I hope everyone had a glorious weekend and a survivable Monday despite impending economic catastrophe† I try not to think about it too much, so good thing I had a newsletter to write!
Today, Spotify is getting some content moderation advice, TED is launching a new subscription service, and Acast is allowing its podcasters to sell NFTs.
As Spotify expands its creator base, it enlists experts to discuss content moderation
If there was one big takeaway from Spotify’s investor presentation last week, it was Spotify going all-in on creator content. The “Spotify Machine”, like CEO Daniel Ek viewed his company as, will enter new industries and bring millions of new creators to the platform. That kind of scale may be good for bottom line, but the chances of misinformation and other dangerous content sneaking through it isn’t. So Spotify announced Monday that it has been arguing with some of the top voice and technology experts advise the company†
The 18-strong Spotify Safety Advisory Board consists of academics, researchers, entrepreneurs and advocates focused on the changing nature of online speech. The board is purely advisory and has no formal oversight of moderation decisions. The group will meet several times a year to focus on issues that Spotify brings to the fore.
According to Councilwoman Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia who focuses on privacy and security, the move formalizes what Spotify has already done. In recent years, Citron has consulted with Sarah Hoyle, Spotify’s head of trust and safety.
Citron noted that, in its experience with Spotify, the company focuses on staying ahead of content intended to target or harass individuals. “They’re working hard on it,” she said. “They have security tools built from scratch knowing that there will be an attack of content.”
While the prevention and removal of harassing and violent content is relatively uncontroversial, Spotify also has to deal with the more thorny issues of what is considered dangerous misinformation. How the company handles that problem can be crucial to its business, according to Z. John Zhang, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School who studied how business factors influence The content moderation policy of social media companies (and who is not involved in the municipality). On the one hand, the proliferation of information that is considered harmful can deter (sometimes paying) customers. On the other hand, the platform must be ideologically inclusive or risk alienating the public who feel their views are being targeted. “It’s a balance Spotify needs to maintain,” Zhang said. “It’s a very, very difficult job to do.”
However, internal policies may not be the only tools available to Spotify. Raising the price for creating a podcast or audiobook could ward off some ne’er-do-wells, Zhang said. “A good pricing mechanism could also make the task of moderating content easier,” he said.
So far, the barrier to entry is quite low. Spotify is already well on its way to replenishing its library with creator talk content, while reducing its reliance on the clunky and expensive music business. Thanks in large part to DIY podcast platform Anchor, which Spotify acquired in 2019, the streamer now has 4 million podcasts, a fourfold increase since 2020. Now Spotify is moving to audiobooks, allowing creators to upload their own podcasts and give listeners access to ten. at least some of them for free. That’s a lot of new content to screen, and moderating audio content is notoriously difficult.
Spotify was heavily criticized earlier this year for its hands-off approach to the medical misinformation 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 “uses a combination of human judgment and technical mechanisms to ensure content on the platform is compliant.”
There’s no easy answer about how to handle moderation, Citron said. Systems that rely primarily on users reporting malicious content drop a lot of things, while AI can be a “blunt tool” that lacks contextual clues. “I feel like they’ll try to be really creative about ways to ensure the level of trust and avoid harm,” she said.
EXCLUSIVE: TED Launches New Podcast Subscription to Apple Podcasts
TED launches a subscription service for its popular podcasts called TED Audio Collective Plus† The subscription is available exclusively on Apple Podcasts and gives listeners early access to some shows and ad-free streams of others.
Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter (which is currently TED’s top-ranked show on Apple Podcasts), The TED interviewand Far away with Saleem Reshamwala will be made available to non-ads subscribers a week earlier. A slew of other top shows (but not all) will be ad-free through Audio Collective Plus, including: TED Talks daily† TED Businessand How to be a better person? (which is the best TED show on Spotify).
At $4.99 per month and $49.99 per year, the price for Audio Collective Plus is basically identical to TED’s Membership Program† But while TED membership also includes ad-free listening to TED Talks daily, it’s more event and community focused than podcasts. As podcasts become a bigger business for TED (which claims to get 1.65 million downloads for its shows), Audio Collective Plus will give the company the opportunity to win paying customers beyond its traditional base.
New Acast Partnership allows podcasters to sell merch, NFTs
Acast announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Spring, a service that helps content creators create their own online stores. The new partnership allows Acast’s podcasters to sell traditional merchandise such as T-shirts and tote bags (the audio industry is simply Loves a carrying case) or even branch out into the riskier world of NFTs.
Acast has launched a pilot program featuring 11 of its shows, including: Continue and goes without saying† It seems most shops have gone the traditional merch route, which seems sensible when you consider how the NFT market is doing well†
That’s all for today! Have a normal week.