Here's why Spotify is making a huge mistake

PLUS: A memorial for my favorite podcast

Here's why Spotify is making a huge mistake
Made with DALL-E AI

Spotify Introduces new "feature" of comments for podcasts

Spotify recently announced it's rolling out a commenting feature for podcasts. After three rounds of layoffs, the cancellation of flagship shows like Stolen and Heavyweight, and the departure of numerous exclusive podcasts, this is their answer for revitalizing the platform's podcasting scene.

Forgive my bluntness, but this new "feature" is a head-scratcher. If Spotify thinks a comment section is the key to elevating podcasting, they've completely missed the mark. This move won't improve podcasting; it'll simply turn Spotify into another social media platform.

Listeners already have countless ways to interact with podcasters: X (formerly Twitter), Discord, Mastodon, Threads, email... the list goes on. As a former podcaster myself, I know firsthand that dedicated fans will find ways to share their thoughts. In fact, many podcasters actively engage with their audiences on existing social platforms. Spotify's decision seems even more misguided after canceling some of its most acclaimed shows. It feels like a quantity over quality decision, and it makes me grind my teeth.

9to5Mac is even pondering whether Apple should follow suit. But let's remember the giant cesspool that is the YouTube comment section. Many successful YouTubers advise simply avoiding it altogether. In fact, it's been an ongoing topic for so long even CollegeHumor did a sketch on it 8 years ago. It's the number one thing I hear from big time YouTubers who offer advice for the next generation of creators.

How does Spotify plan to overcome the pitfalls that have plagued YouTube comments for nearly a decade? Moderation tools and comment approval settings don't change the fact that online spaces can be toxic, especially for marginalized groups.

Podcasters on Spotify now face these limited options:

  1. Open comments: Subject themselves to potentially harmful or irrelevant feedback.
  2. Disable comments: Miss out on genuine engagement with listeners.
  3. Require approval: Force themselves to sift through every comment, good or bad and then decide which ones deserve to see the light of day.

I acknowledge that I have a comment section on this newsletter. However, there's a crucial difference: I require subscribers to be logged in to comment. This creates a barrier to entry that discourages trolls and fosters a more respectful environment. I'm also not one of the largest podcast listening apps on the planet, I am simply one person writing one newsletter making my job of moderating manageable.

This whole thing leaves an incredibly bitter taste in my mouth. Once again Spotify has failed to understand that the openness of podcasting is what makes it wonderful, it instead is trying to get more engagement and time spent on the app for more advertising revenue opportunities.

The Depature of Longform

Speaking of podcasting, one of the podcasts I have listened to for nearly a decade has decided to call it a wrap.

Longform was originally a website from Aaron Lammer and Max Linsky curating the best longform writing from magazines and news outlets into one site. It eventually also turned into a podcast with Lammer, Linsky and journalist Evan Ratliff where they interviewed some of the best journalists, writers, authors, artists, and critics out there. After 12 years, Longform has ended its run with 585 episodes.

Each week one of the hosts would interview a guest about their craft, their previous work, and the things their work touches on. Topics ranging from sports to grief to local foods to the writing processes would find their way on to the show.

Each of the hosts offered a wholly different perspective and cadence, but their differences is what made the show so easy to come back to week after week witout feeling stale. Even with their differences, they always got down to the bottom of their guests writing and inspirations in ways only they could.

Vulture had a great piece where a number of writers and journalists shared their favorite episodes of the show which is a great starting point for those of you wanting to listen to this show for the first time.

If I may also add to the list here are a few episodes that I highly recommend:

Casey Newton

Casey has always been a beacon for the newsletter surge thats taken place these last few years, but before Casey created Platformer he wrote for The Verge. He had several scoops during his tenure there and Lammer goes over most of them while also covering the power behind a newsletter years before it became the "it" thing for writers to have.

Shortly after I heard this interview I reached out to Casey to talk to him about his note-taking process. He graciously said yes and we had this podcast together.

Casey was again on Longform with Kevin Roose, the co-host of his podcast Hard Fork last year which is also worth the listen. Casey's latest addition to Platformer, Zoë Schiffer, was also on Longform as well.

Jonathan Goldstein

The host of the aformentioned podcast Heavyweight was on Longform not too long ago as well. Goldstein has always been a fascinating person and every interview I can find with him is great. That said, this one has always been amongst my favorites.

Jenny Odell

Jenny Odell's book, How to Do Nothing, seemed to catch a lot of writers' attention, inluding Longform's Max Linsky. In the interview, which goes over quite a bit, Max asks Odell how her brain is multiple times. Much like How to Do Nothing this interview is hard to describe but something I highly recommend.

Mona Chalabi

Mona Chalabi, a journalist and illustrator, blew me away in this interview where she shares her views and concerns at the beginning of the Israel and Palestine conflict. Her criticism of the media coverage and her raw emotion grabbed me in ways no interview has.

The other thing I love about this episode, and by extension the show's hosts, is that this was a second interview done after Max Linsky and Chalabi realized that the direction of the original interview wasn't going where Chalabi wanted the conversation to go.

Longform was a lot of things for me: inspiring, instructive, thought provoking, emotional, entertaining, and essential in my podcast rotation.

As someone who has romanticized and thought often of "what if writing was my full-time job" Longform was always there to let me listen to people who have accomplished that dream. It's incredibly hard to see this show end, but I'm sure another class of podcasters will find a way to interview other writers about their craft.

Who knows, maybe I'll be one of the people hoping to catch that same lightning in a bottle with a podcast of my own.

A Beloved Tech Blog Is Now Publishing AI Articles Under the Names of Its Old Human Staff
TUAW, a site that was shut down 10 years ago, was sold to a private equity firm, then to a company in Hong Kong, and has now stolen its old workers’ identities and is running their old work through AI summarizers.

TUAW, an Apple blog that was huge over a decade ago, recently came back online as an AI farm and it was using bylines of the previous authors for new articles it was producing. John Gruber of Daring Fireball tipped Christina Warren about this and she has documented what happened fairly regularly on social media. 404 Media has the most robust write up for this so I am linking them as well. Definitely a WTF kind of moment online worth reading.

Substack rival Ghost federates its first newsletter | TechCrunch
Over the past few days, Ghost says it has achieved two major milestones in its move to become a federated service.

Remember when Apple had fun with design?
With the launch of the CMF Phone 1 I was thinking about why I’m so excited to see it in person, I keep coming back to it’s fun and playful design in this world of cold stark designed smartphones. N…

Lee puts together a quick but brilliant point that, amidst the release of the Nothing CMF Phone 1, Apple has long lost its fun in their products. The last time their phones had colors worth drooling over were the iPhone 5c, and, with the exception of the iMac, the color pallette of the Mac lineup is dull and gray.

Affinity’s Adobe-rivaling creative suite is now free for six months
Plus a 50 percent discount for users who buy the apps.

A Small Request from Me

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