Tressie McMillan Cottom: Black Rhetoric & Podcasting


PodMov Daily: Friday, January 15

Episode 351: Week Download Complete

Tressie McMillan Cottom: Black Rhetoric & Podcasting

On the morning of January 6, the sociologist, writer, and professor Tressie McMillan Cottom and her co-host, Roxane Gay, moved their scheduled podcast recording session. Cottom writes, “Our very smart production team knew what we knew — Roxane and I just needed to talk with each other and with our audience.”

On Hear to Slay, that dialogue between hosts and listeners held special weight. For Cottom, its reciprocity contrasts with much of podcasting: “Our audience has been as vocal this week as they have ever been. They want to be called in, even if they do not know that they are asking for refuge in the Black rhetorical tradition.”

Cottom discusses the white rhetoric of podcasts and the range of experience it fails to produce. What we hear must come in multiple registers, she writes. “I am also all the more certain this week than I have ever been, that audio stories and news have to develop the foundation of Black storytelling as a format and style.”

Audio Platforms and the Missing Moderation Strategy

Across Big Tech, years-long battles over content moderation are coming to a head. What does that mean for smaller platforms with similar problems? Alex Kantrowitz of OneZero considers Substack, Spotify, and the newcomer Clubhouse, which “has already endured a lifetime’s worth of moderation controversy.”

The audio-only social platform hasn’t shown much of a plan, Kantrowitz says. “Clubhouse’s tentative moderation approach might reflect the ideological reticence that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube displayed in their early days.” Taylor Lorenz, the NYT reporter subjected to high-profile harassment this summer, agrees.

Audio moderation is expensive and polarizing, but this isn’t mid-2010s Twitter. “We discovered a lot of the issues with the bigger platforms about five years after they became too large,” commented investor Siri Srinivas. “We’re using the same vocabulary to talk about Clubhouse.” This source article contains strong language.

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Here's what else is going on:

  • Read this: A brilliant critical piece by Maya Goldberg-Safir asks, “If you believe in propelling forward the medium of audio storytelling, you necessarily grapple with a question of gatekeeping: where and how is power harnessed in our industry?” Goldberg-Safir is the Artistic Director at Third Coast.
  • High score: Podchaser has raised $4 million in funding. New plans include “a gamification and discussion system that fosters connection between listeners and podcasters.” The podcast database startup has tripled in size over the past year and added over 8.5 million creator and guest credits.
  • No filter: Dan Misener of Pacific Content has debuted Paseo, an SEO audit tool for in-app podcast search. It checks Apple Podcasts and Spotify search results, automating the process of searching multiple keywords within multiple countries. Handy, though only available to Pacific Content clients.
  • Brand voice: In an article for, The Podcast Space CEO Ana Xavier outlines the planning process of a marketing podcast. She provides case studies, market research tips, and good news: If you’ve gotten feedback, testimonials, or media coverage, “you’re already ten steps ahead.”

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