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The Obamas head to Audible

The Obamas head to Audible


Plus, Spotify tests recording pods in-app, and YouTube creeps further into the podcast space

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Photo by PHILIP DAVALI/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Well, now we know where the Obamas are heading after their split with Spotify. I had a whole fancy intro before getting the news, but this is about as hot as Hot Pod gets, so let’s get into it.

Obamas take their podcasts to Audible after leaving Spotify

Amazon’s Audible and the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground announced a multi-year first-look deal on Tuesday, ending the speculation of where the former first couple would take their podcasts after their deal with Spotify ends in several months.

It’s a big get for Audible, which is better known for audiobooks than podcasts even as it ramps up the development deals. It is also a curious choice for the Obamas, who were reported to be frustrated by the limitations that came with making shows like The Michelle Obama Podcast and Renegades: Born in the USA for Spotify that had months-long exclusivity windows. The split was apparently mutual, as Spotify did not make an offer to extend their contract.

“At Higher Ground, we have always sought to lift up voices that deserve to be heard — and Audible is invested in realizing that vision alongside us,” said President Obama in a statement.

“I’m looking forward to partnering with them to tell stories that not only entertain but also inspire.”

If accessibility is a priority for the Obamas, the Audible deal could be a tricky arrangement. Audible makes many podcasts, even originals, available for free. But it is best known for its premium programming, which is gated behind a $7.95 per month subscription. (Even Spotify’s exclusive shows are still available for free.) Today’s announcement doesn’t offer any details on whether the shows will be behind paywall or what kind of programming the Obamas will deliver, but Audible spokesperson Keri Dizney told Hot Pod that “Audible and Higher Ground plan to make the Audible Originals available to the widest possible audience.”

Spotify tests new feature that lets you record, post podcasts in-app

Michael Mignano, the co-founder of Anchor who has led Spotify’s podcasting tech stack since 2019, left the company last week but not before introducing a potentially game-changing new feature. Spotify is trying out a new tool that will allow users to record and distribute podcasts right in the app. It may not make for the best-sounding podcasts out there, but it lowers the barrier to entry for potentially millions of creators that Spotify is eager to attract.

The feature is available to users in New Zealand and a small number of users in the US, according to Spotify spokesperson Laura Pezzini. It also comes with a number of editing tools that allow creators to cut audio and add background music to their podcasts. It makes podcasts a step (or two) more accessible than Spotify-owned Anchor, which still requires a separate app.

Spotify did not provide further details on how the test is going, but the new feature seems to be key to the company’s goal of recruiting new creators by the millions. Music streaming is still the company’s bread and butter, but it requires paying out expensive royalties. At the company’s investor presentation earlier this month, executives argued that the profit margins on podcasts and, soon enough, audiobooks could potentially be much higher. Podcasts, however, still remain unprofitable for Spotify.

EXCLUSIVE: Inherited will return for second season with new partnership with YR Media

Climate change-focused studio Critical Frequency will bring back Inherited, a show about the youth climate movement that debuted in 2020, for a second season. This time around, it will partner with YR Media, an incubator for young journalists, to feature stories from young people about how climate change is impacting their futures.

The first season of Inherited ended in fall of 2020 with critical recognition, if not chart dominance. But Critical Frequency has found success partnering with other studios on environmental programming. It partnered with Crooked Media on the second season of This Land and with Scene on the Radio for season five of The Repair. It also sold talk show Hot Take to Crooked Media earlier this year.

YouTube gives friendly podcasting tips that definitely don’t indicate a hostile takeover

As part of its Creator Insider series, YouTube posted a video last week pitching why podcasters should post their shows on the platform and the best practices for doing so. First reported by Podnews, the tutorial is led by a YouTube strategic partner manager who highlights the reasons why YouTube is great for podcasters (money, reach, yada yada). But as the lines blur between podcasts and videos and YouTube becomes increasingly dominant in the space, podcasters don’t have much of a choice.

For top (or even middling) podcasts, video is becoming a compulsory part of the process. Fans have started to expect that recording sessions will be recorded on video, and one sports podcaster from the Locked On network recently told Hot Pod that one-fifth of his audience comes from YouTube. That aligns with the findings of a recent study by Cumulus and Signal Hill that found that when including those who watch podcasts, in addition to those who just listen, YouTube took the top spot over Spotify and Apple. 

The tutorial gave creators tips, such as how to maximize SEO and user experience when it comes to playlist creation and titling episodes. The video follows a company blog post also touting YouTube for podcasters. It’s a new attitude from the streamer, which has mostly been passive when it comes to podcasts (presumably because it’s got larger fish to fry). That seems likely to change. “We’ll keep you posted as we develop more tools for podcasters on YouTube,” the partner manager said at the end of the video (dun dun dunnnn).

That’s all for today. I’ll be back for Insiders later this week with fresh podcast industry juice.

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