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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

BBC Studios said Monday that it's investing in Pocket Casts, a free-to-download podcasting platform. NPR, WNYC Studios and WBEZ Chicago are already investors.

Why it matters: The investment is likely a response to media companies wanting their own data, analytics and distribution outlets instead of Apple, which shares very little data with publishers.

The big picture: It's part of a growing trend of news companies eyeing investments in podcast companies to bolster their audio efforts.

Driving the news: The New York Times is in exclusive talks to acquire Serial Productions, the podcast studio that has attracted more than 300 million downloads, The New York Times' Ben Smith reports.

  • Smith says that the company's valuation could be around $75 million, which would be a hefty investment for The Times.
  • The Times has acquired smaller companies before, like influencer marketing agency Fake Love in 2016, and About.com for about $410 million in 2005.

Yes, but: One high-level source in the podcasting world emails Axios that they're skeptical that the deal will go through.

  • "They don’t need it. The Daily is heard by millions of listeners daily. Their other projects have been great. Serial will sell to someone needing a pod strategy or big win, is my guess."

Be smart: Recently, many of the big podcast exits were going to tech companies, like Spotify, but publishers have made investments in podcast companies as well over the past few years.

  • Slate Group was early to the game with its creation of Panoply, now called Megaphone, a podcast content company turned podcast technology company that now focuses on podcast advertising.
  • iHeartMedia bought podcast production company Stuff Media in 2018 for $55 million.
  • E.W. Scripps acquired podcast network Midroll in 2015.

Go deeper: Luminary's global expansion could heat up the podcast subscription wars

Go deeper

Storms pummel flood-hit Pacific Northwest as border river overflows

An image of the water-logged Sumas Prairie area taken last Friday. Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter.

The latest ferocious storm system to hit the Pacific Northwest triggered fresh evacuation orders and at least one mudslide in flood-ravaged British Columbia, Canada, late Sunday.

Threat level: Flood sirens sounded in Washington state as the Nooksack River overflowed. Henry Braun, mayor of Abbotsford, B.C., told reporters the water flow was headed toward the Canadian border city later Sunday. "There's nothing to stop it," he said.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting aspects of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."