Podcast Companies Face Layoffs, Budget Cuts and Scuttled Deals

“The dumb money era is over” as layoffs, budget cuts and scuttled deals challenge a long-booming industry.

#amazon-com-inc, #audible-com, #chopra-gotham, #gimlet-media, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #michael-strahan, #podcasts, #sirius-xm-radio-inc, #spotify, #stitcher-inc, #tom-brady, #van-der-beek-james

Steve Bannon’s Podcast Is Top Misinformation Spreader, Study Says

A large podcast study found that Mr. Bannon’s “War Room” had more falsehoods and unsubstantiated claims than other political talk shows.

#apple-inc, #bannon-stephen-k, #beck-glenn, #brookings-institution, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #google-inc, #limbaugh-rush, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vaccination-and-immunization

Spotify to Lay Off 6% of Its Work Force

The audio streaming platform becomes the latest big technology company to cut costs over worries about the economy.

#company-reports, #ek-daniel, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #ostroff-dawn, #spotify

Appearing ‘Less Asian’ on College Applications: The Week in Reporter Reads

Five articles from around The Times, narrated just for you.

#asian-americans, #colleges-and-universities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #firearms, #spotify, #tiktok-bytedance

Spotify is the first to launch non-Google Android billing in the US

The logo for the board game Monopoly, complete with Uncle Pennybags, has been transformed to say Google.

Enlarge / Let’s see, you landed on my “Google Ads” space, and with three houses… that will be $1,400. (credit: Ron Amadeo / Hasbro)

Google is slowly loosening its grip over billing on Google Play. In March, the company announced a pilot “User Choice Billing” plan, which would give users the option to buy things on Google Play through a third-party payment processor. In some countries, the pilot launched in September, with Google taking developer sign-ups in the European Economic Area, Australia, India, Indonesia, and Japan. Today the feature is finally coming to the US, with Google announcing expansion to the US, Brazil, and South Africa.

As announced in March, Google’s first partner for this project is one of its biggest customers, Spotify, which has its own blog post announcing that the feature is rolling out this week. The Play Store has always required developers exclusively use Google Play Billing for app payments, but bigger companies like Spotify and Netflix ignored those rules for years, seemingly deciding they were too big to ban. For years, they were right, but Google announced it would really start enforcing its rules, even for the big companies, in 2022. When the March deadline arrived, though, it also came the announcement of User Choice Billing, with Spotify as the first partner, so it’s not clear that Google was ever able to actually get Spotify to follow the rules.

Spotify first gives you options for "Spotify" or "Google Play," and tapping the "Spotify" button lets you type in a credit card or use PayPal.

Spotify first gives you options for “Spotify” or “Google Play,” and tapping the “Spotify” button lets you type in a credit card or use PayPal.

Spotify has a picture of what its officially sanctioned User Choice Billing will look like, though, with payment buttons for “Google Play” and “Spotify” right next to each other on the subscription checkout page. Tapping the “Spotify” button brings up options to type in a credit card directly or use PayPal. Spotify says it is “the first to pilot” User Choice Billing with this launch, and Google says that the dating app Bumble is the second app to be approved for alternative billing.

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#google-play, #spotify, #tech

People Love to Hate-Watch Tech Villains. That Won’t Hurt Spotify.

“The Playlist” resembles other TV dramas that follow founders to their eventual comeuppance — except Spotify isn’t facing any messy implosion.

#audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #ek-daniel, #holmes-elizabeth-1984, #netflix-inc, #spotify, #television, #theranos-inc

Spotify Wants to Get Into Audiobooks but Says Apple Is in the Way

Apple has rejected Spotify’s new app three times from its App Store. It is the latest in a series of confrontations between the two companies.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #audiobooks, #computers-and-the-internet, #ek-daniel, #google-inc, #mobile-applications, #spotify

What Is a ‘Fake’ Artist in 2022?

Firestorms over the “virtual rapper” FN Meka and faceless artists on Spotify have sparked conversations about alienation and creative agency.

#audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #audio-neutral-informative, #augmented-reality-computers, #fn-meka-rapper, #rap-and-hip-hop, #spotify

Good Products and Bad Businesses

Some digital inventions have seemed brilliant, but their business plans might not work.

#computers-and-the-internet, #delivery-services, #internal-sub-only-nl, #spotify, #uber-technologies-inc

An old music industry scheme, revived for the Spotify era

An old music industry scheme, revived for the Spotify era

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Benn Jordan was flattered when he scanned his inbox.

Jordan is a musician who records and performs under various pseudonyms, most famously as The Flashbulb. His music is best described as electronica with occasional hints of modern jazz, and while he has become pretty successful, he hasn’t headlined any big festivals yet. So when a fawning email from a New York Times reporter arrived, he took note.

“An odd question from a newspaper reporter,” the subject read. It was addressed to Jordan’s booking agent, who had forwarded it to him. “My name is Ian Urbina, and I work for The New York Times,” Urbina wrote. “I’m contacting you not for an interview per se but because I want to run an idea by you that I think might be of great interest. I’ve been a fan of Benn’s for a while. My idea concerns using music to empower storytelling.”

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#copyright, #features, #music-industry, #new-york-times, #policy, #royalties, #spotify

Spotify Car Thing is a $90 thing that plays Spotify in your car

Spotify's Car Thing thing in a car.

Enlarge / Spotify’s Car Thing thing in a car. (credit: Spotify)

Spotify is entering the hardware market with Car Thing, a smart music player meant to sit on your dashboard.

The company released Car Thing to a limited number of subscribers in October, and it announced on Tuesday that anyone can buy the device for $90—but you need a Spotify Premium subscription to use it. Spotify Premium currently costs $10 per month for individuals, with plans going up to $16 per month for six accounts. Car Thing also requires a connection to your phone for mobile data or Wi-Fi.

The device is meant to provide a way to listen to Spotify in your car without the need to look down at your phone or deal with clunky built-in car interfaces, which can be dangerous to use on the road. A 12 V power adapter connects to Car Thing and your car’s auxiliary power outlet, and the device then connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Finally, you connect the device to your car stereo via AUX, Bluetooth, or USB. The player also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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#smart-devices, #spotify, #tech

Want to delete Spotify? These are the alternatives

Today, Spotify is the dominant streaming music platform in several regions, including the United States. But lately there has been a lot of interest among Spotify users in trying something new.

Some are just curious to see what else is out there since they’ve used Spotify for a long time while its competitors have continued to mature. Some are seeking to make a change because of controversies around the platform’s deal with podcaster Joe Rogan or its financial relationship with artists.

Whatever your reasons, there are several well-established competitors that offer many of the same features as Spotify. We’ll quickly run down what distinguishes them.

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#amazon-music-unlimited, #apple-music, #ars-buying-guide, #ars-shopping, #bandcamp, #deezer, #music, #podcasts, #soundcloud, #spotify, #streaming, #tech, #tidal, #youtube-music

Spotify acquires two more companies to become a podcasting juggernaut

Spotify's logo and branding.

Spotify’s logo and branding. (credit: Spotify)

Streaming-audio platform Spotify has announced its acquisition of two podcasting companies, each of which sheds some light on Spotify’s long-term plan to dominate the podcasting business.

The online audio giant is acquiring both Podsights and Chartable. The companies make two of the leading tools related to marketing, advertising, metrics, and analytics for audio content.

Podsights is an advertising measurement tool that allows advertisers to see how many people were exposed to their ads, as well as how effective the ads were at driving purchases. Chartable is somewhat similar, but it’s aimed at podcast creators, not advertisers. It helps podcasters track audience growth and see what factors are driving that growth.

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#audio, #chartable, #joe-rogan, #megaphone, #music, #podcasting, #podcasts, #podsights, #spotify, #streaming-audio, #streaming-music, #tech, #whooshkaa

Spotify’s Joe Rogan Deal Is Said to Be Worth Over $200 Million

The deal that brought his podcast to Spotify is said to be worth over $200 million, more than was previously known. Accusations that he spreads misinformation have roiled the company.

#boycotts, #ek-daniel, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program, #vaccination-and-immunization

Why Podcasts Are Becoming Netflix

Podcasts have been a freewheeling corner of digital life, but the potential for profits is changing that.

#computers-and-the-internet, #internal-sub-only-nl, #podcasts, #spotify

The Saga of Joe Rogan

What happened when Spotify and its most popular podcast ran headlong into the pandemic.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify

The Pandemic Culls the Big Tech Herd

Bigger is still better, as the largest tech firms keep gobbling up weakened rivals.

#ek-daniel, #internal-sub-only-nl, #meta-platforms-inc, #microsoft-corp, #social-media, #spotify, #zuckerberg-mark-e

Spotify’s Ongoing Joe Rogan Problem

The controversy over the star podcaster and misinformation raised thorny questions about the streaming service’s role as a platform, and exacerbated its conflicts with musicians.

#audio-neutral-informative, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program, #young-neil

America 2022: Where Everyone Has Rights and No One Has Responsibilities

The Neil Young-Joe Rogan-Spotify dust-up isn’t about just freedom of speech.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #nursing-and-nurses, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil

Fact-Checking Joe Rogan’s Interview With Robert Malone That Caused an Uproar

Mr. Rogan, a wildly popular podcast host, and his guest, Dr. Malone, a controversial infectious-disease researcher, offered a litany of falsehoods over three hours.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #robert-malone, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization

Getting Rid of Joe Rogan Won’t Solve the Health Misinformation Problem

Medical drivel has ballooned with the rise of streaming, e-commerce and social media platforms. Platforms, lawmakers and regulators aren’t keeping up.

#amazon-com-inc, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #goop-com, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization

Spotify Stands by Joe Rogan: ‘Canceling Voices Is a Slippery Slope’

In a memo following Rogan’s apology for past use of a racial slur, Spotify’s chief executive said the company would invest $100 million in audio “from historically marginalized groups.”

#ek-daniel, #music, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program

Older Americans Fight to Make America Better

We don’t want to leave the world a worse place than we found it.

#age-chronological, #baby-boomers, #bank-of-america-corporation, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #black-people, #boycotts, #citigroup-inc, #civil-rights-movement-1954-68, #global-warming, #millennial-generation, #mitchell-joni, #music, #nineteen-hundred-sixties, #pop-and-rock-music, #presidential-election-of-2020, #spotify, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voting-rights-act-1965, #voting-rights-registration-and-requirements, #wells-fargocompany, #young-neil, #youth

Spotify removes 70 Joe Rogan episodes as he faces heat over use of n-word

Spotify's Joe Rogan Experience podcast seen on the screen of a smartphone.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Cindy Ord )

Spotify on Friday removed 70 Joe Rogan Experience episodes from 2020 and previous years. Meanwhile, Rogan issued an apology after video showed him saying the n-word on various podcast episodes.

The new episode removals weren’t related to the COVID misinformation that led Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and others to ask for their music to be pulled from Spotify, which caused a backlash from angry fans. But it was the second big round of Rogan episode removals since Spotify signed the podcast host.

“Previously, Spotify had pruned 43 ‘JRE’ episodes from the catalog after the company added Rogan’s show in September 2020 under a $100 million exclusive distribution pact. Those included segments with right-wing figures such as Infowars’ Alex Jones, Gavin McInnes and Milo Yiannopoulos and also episodes with comedians,” according to Variety.

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#joe-rogan, #policy, #spotify

Joe Rogan Apologizes for ‘Shameful’ Past Use of Racial Slur

His apology came as listeners said that as many as 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast had been quietly taken off Spotify; the company has yet to comment on the reported removals.

#apologies, #podcasts, #race-and-ethnicity, #rogan-joe, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program

On Joe Rogan and Spotify, Roxane Gay Takes a Stand

Joe Rogan can continue to air misinformation. Spotify can continue to look the other way. Today at least, I won’t.

#boycotts, #censorship, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #freedom-of-the-press, #media, #mitchell-joni, #news-and-news-media, #podcasts, #reality-television, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #young-neil

Spotify Defends Handling of Joe Rogan Controversy Amid Uproar

The company released earnings figures a week after Neil Young and others pulled their music to protest what they called vaccine misinformation on Rogan’s podcast.

#audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #company-reports, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #mitchell-joni, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil

Spotify Backs Joe Rogan’s Disinformation Machine

The streaming service picks Joe Rogan over Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

#censorship, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #rogan-joe, #social-media, #spotify, #young-neil

What the Joe Rogan Backlash Reveals About How We Handle Misinformation

Are we relying too heavily on tech platforms to enforce the boundaries of socially acceptable speech?

#debatable, #rogan-joe, #science-and-technology, #silicon-valley-calif, #social-media, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program, #young-neil

Behind Neil Young vs. Spotify, a Fraught Relationship With Musicians

The rocker touched off a debate about free speech and the responsibility of tech platforms. How many artists will follow him, now that streaming dominates the business?

#audio-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #brown-brene, #censorship, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #mitchell-joni, #music, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #spotify, #the-joe-rogan-experience-radio-program, #young-neil

Spotify shows that when platforms become producers, the results are messy

Spotify is in the middle of a transformation—it just may not realize it.

Enlarge / Spotify is in the middle of a transformation—it just may not realize it. (credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Spotify probably didn’t realize it, but it ceased being a tech company a few years ago.

It was excelling at all the tech startup things—attracting users and losing money—but like most businesses, it eventually wanted to make a profit. The company was having a tough time doing that simply by streaming music, which proved to be expensive since the labels demanded a hefty fee to access their catalogs. Without another product to sell alongside music, Spotify was hemorrhaging money.

So the company started looking afield, searching for a product that would complement its existing music offerings. It found one in podcasts.

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#facebook, #joe-rogan, #media-company, #online-platforms, #policy, #spotify, #twitter, #youtube-section-230

The Democrats’ Use of Dark Money: Is It Hypocritical?

Readers justify the use of such money to level the playing field while the Democrats try to change the rules. Also: Trump’s rally; the Spotify dustup; LED lights.

#amnesties-commutations-and-pardons, #campaign-finance, #cancel-culture, #democratic-party, #electric-light-bulbs, #epilepsy, #light-emitting-diodes, #mitchell-joni, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #spotify, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #young-neil

Spotify’s Joe Rogan Problem Isn’t Going Away

The controversy is different, in many ways, from the other conflicts between online stars and the companies that give them a platform.

#censorship, #computers-and-the-internet, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #mitchell-joni, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #spotify, #young-neil

Spotify publicly posts content policy as Rogan responds

Joe Rogan.

Enlarge / Joe Rogan. (credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Spotify publicly posted its platform policies for the first time on Sunday following artists’ outrage over COVID-related episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast.

The policies, which previously weren’t known to the public, offer podcasters and musicians wide latitude over what they can stream on Spotify. They’re similar to the approaches used by other platforms. Spotify does not allow hatred and incitement of violence, deception, graphic depictions of violence, sexually explicit material, and illegal content. The streaming service also says it forbids “content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health.”

“These are rules of the road to guide all of our creators—from those we work with exclusively to those whose work is shared across multiple platforms,” CEO Daniel Ek said in a blog post.

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#content-policy, #covid, #joe-rogan, #misinformation, #platforms, #policy, #spotify

Spotify and Joe Rogan Respond to Complaints About Covid Misinformation

The streaming service said it would add a “content advisory” notice to virus-related content, while Rogan, its star podcaster, said he would try to include more experts.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #mitchell-joni, #music, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil

Spotify Responds to Complaints About Covid Misinformation

After Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removed their music from the streaming service, its chief executive wrote, “it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor.”

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ek-daniel, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #mitchell-joni, #music, #podcasts, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil

Joni Mitchell Plans to Follow Neil Young Off Spotify, Citing ‘Lies’

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” she wrote after the site was accused of spreading vaccine misinformation.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #mitchell-joni, #music, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil

Spotify support buckles under complaints from angry Neil Young fans

Neil Young's fans aren't happy that the rocker's music is no longer available on Spotify.

Enlarge / Neil Young’s fans aren’t happy that the rocker’s music is no longer available on Spotify. (credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Neil Young was mad. Now his fans are, too, and they’re telling Spotify about it.

Earlier this week, Young had asked the music-streaming service to remove his music from its library in response to COVID misinformation aired on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which is available only on Spotify. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote on his website. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Spotify complied with the request, which ultimately came from Warner Brothers, Young’s label. Though the loss of Young’s music likely represents a small percentage of overall streams on Spotify, Young pointed out that “Spotify represents 60% of the streaming of my music to listeners around the world.” 

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#covid-19, #joe-rogan, #misinformation, #neil-young, #policy, #spotify

Neil Young Says ‘No More’ to Spotify

Without real streaming alternatives around, a musician’s move to shame Spotify is doomed to failure.

#cuban-mark, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #internal-sub-only-nl, #social-media, #spotify, #young-neil

Spotify says it will remove Neil Young’s music instead of dropping Joe Rogan

Neil Young playing guitar on stage.

Enlarge / Neil Young performs at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island during Farm Aid 30 on September 19, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. (credit: Getty Images | Raymond Boyd)

With Neil Young having told Spotify that it can keep him or podcaster Joe Rogan but not both, the streaming company today said it will remove Young’s catalog of music.

“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” Spotify said in a statement to Deadline and other media organizations. “With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place, and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify but hope to welcome him back soon.”

Young’s music was still on Spotify as of this writing but will presumably be removed soon unless either Young or Spotify change their minds. Objecting to misinformation about COVID aired on Rogan’s podcast, Young told Warner Records this week that Spotify “has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform.”

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#joe-rogan, #neil-young, #policy, #spotify

Spotify Removes Neil Young’s Music After Complaints About Joe Rogan

The singer decided to leave the streaming service because it gives a platform to Joe Rogan, whom scientists have accused of promoting falsehoods about coronavirus vaccines.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #podcasts, #pop-and-rock-music, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #warner-music-group, #young-neil

Neil Young tells Spotify it can’t have both him and Joe Rogan anymore

Aging rockstar in a fedora.

Enlarge / Neil Young performs on stage at Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time at Hyde Park on July 12, 2019, in London, England. (credit: Jo Hale | Getty Images)

Neil Young has threatened to remove his music from Spotify because he believes the streaming company enables podcaster Joe Rogan to spread “fake information” about vaccines.

In an email to his record label, Warner Records, Young said Spotify “has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform.”

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” he wrote. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

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#antivax, #gaming-culture, #joe-rogan, #neil-young, #policy, #science, #spotify

Neil Young posts and removes a letter demanding Spotify remove his music.

“They can have Rogan or Young,” Neil Young wrote to his management team and record label in a letter that he has since removed from his website, according to Rolling Stone. “Not both.”

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #pop-and-rock-music, #rogan-joe, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #spotify, #twitter, #vaccination-and-immunization, #young-neil, #youtube-com

Election Falsehoods Surged on Podcasts Before Capitol Riots, Researchers Find

A new study analyzed nearly 1,500 episodes, showing the extent to which podcasts pushed misinformation about voter fraud.

#absentee-voting, #apple-inc, #bannon-stephen-k, #beck-glenn, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #brookings-institution, #conspiracy-theories, #google-inc, #hannity-sean, #podcasts, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-fraud-election-fraud

When Did Spotify Wrapped Get So Chatty?

This year’s data dump from the streaming music service leaned heavily on contemporary buzzwords and slang — and inspired many, many memes.

#data-mining-and-database-marketing, #social-media, #spotify

Prince Paul Dives Deep Into Music History

In “The 33 ⅓ Podcast,” the acclaimed producer finds himself in some unexpected pairings to explore classic albums from Steely Dan, Janet Jackson and more.

#content-type-personal-profile, #podcasts, #pop-and-rock-music, #prince-paul-1967, #rap-and-hip-hop, #spotify, #the-33-1-3-podcast-radio-program

Covid-19 Misinformation Goes Unchecked on Radio and Podcasts

False statements about vaccines have spread on the “Wild West” of media, even as some hosts die of virus complications.

#apple-inc, #bernier-marc-d-2021, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deyoung-jimmy-sr-d-2021, #enyart-bob-d-2021, #iheartmedia-inc, #news-and-news-media, #podcasts, #radio, #rumors-and-misinformation, #spotify, #vaccination-and-immunization, #wiles-rick

Roku debuts new Streaming Stick 4K bundles, software update with voice and mobile features

Weeks after Amazon introduced an updated Fire TV lineup that included, for the first time, its own TVs, Roku today is announcing its own competitive products in a race to capture consumers’ attention before the holiday shopping season. Its updates include a new Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ — the latter which ships with Roku’s newer hands-free voice remote. The company is also refreshing the Roku Ultra LT, a Walmart-exclusive version of its high-end player. And it announced the latest software update, Roku OS 10.5, which adds updated voice features, a new Live TV channel for home screens, and other minor changes.

The new Streaming Stick 4K builds on Roku’s four-year-old product, the Streaming Stick+, as it offers the same type of stick form factor designed to be hidden behind the TV set. This version, however, has a faster processor which allows the device to boot up to 30% faster and load channels more quickly, Roku claims. The Wi-Fi is also improved, offering faster speeds and smart algorithms that help make sure users get on the right band for the best performance in their homes where network congestion is an increasingly common problem  — especially with the pandemic-induced remote work lifestyle. The new Stick adds support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+, giving it the “4K” moniker.

This version ships with Roku’s standard voice remote for the same price of $49.99. For comparison, Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick Max with a faster processor and speedier Wi-Fi is $54.99. However, Amazon is touting the addition of Wi-Fi 6 and support for its game streaming service, Luna, as reasons to upgrade.

Roku’s new Streaming Stick 4K+ adds the Roku Voice Remote Pro to the bundle instead. This is Roku’s new remote, launched in the spring, that offers rechargeability, a lost remote finder, and hands-free voice support via its mid-field microphone, so you can just say things like “hey Roku, turn on the TV,” or “launch Netflix,” instead of pressing buttons. Bought separately, this remote is $29.99. The bundle sells for $69.99, which translates to a $10 discount over buying the stick and remote by themselves.

Image Credits: Roku

Both versions of the Streaming Stick will be sold online and in stores starting in October.

The Roku Ultra LT ($79.99), built for Walmart exclusively, has also been refreshed with a faster processor, more storage, a new Wi-Fi radio with up to 50% longer range, support for Dolby Vision, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a built-in ethernet port.

Plus, Roku notes that TCL will become the first device partner to use the reference designs it introduced at CES for wireless soundbars, with its upcoming Roku TV wireless soundbar. This device connects over Wi-Fi to the TV and works with the Roku remote, and will arrive at major retailers in October where it will sell for $179.99.

The other big news is Roku’s OS 10.5 software release. The update isn’t making any dramatic changes this time around, but is instead focused largely on voice and mobile improvements.

The most noticeable consumer-facing change is the ability to add a new Live TV channel to your home screen which lets you more easily launch The Roku Channel’s 200+ free live TV channels, instead of having to first visit Roku’s free streaming hub directly, then navigate to the Live TV section. This could make the Roku feel more like traditional TV for cord-cutters abandoning their TV guide for the first time.

Other tweaks include expanded support for launching channels using voice commands, with most now supported; new voice search and podcast playback with a more visual “music and podcast” row and Spotify as a launch partner; the ability to control sound settings in the mobile app; an added Voice Help guide in settings; and additional sound configuration options for Roku speakers and soundbars (e.g. using the speaker pairs and soundbar in a left/center/right) or in full 5.1 surround sound system).

A handy feature for entering in email and passwords in set-up screens using voice commands is new, too. Roku says it sends the voice data off-device to its speech-to-text partner, and the audio is anonymized. Roku doesn’t get the password or store it, as it goes directly to the channel partner. While there are always privacy concerns with voice data, the addition is a big perk from an accessibility standpoint.

Image Credits: Roku

One of the more under-the-radar, but potentially useful changes coming in OS 10.5 is an advanced A/V sync feature that lets you use the smartphone camera to help Roku make further refinements to the audio delay when using wireless headphones to listen to the TV. This feature is offered through the mobile app.

The Roku mobile app in the U.S. is also gaining another feature with the OS 10.5 update with the addition of a new Home tab for browsing collections of movies and shows across genres, and a “Save List, which functions as a way to bookmark shows or movies you might hear about — like when chatting with friends — and want to remember to watch later when you’re back home in front of the TV.

The software update will roll out to Roku devices over the weeks ahead. It typically comes to Roku players first, then rolls out to TVs.

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Clubhouse hires a head of news from NPR to build out publisher relationships

Clubhouse has hired a veteran editor from NPR to lead news publishing for the app. Nina Gregory will serve as Clubhouse’s Head of News and Media Publishers, working as a liaison between news publishers and the Clubhouse’s ecosystem of audio-based communities.

Gregory led NPR’s Arts Desk for the last seven years, shaping the news outlet’s culture and entertainment coverage. “As an audio journalist, [Clubhouse] aligned with what I’ve always believed is the best medium for news,” Gregory told CNN. “You don’t need to know how to read to be able to hear radio news. You don’t need to have an expensive subscription. You don’t need cable.”

Helping publishers and other brands get plugged in is one path toward maturation for Clubhouse. Online media properties from USA Today to TechCrunch have built a presence on the app, which exploded in growth as the pandemic limited in-person social interactions. But with competition from more entrenched competitors looming, Clubhouse may need to get creative to stay in the game.

Clubhouse’s quick ascent saw Twitter, Spotify, Facebook and other established tech companies scramble to integrate live audio rooms into their own products. Twitter quickly launched Spaces, while Spotify launched a standalone Clubhouse clone known as Greenroom. Facebook first announced its own live audio rooms in April, opening them to U.S. users two months later.

The kind of viral attention that Clubhouse enjoyed over the last year is almost impossible to maintain, but the company has added features, introduced an Android app and opened its doors to everyone. Clubhouse might not be able to top its February peak, but the app still notched 7.7 million global monthly downloads after expanding to Android this summer, and continues to build out its vision for audio-first social networking.

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Epic Games appeals last week’s ruling in antitrust battle with Apple

Fortnite maker Epic Games is appealing last week’s ruling in its court battle with Apple, where a federal judge said Apple would no longer be allowed to block developers from adding links to alternative payment mechanisms, but stopped short of dubbing Apple a monopolist. The latter would have allowed Epic Games to argue for alternative means of serving its iOS user base, including perhaps, through third-party app stores or even sideloading capabilities built into Apple’s mobile operating system, similar to those on Google’s Android OS.

Apple immediately declared the court battle a victory, as the judge had agreed with its position that the company was “not in violation of antitrust law” and had also deemed Apple’s success in the app and gaming ecosystem as “not illegal.” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, said the ruling was not a win for either developers or consumers. On Twitter, he hinted that the company may appeal the decision when he said, “We will fight on.”

In a court filing published on Sunday (see below), Epic Games officially stated its attention to appeal U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’ final judgment and “all orders leading to or producing that judgment.”

As part of the judge’s decision, Epic Games had been ordered to pay Apple the 30% of the $12 million it earned when it introduced its alternative payment system in Fortnite on iOS, which was then in breach of its legal contract with Apple.

The appellate court will revisit how Judge Gonzalez Rogers defined the market where Epic Games had argued Apple was acting as a monopolist. Contrary to both parties’ wishes, Gonzalez Rogers defined it as the market for “digital mobile gaming transactions” specifically. Though an appeal may or may not see the court shifting its opinion in Epic Games’ favor, a new ruling could potentially help to clarify the vague language used in the injunction to describe how Apple must now accommodate developers who want to point their customers to other payment mechanisms.

So far, the expectation floating around the developer community is that Apple will simply extend the “reader app” category exception to all non-reader apps (apps that provide access to purchased content). Apple recently settled with a Japanese regulator by agreeing to allow reader apps to point users to their own website where users could sign up and manage their accounts, which could include customers paying for subscriptions — like Netflix or Spotify subscriptions, for instance. Apple said this change would be global.

In briefings with reporters, Apple said the details of the injunction issued with the Epic Games ruling, however, would still need to be worked out. Given the recency of the decision, the company has not yet communicated with developers on how this change will impact them directly nor has it updated its App Store guidelines with new language.

Reached for comment, Epic Games said it does not have any further statements on its decision to appeal at this time.

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