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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amazon is looking to invest in localized podcast content, like news and sports, sources tell Axios. Sports content is top of mind as the company plans to buy up more TV rights and have adjacent audio content for users.

Why it matters: Amazon sees a strategic advantage in podcasts by leveraging Alexa voice tech to help users discover personalized content.

  • Sources say the company is using its venture arm tied to voice innovation, the Alexa Fund, to invest in local podcast companies.
  • The company has evaluated investing in localized sports podcast companies like Blue Wire, a source familiar with the company's plans tells Axios.
  • It wants to explore short-form audio content that can be surfaced when users ask Alexa for information about topics like news and sports.
  • Amazon declined to comment.

Between the lines: Amazon is looking to possibly tap into a more localized ad market by serving local ads adjacent to that hyper-personalized audio content, according to a person familiar with its plans.

  • Local advertising is a roughly $150 billion market in the U.S.
  • Traditional radio still dominates the local audio ad market, which is about $14.5 billion, per BIA Kelsey.
  • Most of Amazon's ad dollars today come from e-commerce retailers, many of which sell goods on Amazon's platform.

Yes, but: There's been a debate internally over whether the podcast content will live within Amazon's audio book company Audible, Amazon Music, Amazon Alexa or all three, according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

  • Last week, Bloomberg reported that Audible is looking to invest in more original podcast shows with celebrities to help it branch out of books.
  • It also reported that Audible's efforts have confused podcast producers due to the fact that Amazon Music also has plans to distribute podcasts.

Be smart: Amazon's foray in podcasting comes as other big tech giants like Spotify and Apple have increased their investments in the space.

  • Spotify said last week that it signed an exclusive deal worth reportedly over $100 million to distribute one of the most popular podcasts in America, "The Joe Rogan Experience."
  • Apple is looking to double down on its investments in original podcasts, per Bloomberg.

The big picture: More than 1/3 of Americans ages 12+ listen to podcasts monthly, per Edison's latest Infinite Dial survey. But ad revenue for podcasts is still tiny compared to other mediums. That's because podcast monetization is currently too decentralized, as The Stratechery's Ben Thompson notes.

  • Spotify's big-time investments in an array of podcast companies (Anchor, Gimlet, Parcast, The Ringer, Joe Rogan) could help to centralize monetization for the genre, growing podcast revenue as a whole faster.
  • While Apple still has the largest portion of podcast listeners, it hasn't indicated much interest in becoming a centralized player in podcast monetization.

Go deeper

Amazon orders more than 1,800 new electric delivery vans

Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Amazon announced Friday it will add more than 1,800 battery-powered Mercedes-Benz vans in Europe this year, continuing its push toward electrification of its delivery fleet.

The big picture: Amazon is shipping more of its own products, relying less on major carriers, and the Mercedes purchase makes it clear the giant online retailer favors vehicles that will help remove greenhouse gases from its delivery fleet.

Aug 27, 2020 - Technology

Tech's deepening split over ads and privacy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new fight between Facebook and Apple over the mechanics of ad tech is surfacing an industry divide over user privacy and spotlighting longstanding dilemmas about the tracking and use of personal information online.

Why it matters: Privacy advocates have been sounding alarms for years about tech firms' expansive, sometimes inescapable data harvesting without making much headway in the U.S. But the game could change if major industry players start taking opposite sides.

Ubisoft workers demand company accountability in open letter

Photo: Frederic Brown / Getty Images

Close to 500 current and former employees of “Assassin’s Creed” publisher Ubisoft are standing in solidarity with protesting game developers at Activision Blizzard with a letter that criticizes their company's handling of sexual misconduct.

Why it matters: Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard workers are framing the actions as part of a bigger movement meant to have lasting change in the industry and its culture.