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Jeff Umbro: Content Moderation: Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts?

This guest column is by Jeff Umbro, CEO of The Podglomerate, and was first published in his weekly newsletter for LinkedIn called Podcast Perspective. The Podglomerate produces, distributes, and monetizes podcasts. You can learn more and connect at www.thepodglomerate.com.


Podcasting News & Views

This newsletter is a lot of fun to write, and I’m grateful that there are some readers out there who are interested in what I have to say. Thanks for being one of them.

Spotify’s Audiobooks

Spotify has launched a small collection of celebrity-read audiobooks on their platform. To date, the audiobooks (Jayne Eyre, Frankenstein, etc) are all a part of the public domain, i.e. free content to run their test. The platform is currently running 9 titles across the platform, each read by a celebrity narrator like David Dobrik or Forest Whitaker.

It’s an interesting idea for Spotify, who’s CEO Daniel Ek initially pursued podcasting on the platform after discovering how well audiobooks performed on the platform in Germany. If this is a test meant to dip their big green toe in the waters against Amazon’s Audible, I’m sure we’ll soon find out. It’s also possible that this is simply an inexpensive way to celebrate the classics, and by classics I mean highly searched topics on Spotify’s platform.

I would need to dig a bit deeper to know if this is the first time Spotify has published audiobooks officially, but longtime readers will recall that in May, 2020 the company ran a campaign called Harry Potter At Home with celebrities reading chapters of the boy who lived.

Personally, I’m all in on this idea and can’t wait to see what comes next. Big literature fans should check out The Podglomerate’s Storybound podcast and The History of Literature Podcast.

The McElboys

I have no story here other than the McElroy brothers (My Brother My Brother and Me, The Adventure Zone, etc) have a new book out about creating a podcast, and you should buy it. I have not yet read the book but plan on it, as these guys are genuinely brilliant in everything they do. Seriously, buy the book now.

Also, excellent podcast publication Timber and Bello Collective partnered on a profile of the guys this past week, which is a great place to begin.

Enjoying Podcast Perspectives? Subscribe to The Podglomerate Newsletter, my weekly email newsletter. Click here to subscribe or connect with me on Twitter.

Apple Watch

I tried to assign the above headline a kind of double meaning, but I think without pointing it out, no one will get it. I’m talking about watching Apple Podcasts, but also discussing the Apple Watch. Clever, I know.

Anyway, Apple has been busy doing Apple things, as usual. The Information reported a couple weeks ago that Apple Podcasts may be considering some kind of Premium Subscription service. There are a number of ideas and details that have been laid out, but the issue is that it’s really hard to decipher the ideas vs. the details.

In short, it seems like the company may be exploring some kind of Premium podcast subscription service, i.e. paid, that will live on its own or in the Apple News+ bundle. Were this to happen, it may look similar to some of the paid services you get from Luminary, Audible’s various packages, Stitcher Premium, or even SiriusXM. Apple has been up to something on the content side for a bit between hires, new features, and a couple podcast projects (Apple News Today, Zane Lowe Interviews), but it’s tbd on whether they’re going to take a deeper dive.

Something unrelated but related that I’ve been meaning to explore for a while – Apple Music has a streaming radio service that seemingly resembles talk radio or DJ style listening, and these channels seem to do pretty well in terms of listening volume. Leave some notes in the comments if you’re a listener of Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1).

They have also launched celebrity-guided walking tours via Apple Watches (hence the very dumb joke above), and a new Apple Podcast Spotlight Feature meant to highlight interesting creators on the platform.

Podcast Moderation

One of the (many) talking points post-Jan 6th Capital riots have been surrounding content moderation, and podcasting hasn’t gotten a free pass. The Associated Press’s tech reporter Tali Arbel has an interesting piece out surrounding the idea that podcasts are acting as a loophole in content moderation, i.e. while Twitter, Parler, and YouTube are center-stage in the conversation surrounding what folks can and cannot say, there really aren’t any willing referees in the podcast space.

We’ve seen some pieces surrounding this from the publishers themselves in the past few weeks (and lets not forget about Joe Rogan and Spotify), but for the most part this seems to be an area that podcast distribution platforms are avoiding at all costs.

Thinking about this idea logistically also presents a lot of hurdles. In theory, someone could come in with some kind of transcription services and pump all podcasts through it, then have some kind of AI web crawler search for various trigger words, content, etc. Outside of the obvious reasons this wouldn’t work (if this is even possible at the scale it would need to operate), who gets to / is forced to decide what’s acceptable or not? Secondary to this idea, Google Podcasts caused a stir a few years ago when they proposed doing parts of this. The act of transcribing wasn’t so much the issue, but the questions of ownership and curation that surrounds the existence of these transcriptions.

Podcast Moderation is one of a few topics on my list to come back to in the coming weeks or months for a bigger deep dive.

Grab bag

  • Podsights has published the 2021 Q1 Benchmark Report, which you can and should access here.
  • Steve Goldstein went to the virtual CES.
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Industries has published a $.99 audiobook written by Kurt Andersen and read by Alec Baldwin called Hasta La Vista, America: Trump’s Farewell AddressThe whole setup is powered by Supercast, so you’re buying access to an RSS feed in reality.
  • Speaking of public domain books, The Great Gatsby entered public domain earlier this year and the team at Planet Money had some fun.

Easy Listening: Godcast

A new podcast from Forever Dog, which is probably my favorite non-Podglomerate podcast network. This show is hosted by God, Twitter’s largest unverified account. If you’re not familiar with this Twitter account, or with Forever Dog, well, figure out your life. But in any case, putting the two together creates an instant classic. The first few episodes promise to feature live guests like Stephen Colbert (this one went live yesterday), Zooey Deschanel, and Lin Manuel Miranda, and dead ones like Moses, Amelia Earhart, and Lizzie Borden. And to top it all off, the sidekick/cohost here is Joan of Arc. I have the first episode queued up to run later on today, but you’re going to want to tune in asap.

Enjoying Podcast Perspectives? Subscribe to The Podglomerate Newsletter, my weekly email newsletter. Click here to subscribe or connect with me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading—see you next week.

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Jeff Umbro

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