Spotify’s COVID issues are bigger than Joe Rogan


Wow, it’s mid-February already and the Hot Pod Summit is next week. It’s been a marathon here, not to mention my Love is blind frenzy time. Today we have various stories all related to the idea of ​​money – earning it and spending it. Let’s cut to the chase.

This week’s Rogan recording

Although Hurricane Rogan has largely passed, related stories continue to spread. The first comes from The Guardian, which reports that several Spotify playlists pushed listeners to listen to anti-vaccine music after listening to similar content before. The songs “encourage people not to get vaccinated and say that those who do are ‘slaves,’ ‘sheep,’ and victims of Satan,” the publication states. “Others are calling for an uprising, urging listeners to ‘fight for their lives’.”

Many songs were easy to find by searching for “vaccine” and “mask,” and one user who listened to an anti-vaccine song received a “customized playlist directing them to even more extreme songs. Of the 50 songs on this playlist, 19 included explicit references to anti-vaccine and COVID misinformation, including claims that the vaccine is being used to microchip people.

The company says it removed this music after The Guardian contacted because the songs promoted “dangerous, false or misleading COVID-19 content” that could threaten public health.

I’m interested in this story because it again raises the question of how Spotify detected the supposed “over 20,000 podcast episodes” it says it removed over COVID statements. In this case, yes, we are talking about music, but we can reasonably assume that any mass moderation efforts that occur in spoken word content could also occur for songs. We have no idea how Spotify’s moderation works, and the company doesn’t seem interested in sharing, so for now its main line of defense seems to be media reports. That’s not great for a company whose ambitions are to become the next YouTube and recruit tens of millions of podcasters to its platform.

I will also point out that The GuardianThe distinction between an algorithmically generated music playlist and Spotify’s featured podcaster being paid to create exclusive content is an important one. The algorithm promoting songs is potentially what interests us most, as software often amplifies and distributes content, and so far that hasn’t been a problem in the world of podcasts. (I’m sure this is a spoiler alert for, like, a year from now.)

Then, in Rogan country, one of my pals and former podcast co-host Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in Atlantic on the idea of ​​podcasts that once existed in relative privacy and conversations are now being scrutinized as the show archive becomes a landmine of regrettable and sometimes shocking commentary. Don’t get too comfortable in front of the microphone!

“As the business grows and more journalists or agitators invest the time to dig into all this content, the days of podcasting without consequences will be numbered,” she wrote.

She also points out that moderating — or even just listening to — all of these podcasts is a full-time job, especially for journalists. She notes that podcasts often lack transcripts, which, again, I don’t understand. If not for accessibility reasons, make them available for more transparency! But something tells me that a written record of everything a controversial podcast host has said doesn’t do much business. Now I’m the conspirator.

money moves

We are now entering the money section of the newsletter, starting with Acast’s earnings. A casting said it grossed around $119 million last year and has 40,000 shows on its platform. It also indicates that it recorded more than a billion plays on its network in the last quarter. I don’t have much to add here except that I will continue to watch Acast and I’m especially curious how its scale game plays out when competing against SiriusXM, iHeart and others for ad sales deals, especially now that everyone is trying to sign them consistently and spending a lot to do so.

Perhaps making massive ad sales won’t be as difficult with more advertisers entering the space, which Magellan says is happening in its latest quarterly benchmarking report. The company says podcast ad spend grew 14% quarter-over-quarter, while more than 2,200 brands ran audio ads for the first time in the fourth quarter. The team also says ad time has increased slightly during shows, with podcasters spending an average of 5.98% of their time on them – another trend we’re seeing as companies try to recoup their money through splashy deals. and expensive. (Will it be radio again?)

One advertiser that doesn’t appear in Magellan’s report but continues to spend on podcasts is Squarespace, which The New York Times featured ahead of its Super Bowl ad this weekend. Among some of the little treats is that square space paid $100,000 being the sole announcer for Marc Maron’s Barack Obama interview episode in 2015. Midroll employees also reportedly met because superiors were concerned that Squarespace would account for a third of revenue. Dax Shepard also reportedly said he thinks Squarespace ads help “legitimize his show,” and that he knows the ads inside out. “It’s a party thing.”

The article discusses the idea that podcast customer conversion rates are higher than web ads or social media ads, and it states that Rogan specifically generates bonkers returns for the business. To come full circle, which is why we probably habit see some kind of YouTube adpocalypse on Rogan or against Spotify – advertisers know what they’re getting from him, which is lots of new customers.

Finally, Amazon and Spotify are considering acquiring Audioboomalthough these offers may also “fail to materialize”, for Sky News. The company says it earned $60.2 million last year and its shows are downloaded 116 million times a month by 32 million unique listeners. I’m not sure what Spotify or Megaphone would gain from this acquisition, given that both have already acquired hosting/monetization services in Megaphone and Art19, respectively, as well as studios to create content. I can see it being worth it for them if they want to quickly increase their ad inventory, which Spotify might want to do, or just take a business out of the market because they can easily afford to do so. As always, I’m here for your thoughts and feelings!


That’s all for today, friends. I’ll be back Thursday, with Aria here Friday. See you soon !


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