Sep 6, 2022 - Economy & Business

Cumulus boycotts major podcast conference after Daily Wire snafu

Ben Shapiro. Photo: Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

Cumulus, one of the largest radio companies in the country, says it's "disassociating" from Podcast Movement, an annual podcast industry conference, following an unusual confrontation on Twitter between the conference and The Daily Wire, a conservative outlet that partners with Cumulus.

Why it matters: The ordeal highlights the growing rift between established media entities and conservative outlets and personalities with large fan bases.

  • Earlier this year, Spotify faced boycotts from various musicians over COVID-19 misinformation on one of its most popular podcasts, "The Joe Rogan Experience."

Details: An unexpected appearance by Ben Shapiro, founding editor-in-chief and editor emeritus of The Daily Wire, at the conference last month prompted an outcry from members of the conference community, according to now-deleted tweets from Podcast Movement.

  • Shapiro, according to sources familiar with the event and a video posted to Twitter by The Daily Wire, stopped by a booth at the conference paid for by The Daily Wire to greet fans and take pictures on Aug. 24.
  • The following day, Podcast Movement put out a series of now-deleted tweets apologizing to its community for Shapiro's presence.
  • "Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence," one tweet said. "Those of you who called this 'unacceptable' are right."
  • "In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes," another tweet noted. "The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward."

Between the lines: Sources told Axios that Podcast Movement contacted Daily Wire on Aug. 25, shortly after the tweet thread went up that said, “it would be best at this point to go our separate ways.”

  • That tweet thread was later deleted, and a new tweet with a different tone was posted on Sept. 2 that still remains.
  • "We're listening to our Podcast Movement community - many who’ve been with us since the start," the new tweet reads. "We're putting in place policies to guide our social media & events with inclusivity, diversity & respect for all. It's a journey. We'll keep listening, keep growing together."

State of play: Cumulus' podcast network has managed The Daily Wire's advertising sales since 2016. Shapiro's radio show has been nationally syndicated through Westwood One, a radio network owned by Cumulus Media, since 2019.

  • In response to the saga, Cumulus told Axios in a statement Tuesday that it's "disassociating" from Podcast Movement, "including canceling our 2023 sponsorship plans."
  • Cumulus said it's making the decision to separate from the conference, after giving the leaders of Podcast Movement "sufficient time to appropriately address their misstep."

The big picture: The Daily Wire is no stranger to confrontation. Earlier this year, Axios reported, it created its own razor brand to compete with Harry’s razors after the Daily Wire claimed Harry’s pulled its ads from the Daily Wire, citing its political viewpoints.

  • In response to Cumulus' statement, Daily Wire CEO and co-founder Jeremy Boreing said the Daily Wire was happy to see its longtime partner Cumulus/Westwood One "taking such a strong and public stand" against Podcast Movement’s actions.
  • "I certainly hope Cumulus' strong response to Podcast Movement is the first of many others like it," he noted.
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