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Substack makes a pitch for your podcasts

And everyone wants something from Daniel Ek

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I had to pause working on today’s Wordle so I could finish up this newsletter. My stats are fully tied when it comes to solves in 3, 4, and 5 guesses, so I’m taking this one seriously in hopes of pushing things in the right direction. I’ve got three yellows and a green and still have to make guess three, so wish me luck.

Now, on to the news.


The Substack of podcasts

Substack wants you all to know that it isn’t just a newsletter platform — it’s a podcasting one, too. Or at least, it’d like to be thought of that way.

The company announced this morning that three Patreon-hit podcasts are jumping ship to join Substack: The Fifth Column, which has more than 4,100 subscribers paying a minimum of $5 per month; American Prestige, which has more than 2,200 subscribers at a minimum of $3 per month; and Tangentially Speaking, which has around 300 subscribers at a minimum of $1 per month. Those first two are sizable audiences to switch platforms on, and I assume Substack offered an upfront payment deal to the creators to make it worth the risk, much as it has with many writers and comics artists. (Substack declined to tell me whether they’re getting a deal.) The company also put up a pair of blog posts today explaining its pitch on why you should consider it as your next podcasting platform.

For now, though, I’m still not seeing a great reason why a podcaster would choose Substack over Patreon as a platform to build a community around. Both platforms allow roughly the same thing — for creators to put written updates, podcasts, videos, and more behind a paywall — but Patreon lets creators do that with more flexibility. Patreon takes a lower cut of fees (8 percent on its standard plan, versus Substack’s 10 percent), and Patreon allows creators to offer different subscription tiers, whereas Substack only allows a single flat price.

There is still one big benefit in Substack’s favor: if you get fed up with the platform, you can take your subscribers’ email addresses and payment information and leave. But if you’re an up-and-coming podcaster, are you really going to choose your platform based on… your future desire to leave it?

Spotify CEO must sit for deposition, thanks to Eminem

Daniel Ek needs to make time to chat with lawyers about Spotify’s music licensing practices, a judge ordered last week. As reported by Billboard, Spotify is being sued by Eminem’s Eight Mile Style over allegations that it failed to properly pay out mechanical licenses — mandatory fees paid to songwriters to reproduce their work — on a body of his songs.

Spotify argued that Ek wasn’t needed for the lawsuit because he isn’t “directly involved in Spotify’s day-to-day licensing practices,” and the deposition would “[cause] him annoyance, [result] in inconvenience to both him and Spotify, and [subject] him and the company to undue burden.” The judge said, well, too bad.

“Undoubtedly Mr. Ek has a full schedule,” the judge wrote. But added, “Yet, the issue of proper licensing relationships with the artists whose work comprises the entirety of Spotify’s business and its sole product is surely also a matter of importance to Spotify, worthy of some of Mr. Ek’s time and attention.”

The trial is scheduled for September 2023. There’s no timing yet on Ek’s deposition.

Today, Explained hits radio, yesterday

Vox.com’s flagship podcast, Today, Explained, is expanding to radio. As of Monday, the show started airing on 13 public networks across dozens of stations through a partnership with WNYC Studios. Vox writes that it’s expanding its show to the airwaves because “​​not everyone is a podcast listener (yet), and we want to reach as wide an audience as possible.” (Big disclosure on this one: Vox is part of Vox Media, which owns The Verge and Hot Pod.)

Rooster Teeth launches mentorship program

Rooster Teeth and WarnerMedia Access are working together to launch a Digital Creators Program focused on supporting “historically underrepresented digital talent.” The program, which will accept eight creators, will run for three months and include a stipend and one month of housing for a stay in Austin.

The program isn’t just for podcasters, but it’ll include a focus on podcast development and production as well as hosting and media training. Applications are open now through May 8th.

Parcast threatens to strike

Members of the Parcast Union told Spotify on Monday that they’re ready to strike if they can’t reach a deal in the “final days” of bargaining. The union says 96 percent of its members signed a pledge to support a strike if needed. The two sides are still at odds over language on diversity, pay minimums, and IP rights, according to Bloomberg. (Another disclosure here: the Parcast Union is organizing with the Writers Guild of America, East; the Vox Media Union, which I’m part of, is also organized with WGAE.)

Spotify reached three-year agreements with the Gimlet Union and Ringer Union back in April 2021. Gimlet staffers announced plans to unionize in March 2019, just a month after Spotify acquired the company, and Ringer staffers were already in the process of unionizing when the company was acquired. Parcast’s negotiations haven’t stretched out for a particularly long time by these standards, but the final days of bargaining are often when some of the most sensitive and important topics are discussed. This threat doesn’t mean Parcast necessarily will strike, but it’s one of many pressure tactics a union can roll out as it works toward a better deal for members in these late-game discussions.


That’s all for today. I’ll have more for Insider members on Thursday and Friday.