This week is an interesting one for the sound business, with Digital recording Forthright around the bend and grants season in progress. We will examine a brand-new community audio project on Bluesky this week in addition to Spotify’s expansion of its audio ad network in Europe. I also had a brief conversation with Connie Walker, a journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting yesterday.
Bluesky will now have live audio provided by SkySpaces after a difficult few months for live audio. Spotify shut down Spotify Live. Clubhouse reduced its staff by half. Additionally, Twitter Spaces appears to be last on Elon Musk’s ever-shifting list of priorities, and the majority of the team that built it has been terminated.
However, something like one designer figures live sound might in any case have a future — it simply should be decentralized.
SkySpaces is designer Justin Watson’s solution to that multitude of battling stages, and it’s being worked to work with the buzzy, decentralized informal community Bluesky. The audio service launched a standalone website a month ago, and a test version of an iOS app is currently in development.
One of the most ambitious third-party features currently being developed on Bluesky’s AT Protocol is Watson’s app, and a conversation with its creator revealed that he is very much interested in avoiding the mistakes made by other social audio platforms. Additionally, Watson, a developer from Montgomery, Alabama, who is 29 years old, believes that the decentralized nature of Bluesky enables social audio to be “built a heck of a lot better.” Or, at the very least, it will be simpler to modify a self-hosted server without breaking anything.
One of Twitter’s biggest issues is their underlying technology stack, right? It has aged. It’s written in Scala and has 20 million lines of code in a mono rep, which is basically nerd talk for there being a big thing with all that code. It’s hard to make changes without breaking other things, Watson said.
Watson is in charge of the servers, infrastructure, and web client for SkySpaces, which is currently entirely self-hosted. He is currently collaborating with React Native developer Deavial Drake on the mobile apps. In the near future, they anticipate adding additional developers to the SkySpaces team.
The eclectic and energetic vibes of Bluesky are very much reflected in the SkySpaces experience. Watson informed me that the very first SkySpaces had more than 100 participants. Since then, it has hosted concerts with lo-fi beats and a room hosted by the ElonJet Twitter account creator. Performers and makers have facilitated rooms, as have podcasters. However, Watson hasn’t been successful in getting Mark Cuban to host a SkySpaces room yet.
SkySpaces has no time or participant limits, which isn’t a big deal right now because only about 3,000 Bluesky users have joined. However, as Bluesky and SkySpaces expand, one can easily imagine how that might change. The objective is for SkySpaces to offer downloading and recording options as well.
We want the content creators’ experience to be seamless. Giving them access to all of the necessary features and tools, Watson wrote.
SkySpaces was just conceived of about a month ago. Watson got a welcome to Bluesky in April and, in the wake of seeing it was light on highlights, chose to go after building social sound for the stage. Third-party developers can use Bluesky’s AT protocol for free, allowing them to contribute to the ecosystem.
“So I said, “You know what, I’ll build Spaces for Bluesky,” and that was that. After that, I basically didn’t sleep for two days as I built a proof of concept.
SkySpaces is clearly influenced by Twitch and other video sharing platforms. Every Space has a live chat feature that lets attendees comment on speakers’ remarks. He has heard that Twitter Spaces has been criticized for its limited reaction capabilities, which limit users to a small selection of emoji. As a result, SkySpaces has an “emoji hot bar” where users can select their preferred emoji.
He has big goals for SkySpaces, including providing creators with monetization options. Screen sharing and video sharing are currently being tested in the platform’s alpha version. In addition, Watson is contemplating moderation features that would enable both hosts and listeners to eliminate undesirable individuals.
His most important goal is for SkySpaces to eventually allow integration with other live audio platforms like Twitter Spaces and Discord by taking advantage of the platform’s decentralized nature. Naturally, that is contingent on two significant occurrences: In order for Bluesky’s decentralized platform to gain traction and attract the attention of these other platforms, it is necessary for all of the other live audio features to remain functional for an extended period of time. Ideally, some stick around.
Spotify expands its Audience Network into France, Spain, and Italy Spotify is expanding its Audience Network into these three countries. Spotify’s audience targeting tools will be available to advertisers in those nations for both Spotify-hosted podcasts and podcasts hosted by third parties.
The digital recording promotion market in Europe is little contrasted with the US. Spending on podcast ads is expected to reach $2 billion in the United States by 2023, according to IAB Europe projections. However, the medium is gaining traction across the continent, particularly among younger listeners. A survey conducted by YPulse last year found that 64% of Europeans between the ages of 15 and 44 occasionally listen to podcasts, and 29% listen weekly or more frequently. Spotify wants to appeal to that market as well: It purchased Will Media’s The Essential in 2021, an Italian news podcast that provides a six-minute summary of the day’s news.
For Stolen, Gimlet wins its first Pulitzer Prize: Gimlet Media, which is owned by Spotify, won its first Pulitzer for Surviving St. Michael’s thanks to Canadian journalist Connie Walker. Auger’s staff and Walker, specifically, were granted the Pulitzer Prize in sound announcing for Taken: Walker hosts the 10-episode series Surviving St. Michael’s, which looks into the horrors of Canada’s residential system. Indigenous children, including Walker’s own father, were abused sexually and physically by nuns and priests for decades.
Walker wrote to Hot Pod directly that Gimlet’s managing director, Nicole Beemsterboer, had called with the news as she was getting off the plane. My mind went blank when she told me the news! She claims that there was silence for fifteen seconds before I said, “I think I’m going to pass out!” I don’t really remember this. I was blown away! I am still!! Since then, I have carried this huge grin with me wherever I go in Seattle. To say our whole group is excited is putting it mildly,” Walker composed.
Additionally, Getting through St. Michael’s likewise won the Peabody Grant in podcasting this evening.
The double triumphs are a confident sign for longform insightful sound detailing, which still can’t seem to imitate the blockbuster sensation around Sequential. While Spotify has struggled to capitalize on Gimlet, cutting shows and laying off staff as recently as October, the ability to garner accolades may justify additional investments in the format. Good investigative journalism is typically not a recipe for viral success.
Walker stated, “First and foremost, we hope this means that more people will listen to all of the survivors who bravely shared their stories with us.”
Adrianna Paidas, speaking on behalf of Gimlet Media, informed Hot Pod that Walker will return for the third season of the show, which will concentrate on the case of two Navajo women who have gone missing.
The IAB’s Podcast Upfront, which leaders in the audio industry will gather for talks on the industry’s future on Thursday, will attract virtually everyone involved in podcasting. Acast, Cumulus Media, Sony’s global podcast division, SiriusXM, NPR, Wondery, New York Public Radio, and numerous others will host panels. I’ll write a summary of the event for our Insider editions of Hot Pod later this week if you weren’t there in person.