Feb 28, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: Insider and Axel Springer back new podcast company Spooler

Illustrated collage of a microphone with pennies falling all around.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Insider and its parent, German publishing giant Axel Springer, are investing in a new podcast company called Spooler, Insider CEO Henry Blodget tells Axios. Spooler will co-produce a new podcast with Insider called "The Refresh from Insider" using proprietary tech that makes it easier for producers to update podcast content with new segments after it's been published.

The big picture: The new company will be the first of several joint investments from a new fund called "Axel Springer Insider Ventures" (ASIV) that's focused on innovation in media.

  • "We are likely to help start several new startups that will focus on different aspects of innovation in journalism," Blodget said. "And this is the first, but there will likely be others and we will put both some capital into them and give them operating guidance and strategic partners."

Spooler is the brainchild of Blodget and podcast industry veterans Andy Bowers, co-founder of Slate Audio and Megaphone and James Boggs, formerly head of podcasts at Apple. Spooler investors include its founders, as well as Axel Springer Insider Ventures.

  • Boggs will serve as chief executive and Bowers will be chief creative officer. Blodget, a co-founder, sits on Spooler's board. The initial funding from ASIV is a seed round.
  • Blodget says they decided it would be better to create a separate company to build the platform, but Insider will work closely with Spooler on its own podcasts.

Details: The Refresh from Insider will be a daily audio news brief that is updated throughout the day to keep pace with the news cycle.

  • The show, available weekday mornings, will be hosted by Rebeca Ibarra, a former WNYC host and producer, and Dave Smith, a reporter and editor at Insider. Kerry Donahue will be the show's executive producer.
  • It will be available on Google podcasts, Spotify and Apple podcasts, or on-demand on the Insider app and website. The player will enable listeners to skip segments and select upcoming segments they wish to hear, said Bowers.

How it works: The show will be powered by a new technology, created by Bowers, Boggs and Spooler's team that stitches podcast episodes together in real-time from individually-produced audio segments.

  • The podcasts can be distributed by podcast players and apps on-demand but will give users the ability to listen to the most up-to-date versions of episodes.
  • For news companies, the expectation is that producers could build "playlist programs" that Spooler automatically stitches together to make the podcast sound seamless, even though it's being repeatedly updated.
  • The bespoke player on Insider.com and Insider's app will allow users to skip over segments they've already heard.
  • "We see this as tech that could help enterprise-level news organizations, and also we could even see it moving to individual creators," said Bowers. Referencing the rise of individual journalists as creators, he noted. "this could be an interesting way to keep people up to date on topic they know a lot about."

Bottom line: "There is a big hole in audio programming, which is real-time news and other playlist driven off programming," Blodget argues. "Currently we can't do that with podcast infrastructure because of the episodic nature of it."

What to watch: Boggs says that the company will start by working with different news companies, but in the future, he thinks Spooler's tech could be used across an array of industries, including corporate training and communications.

  • Bowers noted that this type of technology could give podcasts better penetration on smart speakers and in cars, where people often are looking for up-to-date information via voice commands.
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