I hope everyone had a glorious weekend and a survivable Monday, despite impending economic disaster. I try not to think about it too much, so it’s a good thing I have a newsletter to write!
Today, Spotify is getting content moderation tips, TED is launching a new subscription service, and Acast is letting its podcasters sell NFTs.
As Spotify grows its stable of creators, it’s bringing in experts to consult on content moderation
If there was one big takeaway from Spotify’s presentation to investors last week, it’s that Spotify is all about content from creators. The “Spotify machine”, as CEO Daniel Ek considered his company, will move into new verticals and bring millions of new creators to the platform. This kind of scale may be good for business results, but the potential for misinformation and other dangerous content is not. So, Spotify announced on Monday that it had a fight with some of the top speech and tech experts. advise the company.
The 18 members Spotify Safety Advisory Board is made up of scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, and advocates who focus on the evolving nature of online speech. The board is purely advisory and has no formal control over moderation decisions. The group will meet several times a year, focusing on issues that Spotify brings to its attention.
According to board member Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia who focuses on privacy and security, the move formalizes what Spotify has already done. Citron itself has consulted Sarah Hoyle, Spotify’s head of trust and safety, over the past few years.
Citron noted that in its experience with Spotify, the company is focused on getting ahead of content intended to target or harass individuals. “They’re working hard on it,” she said. “They have security tools that are built in from the start, knowing there’s going to be an onslaught of content.”
While the prevention and removal of harassing and violent content is relatively uncontroversial, Spotify also has to deal with the thorniest issues of what is considered dangerous misinformation. How a company handles this problem could be crucial to its business, according to Z. John Zhang, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School, who has studied the influence of business factors on Social Media Company Content Moderation Policies (and who is not involved in consulting). On the one hand, the proliferation of information perceived as harmful could put off customers (sometimes paying). On the other hand, the platform must be ideologically inclusive or risk alienating audiences who feel their opinions are being targeted. “It’s a balance that Spotify will have to maintain,” Zhang said. “It’s a very, very difficult job to do.”
However, internal policies may not be the only tools at Spotify’s disposal. Raising the price to create a podcast or audiobook might drive some scoundrels away, Zhang said. “A good pricing mechanism could also make content moderation work easier,” he said.
So far, the barrier to entry is quite low. Spotify is already well on its way to stocking its library with designer conversation content, becoming less reliant on the clunky and expensive music industry in the process. Thanks in large part to the DIY podcast platform Anchor, which Spotify acquired in 2019, the streamer now hosts 4 million podcasts, a fourfold increase since 2020. Now, Spotify is branching out into audiobooks, allowing creators to upload their own and allowing listeners to access at least some of them for free. That’s a lot of new content to filter, and moderating audio content is notoriously difficult.
Spotify came under heavy criticism earlier this year for its hands-off approach to medical misinformation featured on Joe Rogan’s podcast. But while tens of millions of ears are on Rogan, it’s easier for less popular podcasts to fly under the radar. Spotify spokesperson Taylor Griffin said the company “relies on a combination of human review and technical mechanisms to ensure content is compliant on the platform.”
There’s no easy answer on how to approach moderation, Citron said. Systems that rely primarily on users reporting harmful content are letting a lot slip through the cracks, while AI can be a “blunt tool” that misses contextual clues. “My feeling is that they’re going to try to be really creative about ways to ensure trust levels and prevent damage,” she said.
EXCLUSIVE: TED launches new podcast subscription on Apple Podcasts
TED is launching a subscription service for its popular podcasts, called TED Audio Collective More. Available exclusively on Apple Podcasts, the subscription will give listeners early access to select shows and other ad-free streams.
Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter (which is currently TED’s highest ranked show on Apple Podcasts), The TED talkand Far Flung with Saleem Reshamwala will be made available to subscribers a week earlier without advertising. A host of other high-profile shows (but not all) will be ad-free via Audio Collective Plus, including Daily TED Talks, EFILE Companyand How to be a better human (which is the best TED show on Spotify).
At $4.99 per month and $49.99 per year, Audio Collective Plus is basically priced the same as TED Membership Program. But while TED membership includes ad-free listening to Daily TED Talks, it’s more event and community-focused than podcasting. As podcasts become a bigger business for TED (which claims to get 1.65 million downloads on its shows), Audio Collective Plus will give the company a chance to attract paying customers beyond its traditional base.
New Acast partnership will allow podcasters to sell merch, NFTs
Acast on Tuesday announced its partnership with Spring, a service that helps content creators build their own online stores. The new partnership will allow Acast podcasters to sell traditional products such as t-shirts and tote bags (the audio industry love a tote bag) or even branch out into the riskier world of NFTs.
Acast launched a pilot program with 11 of its shows, including Go for it and It’s obvious. It seems like most stores have gone the traditional route of merchandising, which seems sensible considering how the NFT market is doing well.
That’s all for today! Have a normal week.