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Podcasts amplify the era of digital activism

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Photo: Clem Onojeghuo

Photo of Annie Langston
by Annie Langston

Podcasts are an open mic for anyone looking to share their opinions about essentially anything. As we saw with Joe Rogan, this placed Spotify in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether, and how, it will moderate podcast content. Now though, the same dynamics look set to make their way into the podcast ad business. Although many podcasters may not have a choice in the ads that are inserted into their content, for those who do, ads could be an opportunity for creators to share their side of a political or social issue — especially as Spotify is now allowing political ads on podcasts. The Roe v. Wade decision in the US put this opportunity on full display. As the separation between entertainment and politics has completely disappeared, podcasts are no exception. Moreover, audio content has the potential to be more divisive than music, as the creator is speaking directly to their audience and perhaps this can be further applied to podcast ads. This divisiveness will become harder and harder for networks and platforms to avoid.

United voices across a variety of content 

As a result of the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the founder of EarBuds Podcast Collective, Arielle Nissenblatt, jumped into action to not only express her opposition to the decision but to bring together other podcasters who share the same view. Nissenblatt organized a pre-roll campaign which provided scripts for ad slots for podcasters to either record themselves or use the pre-recorded version to implement into their shows. Some noteworthy podcasters used the scripted ads in their shows including My Favorite Murder and Getting Curious with Jonathon Van Ness. These adverts are reaching listeners across multiple genres in a non-intrusive way, without taking away from the content that the audience is tuning in for. This format is flexible, content can be edited and created in the days before and after a hot topic issue makes news headlines, which gives these creators on either side of an issue the opportunity to speak up. A variety of fanbases will hear the exact message from their podcaster – something that is largely unique to the audio world. Although listeners can skip podcast ads, it does not diminish the reality that creators across all podcast genres have the power to unite around one message, directly to a consumer. This puts more pressure on the audience platforms and podcast networks to figure out how they will incorporate political content, both in creator content and audio advertising. While avoiding political content may be easier, it may not only stifle the creators right to share their opinions but could illustrate to listeners a lack of attention to current issues. As we see music companies stating their reactions to the Roe v. Wade ruling, audience platforms and networks may soon have to do the same.

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