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The Ringer CEO Bill Simmons in 2015 Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair ___________________________
Spotify is making yet another big-budget purchase aimed at getting a lead in the growing podcast industry: The streaming music company has agreed to a deal to purchase The Ringer, the podcast-centric media company run and owned by Bill Simmons.
Spotify intends to hire Simmons and all of his approximately 90 employees. Most of those employees work on The Ringer’s website, which covers sports and culture, and Spotify intends to keep the site up and running.
But what Spotify really wants out of the deal is Simmons’s ability to create podcasts, including his Bill Simmons Podcast, and some 30 other titles, which range from an NBA chat show to one devoted to rewatching old movies.
The companies didn’t disclose a sale price; the deal is supposed to close in the first quarter of 2020.
“With the Ringer, we’re basically getting the new ESPN,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Recode in an interview after the deal was announced. “What [Simmons] has accomplished in just a few short years, it’s nothing short of extraordinary. ... It’s not just his own podcast, but his whole network that’s doing really well. He’s a talent magnet.”
Spotify hasn’t spelled out what it intends to do with The Ringer’s catalog of existing podcasts and content, but it would be surprising if it made them exclusive to the streaming platform. When it purchased Gimlet Media last year, it kept that podcast company’s stuff available on all platforms.
Here’s Simmons’s only commentary so far:
This morning we announced that @spotify is acquiring The Ringer. Couldn’t be more excited to work with @eldsjal and his phenomenal team.
More details to come down the road... but @ringer will remain @ringer in every respect. They appreciate what we do and they want us to be us. — Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) February 5, 2020
Ek said adding The Ringer would help boost his company’s appeal to sports fans, which he described as “super engaged and super loyal. It’s a strong currency to have.” And he said Spotify would continue to buy podcasting companies if it thinks they can grow faster inside of Spotify. “When you get a chance for a property like The Ringer, and you see the fits, and what Bill wants to do, it just made a ton of sense. If there are other deals of that caliber we would consider it.”
Spotify wouldn’t say how long Simmons intended to work for his new employer, but Ek said he believed Simmons would stick around so he could continue to build the company he founded five years ago. “I wouldn’t have done the deal if I didn’t feel that Bill was in it for the right reasons, and didn’t want to build something much bigger.”
“Our incentives are really aligned,” added Paul Vogel, Spotify’s chief financial officer.
Until now, Apple has dominated podcasting, primarily because of the popularity of its iOS operating system, which features a built-in podcasting app. But Apple hasn’t tried to make money from podcasts itself, and it doesn’t take a cut of the advertisements that listeners hear when they play podcasts on Apple’s devices and apps.
While Apple has expressed interest in funding some exclusive podcasts that would serve as marketing for its Apple TV+ service, Apple executives say the company is unlikely to compete in today’s version of the podcast industry. That’s because most podcasts are free and dependent on advertising, and Apple has staked out a pro-privacy position that makes it difficult to compete in ad-supported industries.
Simmons made his name as an online columnist at Disney-owned ESPN, which eventually gave him the resources to launch Grantland, a Ringer-like site that also provided a home for his podcasts. But ESPN bounced him out of his job in 2015 — a move Simmons has said stems from his criticism of Roger Goodell, the head of the National Football League and an important Disney partner.
Simmons then started The Ringer with backing from WarnerMedia’s HBO, which also hired him to create a short-lived TV show he hosted, along with other programming. Simmons has never disclosed if he has other investors; a person familiar with HBO’s initial investment says the company put in less than $10 million. Last year, Simmons talked to WarnerMedia’s Turner unit about selling his company to that business, according to people familiar with the discussions.
By buying The Ringer, Spotify is now in the web publishing business for the first time. (Vox Media, which owns Recode, has a commercial relationship with The Ringer.) While podcasts have driven The Ringer’s business, Ek said the site’s writers and videomakers were an important part of the company. “What’s really interesting with the website and the audio is that he’s really tried to play them off of each other.”
In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America's great icons. Join us for a 9-episode journey into the Dollyverse.Hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and More Perfect.Dolly Parton's America is co-produced by WNYC Studios, home to great podcasts like Snap Judgement, Death, Sex & Money, and Nancy.
On the Media is an hour-long weekly radio program, hosted by Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, covering journalism, technology, and First Amendment issues. It is produced by WNYC in New York City. Wikipedia
The current show is very interesting, contrasting Trump's tone now with his tone in earlier weeks about COVID-19. One of the people interviewed recounted watching Hannity before Trump's most recent "speech" (or whatever you want to call it) and after. It takes you into the Twilight Zone. Or, as the interviewee said, Orwell's 1984. Before the speech, Hannity was referring to the whole thing as the biggest hoax ever perpetrated, a deep state conspiracy intended to undermine Trump. After the speech, Hannity talked about how serious it is and how quickly and effectively Trump responded to the importance of the pandemic and how he saved lives by his quick action. As long as we can build walls and shut down borders, we Americans will all be safe. The whole thing is the fault of foreigners: Chinese, Europeans (except Brits of course), probably the Mexicans too.
In northern Italy, doctors were forced to begin rationing ventilators and other equipment, a nightmare scenario that soon could become a reality for medical staff in the United States; New York has projected ventilator shortages in the thousands per week. David Remnick talks with Philip Rosoff, a professor of medicine at Duke University and scholar of bioethics who has studied rationing. Rosoff believes that medical institutions must also consider the needs of those who can’t be saved, and suggests that hospitals should stock up on drugs to ease suffering at the end of life. Rosoff notes that the U.S. medical system puts an emphasis on “go for broke” care at all costs, and is poorly prepared for those kinds of decisions, which leave hospital workers with an acute sense of “moral distress.” “If we’re smart, we would have institutional guidelines and plans in place ahead of time,” Rosoff says. “The way not to make [a rationing decision] is to make it arbitrarily, capriciously, unilaterally, and at the bedside in the moment.”