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Bill Maher expands podcast operation with a controversial host

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Hello! I know many of you are in LA for Podcast Movement Evolutions. I am not, so feel free to reach out with gossip. 

Today, New York Magazine publishes a polarizing profile of podcast star Andrew Huberman, Slate takes home the award for Podcast of the Year, and Bill Maher launches a new network.

New York Magazine publishes lengthy feature on Andrew Huberman and his messy personal life

I don’t begrudge you if you haven’t had the time to read New York Magazine’s 8,000-word cover story on Andrew Huberman. While much of the piece focuses on how he juggled multiple affairs as he was in a long-term relationship (spoiler: all the women become friends!), it also looks at the culture of bro podcasts and how they have become surprisingly central, if not exactly reliable, sources of information. 

Huberman, a neurobiology professor at Stanford, rose to prominence several years ago by making science explainer videos and appearing as a guest on shows like The Joe Rogan Experience and Lex Fridman Podcast. His show, Huberman Lab, launched in 2021 and currently ranks in the top 15 podcasts on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts. And, according to Chartable, it has the fifth-highest reach of any podcast in the world.

The author, NYMag features writer Kerry Howley, argues that Huberman’s academic background gives him a sheen of legitimacy, even though his usual pet topics — fitness, mental wellness, and why you should never ever have even a drop of alcohol — have nothing to do with his specialty of visual-system wiring.

“How comfortable one feels with the science propagated on Huberman Lab depends entirely on how much leeway one is willing to give a man who expounds for multiple hours a week on subjects well outside his area of expertise,” Howley writes. I think we have learned that listeners will give their hosts of choice a lot of leeway when it comes to science.

Peers and fans of Huberman have come to his defense. Focusing on the elements about Huberman’s personal life, Fridman called the profile a “hit piece,” and conservative thinkpieces are cropping up claiming he is being unfairly targeted. It goes back to the mindset that independent hosts like Huberman, Fridman, and Rogan are more trustworthy than mainstream media sources. It seems unlikely that Huberman will lose many (if any) fans over the piece, though it may put him more on the defensive than before. 

What did you think of the Huberman profile? Feel free to reach out at ariel.shapiro@theverge.com.

Bill Maher expands podcast operation with a controversial host

Ah, a throwback to a simpler time when celebrities launched podcast networks. Bill Maher, who hosts the podcast Club Random in addition to Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, announced today that his podcast operation is launching a new show hosted by controversial former ESPN host Sage Steele.

Steele, who formerly co-hosted SportsCenter, was temporarily taken off the air in 2021 after she made comments on a non-ESPN podcast criticizing the network’s covid vaccine mandate. She settled a lawsuit with ESPN last year and left the network, saying she did so in order to “exercise my first amendment rights more freely.” Seems like a good fit for Maher, who relishes pissing people off. 

Club Random Productions, as the new network is called, will also feature new shows from Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst, according to Variety. The network will also partner with former basketball star Kevin Garnett on his show KG Certified.

Spotify is testing video courses in the UK

I did not see Spotify’s own version of MasterClass coming, but it does make a certain amount of sense. On Monday, the company announced that it is partnering with educational producers like BBC Maestro and Skillshare as part of a trial for UK users to access video lessons on the platform. 

As part of the trial, free and premium users in the UK will be able to access two lessons of a course for free before being prompted to purchase additional lessons. Spotify said in a release that half of its premium subscribers have listened to educational or self-help podcasts.

It seems that the courses would operate on an a la carte system similar to the first iteration of audiobooks. Given the difficulty of navigating users off the platform to purchase products, that part of the audiobook business has not yet taken off. But perhaps with new tech regulations in Europe and, potentially, the US, that business model may prove to be more fruitful down the line. 

Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas gets top honor at the Ambie Awards

Last night in LA, The Podcast Academy held its fourth annual Awards for Excellence in Audio (aka The Ambies), honoring some of the top shows of the year. Among the winners were some buzzy titles, including Weight For It (Best Indie Podcast), Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Lemonada Media (Best Interview Podcast), and New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce (Best Sports Podcast… 🤔). 

For Podcast of the Year, Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas from Slate beat out fellow nominees, including Embedded: Taking Cover from NPR, Next Year in Moscow from The Economist, and 50 Years of Hip-Hop from KEXP. You can find the full list of winners here.



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