hot pod

Key Podcast Takeaways from Spotify’s Big Event

Photo: Rob DeMartin/Spotify

It’s been just over two years since Spotify cannonballed into podcasting, marking its spendy February 2019 acquisitions of Gimlet Media and Anchor as a splashy first step in the company’s expansionary transition from a music streaming platform towards something that’s significantly more than that. It was a scaling up of ambition, one that founder and CEO Daniel Ek conceptually outlined in a blog post titled “Audio-First” published at the time.

As has been chronicled at length in this newsletter, that transition went on to include a string of further acquisitions (Parcast, The Ringer, Megaphone), a steady drumbeat of buzzy content partnerships (Joe Rogan, the Obamas, Kim Kardashian, etc.), and a bevvy of product experiments that poke at the edges of the current on-demand audio experience (playlists, vodcasts, talk-music mixes, etc.).

The past two years are abundant with Spotify-filled headlines, and they collectively exert the feel of a show of force. But the piecemeal nature of the story also sometimes led to a lack of clarity over how the company intended to structurally reshape the digital audio business as we know it and reinvent itself as a platform that, in Ek’s words, will “begin competing more broadly for time against all forms of entertainment and informational services, and not just music streaming services.” I keep seeing the shiny individual pieces, but I’m curious as to how they think it’s all supposed to fit together.

Yesterday’s hour and a half-long livestream presentation didn’t quite give me that full picture I was hoping for, but it does feel like we’re getting closer. Plus, the event also gave me the opportunity to jump on the phone with several executives at the company who I could pelt a few questions at.

There was a lot that was announced yesterday, but I’m going to organize this write-up around three main buckets and lump a bunch of remaining threads in a miscellaneous section.

The Purpose of Original and Exclusive Programming

Spotify’s already rich with — and has spent a fortune on — original and exclusive content, and yesterday’s presentation deepened the bench with a slew of new details and announcements: the DC Comics partnership will cover multiple interconnected shows; there’s a new scripted content partnership with the Russo Brothers (most known for their work directing Marvel movies, but will be forever cherished for their work on Community) via their studio AGBO; two new projects from Higher Ground, one being a dad-duet between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen (out now) and the other being the acquisition of Tell Them, I Am; the deal with Ava DuVernay’s studio, ARRAY, will soon yield an unscripted project; and The Ringer is going international.

Speaking briefly with Spotify’s Head of Studios Courtney Holt after the livestream yesterday, I asked about how he views the relationship in value between original and third-party content on the platform. (And by the latter I mean shows that are owned by Spotify, hosted on Anchor, and created out of a partnership.) I understand that, for the most part, it’s probably a “why not?” kind of situation, in the sense that if you can make the space to pursue those two strategies at the same time. But I wanted to get a better sense of how their values relate to each other within the company’s worldview.

Holt, who emphasizes new users and overall engagement in his own analysis, responds from the standpoint of being able to meet a wide universe of needs and preferences. Original content that comes out of strategic partnerships does have the value of leading to certain creative and commercial advantages — I’m guessing he means, at least in part, generating shows that can turn the heads of the listeners, advertisers, and the press alike — but he notes, “The goal with original, exclusive content is not to service everyone’s needs across the board.” It’s the combination of the two content types that, in his words, makes the platform offering “so special.”

The Spotify Podcast Advertising Network Looms

I’m a little iffy on Ashley Carman’s argument over at The Verge last week that the “podcast wars” will probably come down to ad tech, not exclusive content, but Spotify’s advertising network piece will most certainly play a fundamental role in shaping the company’s prospects for success over the long run.

On that front, we were introduced to something that has long been expected: the unveiling of the “Spotify Audience Network.” It’s essentially a consolidated podcast advertising marketplace that’s powered by its Streaming Ad Insertion technology, deepened by the Megaphone acquisition, and plugged into the company’s existing sales and creative studio infrastructure.

This is the vessel through which Spotify will embark on its effort to become the dominant advertising layer in the podcast ecosystem, but don’t expect the marketplace to open up to every podcast creator just yet.

Right now, advertising through the Spotify Audience Network is only available for Spotify’s original programming portfolio, Megaphone clients, ad-supported music, and very soon, a select group of Anchor creators. Jay Richman, Spotify’s head of Global Advertising Business & Platform, tells me that the pool of qualified content and creators will be opened up progressively over time, but the pace will be relatively slow due to his team’s insistence on being “super controlled” over the experience. This, he emphasizes, is a strategic consideration, as they hope to scale up in a way that’s careful and intentional.

“We’re essentially trying to scale quality as opposed to attacking it from the other lens, which is to take a bunch of radio-style ads and force them into the inventory,” said Richman, which he notes is an approach that can leave you vulnerable to problems regarding quality, effectiveness, and brand safety.

He assured me that they’re not lacking in advertiser interest for both Megaphone and Streaming Ad Insertion, claiming that the latter in particular has been sold out since the third quarter of last year and that it’s been growing “at triple digits.” The big lift, as it stands, is to steadily match the demand with the supply, which, again, they say they’re trying to be careful about.

The introduction of the Spotify Audience Network is likely to spark concerns over the fate of the host-read ad, long considered to be podcasting’s premium ad unit and noted point of advantage over other media. Will Spotify’s newly unveiled ad marketplace offering commoditize away that beloved ad format over the long run? When asked about the company’s commitment to the host-read ad, Richman said that, while he expects other ad formats like voiceover to factor in, the host-read approach remains central to the way his team is thinking about the network.

Not unlike Holt’s position on original and third-party content, Richman expresses the belief in being able to have the best of both worlds. “I believe in preserving the host-read ad — it’s one of the best ad formats out there — while layering onto it data, insight, and audience scale,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the winning combination.”

Future Formats, Points of Control, and the Shift to Streaming

Spotify also had a litany of other podcast-related product announcements in yesterday’s presentation. They include:

➽ Support for paid podcasts… of a sort. Specifically, creators using Anchor will soon be able to create paywalled podcast experiences that can be published out to other listening apps. But you can’t go the other way around: If you were, say, a paid podcast creator using Supporting Cast or Patreon, you still won’t be able to distribute those feeds over Spotify. Instead, you’d probably have to duplicate your efforts and start a parallel Anchor profile in order to have your paywalled podcast reach listeners using Spotify. Anyway, this feature is expected to roll out in the spring.

➽ A new partnership with Automattic’s Wordpress platform around a tool that converts written content directly into podcast experiences. (Shout-out to the New York Times’ acquisition of Audm, which is now shaping up to be the “high-end” version of this commoditized content unit.)

➽ Some new podcast discovery tools, including topic-based search and machine learning-based recommendations… come on, it’s 2021, we’re talking about The Algorithm, you know what we’re looking at here.

➽ Some interactivity tools facilitated over Anchor, including to do stuff like polls and Q&A sessions. Personally, I’m not a big interactivity guy — I like my media experiences passive for the most part — but listen, maybe folks will get into that sort of thing, okay?

The big picture to internalize here, I think, is to focus on the fact that Spotify is dedicating some considerable effort towards building out consumption experiences that will be unique to the platform, in part as a way to create a differentiated value proposition for listeners. You already see this on the music side with offerings like “enhanced albums” and sceney-looking video loops accompanying individual tracks. And to be sure, we’re already seeing some efforts at this on the podcast side, including that product announcement from a while ago about a new format that lets creators stitch together music and spoken word segments into a semi-contiguous experience.

All these unique product experiences are rolled up into something Spotify is calling “future formats” — or so I was told yesterday, when I spoke to Nir Zicherman, the company’s Head of Podcast Formats. (Zicherman co-founded Anchor, by the way.)

For the record, I’m iffy on whether these “future formats” will actually be meaningful in the long run, but I’m open to the possibility that I’m just showing my age. In any case, I have a feeling I know what I’m looking at: a class of media experience signifying Spotify’s attempt to supersede podcasting’s broader RSS infrastructure. Which is to say, these products are among the purer expressions of Spotify working to engineer the podcast ecosystem’s break away from the download paradigm and towards the streaming paradigm, which is its basis, and where it currently holds a considerable advantage and stands to exhibit a good amount of power over.

That said, I didn’t tell Zicherman what I was thinking, and when we talked about the impetus for these formats, he offered a diplomatic interpretation of where Spotify is coming from. “We embrace RSS, and we want to leverage the fact that RSS gives creators broad distribution,” he said, noting Anchor’s support of the format. But he also went on to say that they want to innovate on listening experiences, and in order to do that, he argues, they need access and control over the point of distribution as well as the point of creation.

“We believe these formats can sit on top of traditional podcasting,” he said.

We’ll see. Anyway, since I had him, I asked if he had any thoughts about Clubhouse, the social audio app/conference simulator that has been heralded by some as the end of the good times for podcasting.

Again, a diplomatic answer. “I think the growth of Clubhouse speaks to the fact there is an appetite for creating and consuming new types of content in the audio space,” he said. “We think Live is interesting, we talk about it a lot, and we’re going to be watching Clubhouse closely.”

Fair enough. Though, I think if Spotify is really serious about becoming an all-consuming audio platform, maybe they should really have a go at this Live thing.


Some other things that should be flagged as relevant, because everything is relevant at this point:

➽ Along with everything else, Spotify also announced an aggressive international expansion push yesterday, folding out to more than eighty new markets. From a podcast standpoint, this is not immaterial, as Spotify’s direct and intense global reach is an edge it has over iHeartMedia and SiriusXM, and we know for a fact they’re fairly active in building out podcast operations that are specific to certain non-US markets.

➽ Spotify announced a new “high-end subscription,” which would give listeners access to music that adheres to “CD-quality, lossless audio format.” Not directly-related to our interests, but it sure is interesting. Shout-out to Neil Young.

➽ Something that stood out to me in the presentation: Anchor powered eight out of ten new podcasts launched on Spotify?

➽ Another thing that stood out to me: very brief mentions of Reply All and The Joe Rogan Experience. Kinda awkward, I guess.

➽ Speaking of The Joe Rogan Experiencecheck out Peter Kafka’s interview with Spotify Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff, which covers a fair bit of ground, and includes a quick bit where Ostroff is asked about Rogan blowback.

The Implosion at Reply All

Of course, we have to hit the story that’s slightly overshadowing everything else, at least within a sizable portion of the audio community: the implosion at Reply All, which saw the abrupt departures of founding co-host PJ Vogt and longtime senior staffer Sruthi Pinnamaneni from the show.

There’s a good chance you already know about this, but let’s go over the details. Quick preface, though: This write-up specifically goes over the details of what happened last week. I’m working on a longer piece hoping to unpack its many layers, so keep that in mind. For now, here’s the accounting.

Earlier this month, Reply All launched an ambitious four-part miniseries called “The Test Kitchen,” led by Pinnamaneni, that sought to dig deep into one of the bigger stories about the media industry’s reckoning with toxic workplace dynamics and race from last summer: the downfall of Adam Rapoport’s Bon Appétit.

“The Test Kitchen” dropped its first episode on February 3, and the entry set the stage for a story about power imbalance, in-group out-group dynamics, racial inequity, pay disparity, and the hardship associated with efforts to push a workplace towards a more equitable culture and structure, often disproportionately shouldered by the most vulnerable workers. That first episode drew considerable attention, most positive in nature, as did the second episode, which was published on February 12. The miniseries seemed to strike a chord with a good number of people who lived through their own experiences with toxic workplaces. That a production team with an accomplished track record — from one of Spotify’s biggest shows, no less — was taking on the thorny and complicated topic with substantial resources boded well, and felt exciting.

Which made what happened last week all the more whiplash-inducing. It started a few days after the second episode hit podcast feeds, when Eric Eddings, a former Gimlet staffer and co-host of The Nod (originally a Gimlet show and then a Quibi program), published a Twitter thread specifically accusing Pinnamaneni, along with Vogt, of themselves contributing to a “toxic dynamic” at Gimlet Media that was “near identical” to the Bon Appétit culture depicted in the miniseries.

The substance of Eddings’ thread was primarily rooted in the stretch of time running up to Gimlet’s acquisition by Spotify, around late 2018 and early 2019, when a group of staffers at the company began to organize to form a union. That effort involved building out a platform of demands, which included diversity efforts, meant to advocate for a more equitable culture and structure at the organization. The thread’s focus narrowed on the Reply All team, and specifically on the conduct of Pinnamaneni and Vogt, who were described as engaging in antagonistic behaviors that strongly contributed to a toxic environment at the company.

Eddings alleged that this environment brought suffering to himself and others, and though stances and circumstances might have changed within Gimlet and Reply All in the years since, he argued that the fact that Pinnamaneni and Vogt are now leading, overseeing, and shaping a narrative about power imbalances at Bon Appétit is still highly inappropriate, and likely to be compromising to the story. “The focus should be on BA and what they experienced, but this series feels like an effort to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of colleagues at Spotify and the ones who have left,” he wrote.

(It should be noted that Brittany Luse, Eddings’ fellow co-host on The Nod and a former Gimlet staffer herself, had also published a Twitter thread the day before, hitting on similar critiques about “The Test Kitchen” miniseries.)

Eddings’ thread went viral shortly after its publication on the afternoon of February 16. It provoked tremendous response on social media, the bulk of which directed criticism to Vogt and Pinnamaneni. That pushback led to near-instantaneous impact: The next evening, Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen, who joined the company last March, sent out an internal email — which I obtained and published later that night — announcing that Vogt had “asked to step down from his role on the show and take a leave of absence,” and that Pinnamaneni was also stepping back from the show immediately.

The decision seems to have been prompted from them, and both would later publish apologies on Twitter. Polgreen’s email noted that “The Test Kitchen” had previously been slated to be Pinnamaneni’s final story for the show, and Vulture would later learn that Vogt’s departure from Reply All will be permanent. At this writing, it remains unclear what happens to the rest of the miniseries, though Reply All as a whole is expected to continue operating.

So that’s the accounting for now. More soon, hopefully. In the meantime, some additional notes:

➽ The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Ray interviewed Eddings about the Twitter thread before the Vogt and Pinnamaneni’s departures were announced. This piece has more detail on Eddings’ side of the lead-up to the thread. You can find that here.

➽ This event has provoked a fair amount of introspection among the audio community, some of whom are working to publicly articulate paths forward. One such example is this Twitter thread from Bethel Habte, a current staffer at Gimlet Media, which is being passed around quite a bit.

Selected Notes…

➽ Adam Davidson is leaving Three Uncanny Four, the podcast company he co-founded just under two years ago. The move was confirmed to me on Friday evening. According to an internal email announcing his departure, Davidson wrote: “The podcast industry is changing so rapidly and it has become clear that I have a different view of how to best move forward.” (He later publicly published a variation of the statement as a Twitter thread yesterday.) Davidson declined to comment when reached, though I am curious as to his views about best moving forward, given that he seemed to be in pretty good position to reorient his own ship wherever he thinks it should go. Anyway, as a reminder, Three Uncanny Four was formed in the summer of 2019 as a joint venture between Davidson, the former Stitcher EP Laura Mayer, and Sony Music. The company is editorially independent from Sony Music.

Defector Media reports that Mike Pesca, longtime host of Slate’s daily podcast The Gist, has been suspended indefinitely without pay “following internal discussion about use of racial slur.” A spokesperson tells me: “While I can’t get into specific allegations that are under investigation, I can confirm this was not a decision based around making an isolated abstract argument in a Slack channel. After additional issues were raised by staff, we felt it was appropriate to take further action to indefinitely suspend the show pending an investigation. We are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for all employees, and we can only do our best work when all employees feel heard, respected and motivated to do their jobs.” More follow-up in the New York Times.

➽ iHeartMedia is acquiring Triton Digital from E.W. Scripps. The deal will go for $230 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. This sale effectively ends Scripps’ adventures in podcasting, following its sale of Stitcher to SiriusXM that completed last October. On the flipside, iHeartMedia gets a new piece for its podcast and digital audio monetization stack, which it’s beefing up to compete with whatever Spotify, and eventually SiriusXM, has got going on.

➽ Meanwhile, Acast is acquiring RadioPublic, the podcast app and creator tools company that was originally founded as an off-shoot of PRX. An unsurprising outcome for the latter, particularly since it never seemed to gain much traction, and the writing seemed to be on the wall when co-founder and longtime podcast technologist Jake Shapiro left the company to join the Apple Podcast team last fall.

➽ Apparently, Joe Rogan popped up on Clubhouse over the weekend. On the one hand, this probably shouldn’t mean very much for his exclusive $100 million deal with Spotify. On the other hand, does this mean very much for his exclusive $100 million deal with Spotify? I guess it doesn’t mean much if sessions aren’t recorded. Which they aren’t. I think?

➽ Strange: Buzzsprout experienced a service interruption over the weekend, which prevented the downloads and consumption of podcasts hosted on the platform. The company attributed the downtime to a denial of service attack, and claims that there was no data breach.

➽ Last Friday, Apple published a companion podcast to its Apple TV+ series, For All Mankind, which the Hollywood Reporter describes as “the first such original audio show from the tech giant.”

In tomorrow’s Servant of Pod Bit of unexpected timing with this one.

For this week’s episode, we wanted to stage a roundtable discussion episode that attended to the concept of podcast producers, the nature of the role, and how to think about producers as the primary labor pool of the podcast business. And to fill out the roundtable, we brought in Chiquita Channel Paschal and Emmanuel Dzotsi for the discussion.

You might see where I’m going with this: Paschal was once a staffer at Gimlet Media — she has since worked as an editor on The Heart and NPR’s Louder Than a Riot, and is nowadays working on a book — and Dzotsi, of course, was recently minted as a co-host on Reply All.

We recorded this conversation before everything that happened with Reply All last week, which is why you won’t hear anything about that situation aside from a brief preface at the top of the episode. But the substance of the discussion itself nevertheless holds, and indeed, there are some parts of the conversation that carry different weight in light of this new context.

You can find Servant of Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the great assortment of third-party podcast apps that are hooked up to the open publishing ecosystem. Desktop listening is also recommended. Share, leave a review, so on.

The Podcast Swag of Tomorrow, Today

By Kevin Cortez

“Podcast merch is inherently uncool. That’s just what it is. But I think that from a business and community-building standpoint, it’s a smart decision, and we’re doing our best for the people who are listening to our show.”

I’m on the phone with Chris Black, creative consultantrecommendation-giver, and one half of the older millennial “bro-cast” How Long Gone. Alongside co-host Jason Stewart, How Long Gone dabbles loosely in the spaces of fashion, tennis, food, and pop culture, though it can be argued it’s a show where two older, very “hip” men send verbal jabs at each other and special guests, thrice-weekly. On How Long Gone, Black is usually a cynical figure criticizing anything and everything –– the Foo Fighters, pizza, Pete Davidson –– but today, he’s waxing sincere on a topic I’ve been drawn to thinking a lot about over the past few months: merchandising in the podcasting space.

In the last few years, podcasts have widened the variety of show-associated products available in webstores, expanding beyond the simple branded mug and t-shirt. Last year, the coffee-centric Sprudgecast sold their own branded Pogs, while the McElroy Brothers sold My Brother, My Brother and Me 10th anniversary commemorative platesMy Favorite Murder is currently selling a doormat reminding tenants to lock their fucking doors, and elsewhere, Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s? host Brian Thompson self-published a facetious book on how to become an investigative journalist and created his own board game around his absurdist show. Forget the overabundance of textile goods and the trend of pandemic face masks that have taken store space for most podcasts: We’re now living in an age where podcasts are expanding and experimenting with their branding, and frankly, in my opinion, that merch is becoming so much cooler.

Case in point: Here we are in 2021, and Chris Black is talking to me about How Long Gone’s collaboration with Indianapolis’ Tinker Coffee. The two brands teamed up to drop a specially made snapchilled coffee called “mudd,” which officially launched this past Saturday. The brew’s name is a reference to what Black typically calls coffee on his podcast and marks the first official collaboration between How Long Gone and another brand entirely. Black tells me they’ll also be available in restaurants in LA and New York, in Burgerlords and Wildair, respectively. But if you’re planning on grabbing a case online, you’re already out of luck –– they sold out in less than 45 minutes.

Now, this isn’t your typical podcast merch per se, but rather, a brand collaboration akin to something like the streetwear company Huf teaming up with SPAM, or shoe Cole Haan linking up with team workspace app Slack, or Supreme dropping a package of branded Oreos, but obviously, a much smaller operation in scale, and, uh, much more tasteful. In the smallest way possible, it’s sorta-kinda like Travis Scott linking up with McDonald’s to rebrand what is essentially the double cheeseburger. In that instance, both entities put in what they each offer best: McDonald’s has the underlying commoditized food product, Scott offers the hype as differentiator.

In this case, How Long Gone and Los Angeles designer Sam Jayne offer their aesthetics, and Tinker provides the flavor notes. “To me, that seems like a really natural extension of what we do,” Black tells me about mudd. “We like coffee, we talk about it, and Jason [Stewart] has a rich history with the food and beverage community. Obviously, this has a longer tale than a t-shirt or a sweatshirt, but all of those things serve their purpose.”

I might be in the minority here, but as a fan of streetwear and hype in general, I find this kind of collaboration pretty exciting to see in the podcasting space. By all means, give me more podcast-branded coffees, big graphic tees that rival that of clothing brands like Stussy, or heavyweight brand jackets that beg people to ask me, “What’s that about?”

In other words: Give Me More Hype, Please.. And by “Hype,” I mean it in the way Alec Leach explains it their i-D piece on fashion’s obsession with it: a “relentless cycle of drops, collabs, pop-ups…It’s the idea that everything needs to be viral, shareable, a ‘moment’. It’s newness for the sake of newness, buying for the sake of buying.” It’s conspicuous consumption, totally. But make it tasteful, you know? And maybe it makes it all worthwhile.

Shows like TigerBelly and Crime Junkie have embraced aspects of hype, though they may not be representative of hype culture themselves. TigerBelly’s merch releases are usually limited in stock, meaning once they’re sold out, they’re gone, with no restocks planned. In Crime Junkie’s case, the podcast opens a store periodically with new designs and products on a limited-time basis, with early access to the store given to those who support the show directly. If a listener knows something is a timed-release or limited in stock it prompts an urgency along with the thought, I need this now before it sells out.

The hype can sometimes manifest as novelty like, say, a chicken nugget pillow by Travis Scott and McDonald’s, or, in H3 Podcast’s case, butthole-scented candles, a spoof of Goop’s “This Candle Smells like my Vagina.”

“I bought the candle because I’m a huge fan of the H3 Podcast and was really intrigued as to what this candle could actually smell like, and if it was as bad as they made it seem,” Reddit user and H3 fan JamesDana tells me. “The limited run was definitely a contributing factor –– I grabbed one as soon as it was available, even though it was pricey, because limited edition merch appeals to me –– especially for a show/meme that I’m really invested in.” The candles retailed for $75. All proceeds went directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Of course, the intersection of hype and podcasting has its own set of grievances. High-end and limited-edition goods, like Last Podcast on the Left’s $800 custom-made cruiser bike or Tell ‘em Steve-Dave’s Vinylcast podcast-on-vinyl pressing, don’t offer much of an alternative for the superfan who might’ve missed out on grabbing the piece of podcast product they wanted. And similar to the space of streetwear, bootlegs are also starting to play a role in the economy of podcast merch. eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Wish are havens for knock-off, cheap quality shirts from shows like TigerBellyLast Podcast On the Left, and The Joe Rogan Experience. Even Red Scare, the female-led “dirtbag left” podcast that was under fire last year after releasing an ISIS-branded t-shirt, have a bootleg version of their controversial merch available on Etsy, where it’s available in all sizes.

There’s also the inevitable resale market that’s waiting to emerge through missed product opportunities. Right now, there sits a pair of mesh green shorts from the men’s fashion podcast Throwing Fits on eBay for $120. There’s currently 12 watchers of the listing, likely waiting for the seller to drop the price. I asked Lawrence Schlossman, one half of Throwing Fits, what his thoughts are on the attempted price flip.

“The first thing I would say is those are worth more than $120,” Schlossman tells me over the phone. “That short is the best-selling product that Throwing Fits has ever put out and I promise you that if people knew how many were sold, they’d be very surprised. And for good reason because that shit is fucking fantastic. So whoever is watching that should fucking buy it now.”

Schlossman and his cohort James Harris are no strangers to merchandising. Their careers began in 2012 at Complex Media, before eventually recording their initial podcast endeavor, Failing Upwards, in the offices of menswear resale website Grailed. The podcast, which rebranded as Throwing Fits in 2019, is a podcast by guys who are obsessed with clothes, for guys who are obsessed with clothes.

So it should come as no surprise that the duo have led some of the more exciting merch releases of 2020. Those seemingly innocuous mesh green shorts were made-to-order and then tailored down to 5” inseams, because, well, 5” inseam shorts are superior. 2020 saw Throwing Fits collaborate with Italian luxury-shoe manufacturer Diemme to release their own Italian-made boots, and months later, with Brooklyn-based fashion brand Blackstock & Weber to create their own penny loafers. These products, known colloquially to fans as the “podcast boots” and “podcast loafers,” respectively, sold hundreds of pairs. The boots retailed at 299€, with an extra 100€ in duty fees, while the loafers retailed at $295. But Shlossman stresses to me that he doesn’t consider these to be Throwing Fits merch products. They were collaborations.

“It was really about finding great brand partners that make amazing products that we love and we believe in,” Schlossman explains to me over the phone, “to create a kind of thing in the market that we really want, like those kinds of loafers or that kind of boot –– there’s going to be more examples of that coming out soon –– but to me, it’s a different process from merch. The tees, the shorts –– that shit gets TLC from us as well. But I think about it with a dual-track mentality. They’re all garments. It’s not even that one of these things is better than the other, even though some of these things are much more expensive. But to me they’re different.”

“I feel like the brand that we love. I feel like a clothing brand,” Shlossman proudly tells me. “I feel like what Antonio [Ciongoli] feels like at 18 East on drop day.”

When I ask Shlossman about How Long Gone and Throwing Fits leading a sort of collaboration hype within the podcasting space, he reminds me, it’s simply a result of the fashion and hype spaces both podcasts and their hosts occupy.

“Sure, collaborations are in our wheelhouse and all we do is think about jawnz. It makes sense in our space. There are better and bigger podcasts than How Long Gone and Throwing Fits, but it’s not because we’re smarter or we’re working with marketers. We’re just so trained, not just as consumers but from our professional careers. Not to mention working with our friends pays off in ways more than money.”

Here’s to looking forward to more big podcast collabs in 2021.

Key Podcast Takeaways from Spotify’s Big Event