.
More interesting to me is the deal Snap signed earlier this month with NBCUniversal to bring sound from The office, Bridesmaids, Parks and recreation, and Saturday Night Live to the app. This feels like the beginning of something big – dialogue and scripting that has the chance to go viral, which is much more in the podcast vein. It also comes with the idea that companies could make actual agreements about access to that sound? Maybe there’s something here for comedy podcasts.
One last thing before we go.
Twitch launches an incubator program for musicians
The worlds, they converge. Twitch, which is primarily known for its gaming livestreams, is looking at the music field. It has already signed an agreement with Warner Music Group to bring its musicians to the app for exclusive channels, but now it is launching an incubator program for artists called The Collective. Selected attendees will receive hands-on guidance from the Twitch team as well as “priority discovery, promotion and activation” from partners such as Amazon Music and Rolling stones. The idea seems to be to make Twitch a place you spend more time on even if you are not streaming a video game, and the benefit for the musicians is to reach a young demographic group and learn from the Twitch team themselves. All technology companies want to own not only your visual attention but also your ears, and Twitch only offers audio mode.
Okay, we’re out of here. I’m back Thursday for you paying subscribers, and if you’re interested in signing up, you can do so here. We provide scoops, exclusives and more analysis. If you are interested in sound, you should read it, just say. Talk to you later!