Wednesday October 05, 2022

Anchor made Spotify the creator platform that it is today

Hello audiophiles! I am thrilled to present my first public edition, Hot Pod. Following Ashley and Nick’s lead, I will be in your inbox every Tuesday with news, analysis, and japes (quality not guaranteed). Today, I get to present a new look for Hot Pod thanks to the ace design teams at Vox Media and The Verge. Hot Pod’s logo has been updated and the layout has been updated with hotter colors.
So, what’s the deal? I was like everyone else in modern media. I moved around a lot before landing at The Verge. I have worked at Paramount Plus, MSNBC, and, most importantly, at Forbes, covering entertainment and media. In my previous life as a cataloger capitalist machinations I was compiling the 2019 list of highest-paid comedians. I got tips that Joe Rogan, “you know, the NewsRadio guy”, was making a ridiculous amount of money through his podcast. I pitched the magazine’s first podcaster with the highest earnings. Even though nobody was making Kylie money it was obvious that the business was growing faster than anyone outside of the industry could have predicted.
Let’s just say that there have been a lot of acquisition frenzies and nine-figure licensing deals. And tech giants are now trying to bend and mold the once DIY podcasting industry to suit their needs. Things are still messy, but probably more so after all this. It’s a dream beat for me. I am looking forward to exploring the tensions within the industry: suits trying out to make a living from unwieldy creators; streamers bulking up their podcasting to reduce the burden of expensive music royalties; and celebrities starting a podcast just to find it’s much more complicated than just talking into a microphone.
Plus, money. Podcasting is expected to grow to $2 billion by next year. I plan to find out where that money is coming from. It can’t all be Rogan.
Dear reader, I look forward to hearing from your company! Conversations with industry professionals are more valuable than press releases. This kind of back-and-forth makes my job easier and the newsletter more enjoyable. So feel free to hit me up at ariel.shapiro@theverge.com with tips, recs, and general thoughts.
I don’t have favorites when it comes to shows. Sorry, that’s a lie. I’m Brian Lehrer ride-or-die.
SCOOP: Anchor cofounder Michael Mignano will leave Spotify
Another one is left behind. The company confirmed that Michael Mignano, Spotify’s podcast tech czar, will be leaving the company at June’s end, as I reported yesterday. He is the third highest-ranking podcasting executive to leave the streamer in the last month.
Two key editorial figures were lost by Spotify in April. First, Lydia Polgreen, a long-standing journalist at the New York Times and former editor in-chief of HuffPost. She was appointed managing director of Gimlet for 2020. She announced that she would be returning to the Times as an opinion writer. Then, it was announced that Courtney Holt (Spotify’s head for studios and video, who made blockbuster deals to Joe Rogan and the Obamas, and helped make the streamer an actual force in podcasting back when Apple was the default), would also be leaving.
Mignano has made a different mark on the company. After co-founding Anchor, a DIY podcast platform, in 2015, Mignano sold Spotify for $150 million in 2019. He joined Spotify to lead tech on podcasts, video and anything that doesn’t have to do with music. Megaphone, which Spotify purchased in 2020 as a podcast advertising and publishing platform, was under his control. He was responsible for overseeing the company’s expansion to live audio in 2021 when it purchased Locker Room last year. Since then, Spotify Live has been rebranded as Spotify Live.
Mignano’s original Spotify app has been his most significant contribution to Spotify. It has increased Spotify’s library to 4,000,000 podcasts, up from 1,000,000 podcasts in 2020. The company revealed that 85 percent of its podcasts are uploaded via Anchor.
It’s not like Anchor has made any Alex Cooper-esque stars for Spotify, Joe Rogan included. The company’s unmoderated content has helped to shift its perspective on itself. It is now a platform for creators and not a publisher. This is the argument the company used to defend its non-interventionist approach to Rogan’s COVID misinformation. It was a position that angered subscribers and folk-rock legends.
Spotify is trying to manage this tension, but Mignano has decided to step away from the day-to-day management and administration of creator platforms. Mignano will be joining an early-stage venture capital company. More details will be announced closer to his departure. Zicherman is still the company’s head of audiobooks, and gated content.
Facebook abandons podcasting
Facebook has ended its year-long stint in the podcast industry. Users will be unable to upload new podcasts starting this week. All shows will be removed by the platform beginning June 3rd, Bloomberg reported.
Last spring, the social network announced a series of audio features, including a central hub for audio, shareable clips and Sound Bites. These allow users to create short audio clips similar to TikTok. According to the company, the hub and Sound Bites will be shut down within the next few weeks. Facebook Live Audio Rooms will be the only remaining piece of its audio infrastructure.
Hot Pod was told by a Meta spokesperson that they had simplified their suite of audio tools on Facebook after a year of learning. “We are constantly evaluating the features that we offer to ensure we focus on the most meaningful experiences.”
Facebook tried to keep the shutdown quiet. According to reports, it notified its audio partners by email of the decision. It will not inform users about the change, and will leave it up for publishers to tell their listeners.
However, there is still one Zuckerberg who believes podcasting. SiriusXM announced Monday that Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi (a radio personality, Web3 advocate and former Facebook spokesperson) will host a new podcast called Crypto Cafe with Randi Zuckerberg. Let’s hope it’s just as unhinged and sexy as her 1980s throwback to crypto feminism music.
More news on big hiring
There wasn’t enough news Monday so Freakonomics Radio Network and iHeartMedia both made large hires.
Freakonomics Radio Network has appointed Neal Carruth, NPR’s podcast head, as its new general manger. He will be responsible for the editorial strategy of the network, which now has five regular shows and a dedicated channel on SiriusXM. Carruth worked 23 years at NPR. He helped to create the Morning News Podcast Up First and oversaw the development shows like Planet Money, NPR Politics Podcast, and Planet Money.
iHeartMedia has appointed Sarah van Mosel, former chief revenue officer at Stitcher, to head its ad-buying program, the iHeart Audience Network. She will also be involved in podcast partnerships, sales and publisher development. Van Mosel was a Stitcher employee during its acquisition by SiriusXM. She then managed the company’s podcast revenue strategy.
That’s all for me! Carpe your crypto diem, pals.

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