This is Hot PodThe Verge’s newsletter about podcasting and the audio industry.

Hi, everyone — I’m starting off today with some big news to share: next week will be my last at Hot Pod and The Verge. Before coming here, all I wanted was to cover the podcasting industry, and I still can’t believe I managed to get a job doing just that. Even when the news was bad (which, let’s be real, was often), I was buoyed by the passion and innovation of this community. It’s been a real privilege getting to know so many of you.

I’ll have a few more stories coming out before I leave as well as some final thoughts on the state of the industry. My colleague Jake Kastrenakes has a note below with more information about the newsletter moving forward.

As for me, I know this is the part where I am supposed to say, “I’ll have more to share about my new job soon,” but ~twist~, there is no new job! I am taking some time at home with my 11-month-old before moving on to the next thing. He is a good little man, if also a menace.

Hey, everyone — Jake here. I wanted to give you all an update on Hot Pod ahead of Ariel’s last day. It’s been a delight reading Ariel’s editions of this newsletter over the past two years, and I’m excited to see what she does next. We’re going to miss having her around.

We won’t have a new writer in place by next week, so we’re planning to put Hot Pod on hiatus while we figure out next steps. Hot Pod has been an important fixture in the podcasting world, and we value the community we’ve helped bring together in this space. You’ll be the first to hear our plans for the future of the newsletter.

Now, back over to Ariel for the day’s news.

Today, debate about NPR’s political leanings after an explosive essay by a former editor was published in The Free Press. Plus, Spotify links up with Substack and SiriusXM adds to its true crime roster.

An NPR editor accuses the network of institutional bias

This one seemed tailor-made for internet outrage. NPR business editor Uri Berliner published an essay in The Free Press titled “I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust.” The argument he makes is that the outlet has become orthodox in its progressivism and values racial diversity over “viewpoint diversity,” which has led to an increasingly homogenous audience. “An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don’t have an audience that reflects America,” he wrote.

Response to the piece has been fast and furious. Right-wing outlets now hail Berliner as a “whistleblower.” NPR colleagues criticize him for not seeking comment before publication and putting the blame on staffers of color. NPR chief news executive Edith Chapin sent a memo to staff defending the station’s work and stressing the importance of inclusion as an important part of rigorous journalism. But some former NPR staffers came to his defense, and Berliner said in an interview with Chris Cuomo that colleagues reached out to him privately in agreement. Berliner did not respond to Hot Pod’s request for comment, and according to NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara, is still employed at the network. 

There is a lot to be critical of in Berliner’s essay: the way he dismisses race-conscious stories; the fact that he does not take into account how the right’s shifting relationship with media may have something to do with NPR’s changing audience demographics; and how he did not give NPR a chance to respond (journalism 101!). But he does provide one eye-popping stat: among editorial staffers based in the Washington, DC, office, he found 87 registered Democrats and zero (0) ~zero~ Republicans. When he presented this finding to leadership, “The response wasn’t hostile. It was worse,” he writes. “It was met with profound indifference.”

This is remarkable given that NPR has a very specific obligation to its audience (and potential audience). It is a public institution. However pitiful an amount, it does receive public funds. According to Gallup, Democrats make up 28 percent of the electorate, behind Republicans (30 percent) and Independents (41 percent). I am sure that some of you will be angry when I say this, but yes, in order to reflect America, you do need some staffers who understand how the other three-quarters of America thinks. 

But whether this is fully NPR’s fault is a different thing. There is a vast, popular, and moneyed right-wing audio ecosystem out there. For young talent coming from more conservative backgrounds, this may be a more appealing option. Never mind how opposition to NPR specifically has become a pet issue on the right. The fracturing of American media is a big, complicated thing, and it can’t be placed in the lap of one institution, no matter how important it may be. 

Lightning round

  • Substack podcast listeners, rejoice! You can now listen to your subscribed shows on Spotify. As it did with Patreon last year, Spotify is allowing users to link their Substack accounts so they can listen to their free and paywalled podcasts on the platform. 
  • The former staffers of WAMU / DCist are forming a worker-owned outlet and seeking name suggestions. There does not appear to be an audio element to the new publication, as of yet. WAMU shut down DCist last month.
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau announced its annual Podcast Upfront, which will take place on May 9th. The event will feature presentations by Wondery, iHeartMedia, WNYC, and more. You can check it out here.
  • Castbox released a ranking of conservative hosts on its app. No surprise, Ben Shapiro was number one with more than 585,000 subscribers, followed by Jordan Peterson (415,000) and Dan Bongino (119,000). 
  • Death, Sex & Money, which was canceled by WNYC and picked up by Slate, will debut its new season on Tuesday, April 16th. 
  • Conan O’Brien did an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He is (understandably) grateful that he made his deal with SiriusXM before the podcast market took a turn.


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