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YouTube’s most important podcast play

YouTube’s most important podcast play


It already has the shows — now YouTube is coming for the ads

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Hey, everyone. Ariel and Jake here for a combo issue this fine Tuesday morning / afternoon / evening, time zone dependent. We’ve been having a good time prepping for Hot Pod Summit, scoffing at political podcast launches, and wondering whether the future of audio in the metaverse has any legs.

Today, we’ve got rumors of Spotify’s long-awaited HiFi plan, big ad moves from YouTube, and some headphone jack feelings. But first, speaking of Hot Pod Summit, Ariel has some exciting news to share…

Hot Pod Summit LA is coming up fast

Hot Pod Summit LA is only two weeks away (!), and we have some excellent additional panelists to announce. Joining us will be:

  • Crooked Media EVP of programming and production Sandy Girard and VP of politics Shaniqua McClendon
  • Wondery+ head of product Neel Ketkar
  • Patreon head of creator partnerships Sarah Penna
  • UTA partner and head of audio Oren Rosenbaum
  • Associate professor of communication at University of San Diego Bradley Bond

I’m excited to see you all very soon for a day of conversations around IP, politics, subscriptions, and some of the other biggest podcasting topics of the moment. Tickets are very nearly sold out, so if you have a pending invite, act on that soon if you want to come.

Hot Pod Summit LA is being held as part of On Air Fest’s LA Annex, a three-day event celebrating Los Angeles’ audio storytelling scene. On Air Fest is happening November 3rd to 5th and will feature Into It host Sam Sanders, the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, the world premiere event for ESPN 30 for 30’s Pink Card with Shima Oliaee, and more. You can learn about On Air LA Annex programming and get tickets here.

Is Spotify Platinum on the way?

It certainly seems like a strong possibility. Last week, a Reddit user who had just canceled their Spotify subscription posted a screenshot of a survey they received from the company. The survey asked if they would be interested in switching to a $19.99-per-month Platinum plan, which comes with all kinds of new features: limited podcast ads, better library management, and, at long last, HiFi. 

Spotify Platinum is not yet an option under the streamer’s plans, and the screenshot floating around may not even be the final version (or price). My colleague Chris Welch at The Verge spoke with the Reddit user, who said that several variations of the Platinum plan were included in the survey, including one that would entail access to audiobooks (for a higher price). Spotify declined to comment.

Whatever Platinum ends up looking like if / when it debuts, HiFi will almost certainly be part of the plan. Spotify first announced a HiFi tier in February 2021, and users have been wondering what exactly is taking so long. Last year, Apple Music debuted lossless audio at no additional cost, and Amazon Music and Tidal have long made audio quality a priority. Charging extra for what is a perk on other services may not be enough to convince users to pay double, so I’ll be interested to see what the new tools (what exactly are “Library Pro” and “Playlist Pro”?) look like. 

Andrew Cuomo has a new podcast, and his first guest is Anthony Scaramucci

I have said this before, but it is worth reiterating in this particular case: the best thing about podcasting is its low barrier to entry, and the worst thing about podcasting is also its low barrier to entry. Sara Fischer at Axios talked to the disgraced former governor of New York so I don’t have to.

All right, now over to Jake for a couple more updates.

YouTube’s latest podcast move: more audio ads

YouTube is making a big play for podcast ads. The company announced this week that it’s moving audio ads out of beta and allowing advertisers to start targeting specific segments of podcast listeners. Audio ads up to 30 seconds are now rolling out, too, up from just 15-second spots today.

The launch shows YouTube leaning into its role as one of the top destinations for listening to podcasts. The company has finally started to embrace that position over the past year, launching a podcast hub (albeit a bare-bones one), funding creators who want to film their shows, and hiring a leader for its podcast efforts.

Audio ads first launched in late 2020, but YouTube referred to them as a beta and options were limited. With today’s expansion, advertisers in the US will be able to dial in on specific podcasts audiences, like those listening to comedy, news, sports, or culture shows, YouTube spokesperson Oluwa Falodun told Hot Pod.

Controlling advertising is very much the name of the game in the broader podcast business — see: the countless exclusivity deals that ignore platform lock-in in favor of ad-sales agreements — and I think YouTube’s moves here could be the start of something big. YouTube is already an advertising juggernaut, and its platform control means it’s ahead of the game when it comes to ad targeting and insertion. The tech is there. Now, it just needs to get advertisers and podcasters on board.

The newest iPad drops the headphone jack

We all saw this coming, but I think it’s still worth calling out: Apple introduced a new iPad this morning, and it has no option for plugging in wired headphones. The lack of a headphone jack isn’t entirely new for the iPad; the more expensive Air and Pro models already dropped the port a while back. But this new model is eventually going to be the entry-level version of the device, and I think that makes this more notable.

Around New York City, I regularly see parents who’ve handed their kids an iPad and a pair of wired headphones to keep them entertained while out to dinner, waiting in line, or sitting on the subway. Apple is still selling last year’s iPad with a headphone jack for now. But I suspect we’re a couple years out from parents having to figure out a new way to pull up entertainment for their kids — or else keep track of wireless headphones and finicky Bluetooth connections. For anyone making kids’ audio content, this could make the iPad a harder platform for those shows to be consumed on.

That’s all for today — Insiders, we’ll see you on Thursday.

Update October 18th, 3:45PM ET: Updated with McClendon’s latest title.