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I have never gotten so many responses to an issue as I did with last week’s on Andrew Huberman. He seems to elicit an even stronger response than Rogan, though perhaps response to Rogan has calmed down as we have all gotten more used to his shenanigans. Today, I have a look at what some of you all had to say about the value of his podcast and how the revelations from the New York Magazine article have (or have not) changed that. Plus, Spotify’s audiobook expansion, The New York Times’ new audio initiative, and Apple’s (alleged) pay-for-play scheme. Let’s get into it.

Andrew Huberman, reconsidered

ICYMI: NYM published an 8,000-word piece that looked critically at Huberman’s complicated romantic life (he allegedly maintained multiple relationships simultaneously and lied about it to the women he was seeing) and his expertise on wellness. Does it change how listeners engage with him? On a macro level, no: his show still ranks in the top 15 on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Among the kind of people who read a newsletter about podcasting each week (hey, that’s you!), it’s more varied.

Some Hot Pod readers came to his defense, particularly when it comes to his approach to scientific subjects:

“I think people underestimate how being trained at the PhD level and as a research scientist imparts a set of skills that is absolutely transferrable to more than one field within that broader discipline. Part of the training you get, for example, is in understanding the ins and outs of scientific methodologies and statistical analyses that make you an expert consumer and evaluator of scientific studies. Huberman’s research focus may appear narrow and highly specialized from the outside, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t better than 99% of people at digesting scientific literature, determining its rigor, and then explaining it to others.” – Ioakim Boutakidis, professor of child and adolescent studies at California State University at Fullerton.

“Two things to point out: One, Andrew Huberman  is not claiming he knows it all. He invites experts or at least people who have knowledge, experience, and credentials in the field they discuss on the podcast. The second is that it is totally the listener’s choice what to get out of the information  provided. I know there are  so many  people who  benefit from the podcast. That should not make Andrew Huberman  someone’s personal hero. His personal flaws are not my business.” – Victoria Libov

“It is just plain wrong to say that Dr. Huberman attempts to influence his audience’s behaviors. He is merely relaying scientific information and how it relates to the human experience. He has on multiple occasions stated that it is not his intent to recommend protocols or to tell people not to behave in certain ways, such as consuming alcohol.” – Craig Bond

Others saw his personal conduct as troubling:

“‘Unfairly targeted.’ I think all celebrities are fair game. He definitely will lose listeners. Every woman I know won’t be listening anymore, and it’s a shame. He helped me give up my chardonnay habit! :)” – Cheryl Gordon 

“His podcast has been about his own personal journey, an obsessive pursuit of excellence with regard to sleep, nutrition, exercise. But this pursuit of excellence doesn’t extend to treatment of women in his life. It’s wild how he puts women in an “other” category so neatly.” – Gloria Hong 

“You said you thought he would lose few (if any) followers as a result of the New York magazine article. I’m writing to tell you that he definitely lost one, and probably two because my husband watched some of his videos with me but never cared enough to seek them out on his own. I have no time for liars and misogynists.” – Leila Tite

And one take that I wholeheartedly agree with:

“A sleaze…. I am glad the women became friends.” – Rita Bernabei

Thanks to everyone who wrote in! 

Spotify is expanding its premium audiobook program to Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand

Spotify has been making headway in its goal to become a major player in the audiobook market. While the a la carte model it launched with has failed to take off in a major way, its inclusion of 15 hours of audiobook listening for premium subscribers has brought new listeners into the space. On April 9th, the offering will be available in three more English-speaking markets: New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland.

Premium audiobook listening is already available in the US, UK, and Australia. It’s a smart way to get music and podcast listeners to check out audiobooks for the first time without risk or allow casual audiobook listeners to browse different titles. But on its own, it’s not going to produce the kind of margins Spotify is seeking. The way Spotify plans to monetize audiobooks is by turning those lighter listeners into more regular audiobook consumers who will be willing to pay for a title straight out or buy a 10-hour top-up for $12.99. 

Those purchases are still very much hindered by Apple’s stranglehold on how apps sell digital goods and services. But Spotify is very much building for a future where the very real momentum for increasing tech regulation breaks down some of those barriers.

NYT rolls out new audio narration feature

Axios reports that The New York Times is revamping its audio narration for articles. This week, 10 percent of users of the NYT’s site, app, and audio app will be able to listen to the automated narrations. Three-quarters of the outlet’s articles are enabled for narration, and the plan is to expand it to 100 percent. 

The main NYT app also has a new Listen tab, which includes podcast episodes as well as selected article narrations. One function I like about the updated app: you can play a podcast from the Listen tab and continue listening to your episode or article while browsing around the app. A little widget follows you as you browse, so you can easily click back into the episode. 

Report: Apple Podcasts gives top billing to shows that participate in paid subscription program

Getting a prime spot on Apple Podcasts’ Browse page can be a real boost for podcasts. According to Semafor, those spots are routinely given to podcasts that participate in Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. Like with all other digital services (see Spotify blurb above), Apple gets a cut as high as 30 percent of that subscription revenue.

The report makes explicit what seemed to already be apparent — that podcasts that are part of the program get better promotion. An anonymous podcast executive told Semafor reporter Maxwell Tani that Apple executives said outright that offering subscriptions would give them a better shot of appearing on the Browse page. It’s pay-to-play, Apple style! A representative from Apple did not return request for comment.

That’s all for now! I’ll be back with Insiders on Thursday. As for the rest of you, see you next week.


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