I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and a surviving Monday, despite looming financial catastrophe . It is hard to not think about it. Good thing there was a newsletter!
Today’s content moderation tips from Spotify, TED launches a new subscription and Acast allows its podcasters to sell NFTs.
As Spotify grows its stable of creators, it taps experts to consult on content moderation
If there was one thing that Spotify’s investor presentation last week revealed, it was the fact that Spotify is focusing on creator content. According to CEO Daniel Ek, the “Spotify Machine” is a company , that will expand into new verticals and attract millions of creators to the platform. This kind of scale might be great for the company’s bottom line, but it could also lead to misinformation and other harmful content being able to slip through. Spotify announced Monday that it has gathered top experts in speech and technology to advise the company .
The 18-member Spotify Safety Advisory Council is made up of academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, and advocates who focus on the evolving nature of speech online. This council’s role is advisory. It does not have formal oversight over moderation decisions. This group will meet several times per year and focus on Spotify’s issues.
According to council member Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia who focuses on privacy and safety, the move formalizes what Spotify has already been doing. For the past few years, Citron has been in consultation with Sarah Hoyle (Spotify’s head for trust and safety).
Citron noted that, in her experience with Spotify, the company is focused on getting ahead of content meant to target or harass individuals. She said that they are working hard on it. She said, “They’re working hard at it.”
While preventing and taking down harassing and violent content is relatively uncontroversial, Spotify also has to contend with the thornier issues of what counts as dangerous misinformation. How the company handles that problem could be crucial to its business, according to Z. John Zhang, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School who studied how business factors influence social media firms’ content moderation policies (and who is not involved with the council). One, customers could be turned off by the spread of harmful information. The platform must be inclusive on the other hand or it could risk alienating people who feel they are being targeted. Zhang stated that Spotify must maintain a certain balance. It is very, very difficult to do .”
Internal policies may not be the only tools at Spotify’s disposal, however. Zhang stated that raising the cost to make a podcast or an audiobook can deter some people from doing wrong. Zhang said that a good pricing system could also make content moderation easier.
So far, the barrier to entry is pretty low. Spotify is well on its way to stocking the library with creator content and becoming less dependent on the expensive, clunky music business. Thanks in large part to DIY podcast platform Anchor, which Spotify acquired in 2019, the streamer is now home to 4 million podcasts, a fourfold increase since 2020. Now, Spotify is moving into audiobooks, enabling creators to upload their own and allowing listeners to access at least some of them for free. That is a lot of new content to screen, and moderating audio content is notoriously difficult.
Spotify came under heavy criticism earlier this year for the hands-off approach it took to the medical misinformation featured on Joe Rogan’s podcast. While millions listen to Rogan’s podcast, Spotify was heavily criticised earlier this year for its inaction regarding medical misinformation. However, it is much easier for lesser-known podcasts to remain under the radar. Taylor Griffin, spokesperson for Spotify, stated that the company uses a combination human review and technical mechanisms in order to ensure content conforms to platform standards.
There is no easy answer about how to approach moderation, said Citron. Citron said that systems that rely on users reporting harmful content allow a lot to slip through the cracks. AI, however, can be a “blunt instrument” that overlooks contextual clues. She said that she senses they will be trying to find creative ways to prevent harm and ensure trust.
EXCLUSIVE: TED launches new podcast subscription on Apple Podcasts
TED is launching a subscription service for its popular podcasts, called TED Audio Collective Plus. The subscription is exclusive to Apple Podcasts and will allow listeners early access some shows as well as ad-free streaming of other podcasts.
Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter (which is currently TED’s top-ranked show on Apple Podcasts), The TED Interview, and Far Flung with Saleem Reshamwala will be made available to subscribers a week early without ads. A slew of other top shows (but not all) will be ad-free through Audio Collective Plus, including TED Talks Daily, TED Business, and How To Be a Better Human (which is the top TED show on Spotify).
At $4. 99 per month and $49. 99 per year, the pricing for Audio Collective Plus is basically identical to TED’s membership program. But while TED membership includes ad-free listening to TED Talks Daily, it’s more focused on events and community than podcasts. TED claims podcasts will become a larger business. 65 million downloads across its shows), Audio Collective Plus will give the company a chance to bring in paying customers beyond its traditional base.
New Acast partnership will allow podcasters to sell merch, NFTs
Acast announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Spring, a service that helps content creators make their own online stores. The new partnership will enable Acast’s podcasters to sell traditional merchandise like T-shirts and tote bags (the audio industry simply loves a tote bag) or even branch out into the riskier world of NFTs.
Acast has launched a pilot program with 11 of its shows, including Do Go On and Goes Without Saying. It seems that most stores have opted for the traditional merch route, which seems wise considering how the NFT market is faring.
That’s all for today! Enjoy a normal week.