Reese Witherspoon Brings Her Book Club to Google’s Voice Assistant (Podcast News Roundup)

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In today’s podcast news roundup, Reese’s Book Club gets embedded with Google’s voice assistant; Apple Podcasts adds new content-discovery features; Warner Bros. TV takes “Bachelor Nation” and “Band of Mothers Podcast” shows to Audacy; the 2022 Ambies awards open for nominations; and more.


Google inked a deal with Reese Witherspoon and her media company, Hello Sunshine, to offer a “hands-free, immersive reading experience” on Google Nest smart speakers, smart displays and Google Assistant-enabled mobile devices in English-speaking countries across the globe. Users of Google’s voice assistant can hear Witherspoon’s monthly book picks, take a quiz for personalized book recommendations and get exclusive commentary about each book pick from Reese herself. To get started, users can simply say “Hey Google, read with Reese’s Book Club” on an Assistant-enabled device.⁠⁠

Warner Bros. Unscripted Television, in association with Telepictures, is bringing two of its popular podcasts to the Audacy podcast network: “Talking It Out With Bachelor Nation” (on Sept. 23) and “Band of Mothers Podcast” (on Sept. 28). All-new episodes will be available each week on Audacy digital platforms and other major podcast platforms. In each episode of “Talking It Out With Bachelor Nation,” co-hosts Mike Johnson and Dr. Bryan Abasolo are joined by a special guest to take a deep dive into critical subjects addressed on the “Bachelor” franchise. “Band of Mothers Podcast,” hosted by friends Shayna Ferm and Tracey Tee, is a weekly variety show-style podcast featuring real moms’ stories, games, original comedy, music and guest interviews.

Rolling Stone (which like Variety is owned by PMC) partnered with Westwood One for “Don’t Let This Flop,” a weekly podcast about TikTok trends and memes distributed on the Cumulus Podcast Network. The show is hosted by Rolling Stone writers Brittany Spanos and EJ Dickson, who will be joined by a special guest on each episode to discuss the week’s most popular posts from the world of TikTok. Listen to the trailer at this link.


QCode, in partnership with Interscope Records, announced an Oct. 10 premiere date for superhero origin story “The Beautiful Liar,” produced and co-created by and starring singer Sam Nelson Harris (X Ambassadors). Emily Hampshire (“Schitt’s Creek”) will costar and serve as an executive producer on the podcast. The show, co-created by Minnie Schedeen, will serve as a companion piece to X Ambassadors’ third studio album, “The Beautiful Liar,” which will be released Sept. 24 via KIDinaKORNER/Interscope Records. Other cast members include Rory Anne Dahl (“Doors”), Jon Bass (“Miracle Workers”), Alysia Reiner (“Orange Is the New Black”), Karan Brar (“Bunk’d”) and Jennifer Lafleur (“Big Little Lies”). The idea for “The Beautiful Liar” was first conceived by brothers and X Ambassadors bandmates Sam and Casey Harris,  who wanted to create an audio drama inspired by superhero comic books about a blind character and her superpowers.

Spotify’s Gimlet will premiere podcast “544 Days,” produced in partnership with A24 and Crooked Media, on Sept. 28. The new series tells the story of Jason Rezaian, a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post who spent 544 days unjustly imprisoned and tortured by Iranian authorities. The show features interviews with Rezaian and his wife, Yegi Rezaian, who was also imprisoned, as well as family members, co-workers and political figures including Dennis McDonough (Obama’s chief of staff), John Kerry (former Secretary of State) and Lisa Monaco (homeland security advisor under Obama). The first three episodes will be available at launch, with new episodes released weekly for six weeks. Listen to the trailer at this link.

Storic Media Podcast Network, a division of United Stations Media Networks, will debut “Mayhem With Michele McPhee” on Sept. 23, a true-crime podcast in which the investigative journalist examines the FBI’s role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. In the series, McPhee interviews key players in the investigation, victims, two Boston Police commissioners, local law enforcement and federal officials who believe that there is much more to know about the bomber brothers and their ties to the CIA and the FBI. “Mayhem With Michele McPhee” debuts as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether the death penalty sentence imposed on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by a federal jury should be vacated. At the center of the arguments are details about the triple murder committed by the second bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. “Mayhem With Michele McPhee” will be available in both audio and video formats, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon, Audible and YouTube.

Media personality DJ Akademiks launched his new video podcast “Off the Record,” available exclusively on Spotify, on Sept. 20. “Off the Record” will release three video episodes each week, featuring two roundtable discussions and one interview with a notable artist or celebrity driving the culture forward. In the inaugural episode, Akademiks leads a roundtable discussion on “Who Tried to Kill Jay-Z?” as guests deliberate a wide variety of topics including: the riddle of who is trying to kill Jay Z and who he was talking about on “Love All”; and Kanye’s “Donda” vs. Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” and both rappers’ legacies. “Off the Record” episodes will also be accompanied with special live episodes on Spotify Greenroom. The new show is available on Spotify at this link.

LiveXLive’s PodcastOne on Sept. 21 launched “Mettaphorically Speaking,” hosted by retired NBA champion and all-star Metta World Peace. In the series, Metta World Peace interviews a variety of people from the worlds of sports, music, business, film and television with a goal of inspiring and empowering listeners to pursue their own passions and dreams. Confirmed guests include former Indiana Pacers teammates Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, former L.A. Lakers teammate Robert Horry, former NBA All-Star Baron Davis, podcast hosts Jordan Harbinger and Dr. Drew, and “Entourage” creator and host of “Hollywood Wayz” Doug Ellin. The podcast is available on all major podcast platforms.

Production company 1895 Films released podcast series “Artifactual” from documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings, which recreates key moments in history based on archival material. The inaugural episode, which premiered Sept. 15, examines the assassination of President Lincoln, as told by 19th Century American stage and film actor Joseph Hazelton, who witnessed the murder at Ford’s Theatre. The next episode will cover the Pearl Harbor bombing. Artifactual will release a new episode once every two weeks with a diversified list of topics. The show is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and other platforms.


Apple Podcasts, with the release of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 this week, has added two new features: “Shared With You,” which automatically puts Apple Podcasts episodes, shows and channels sent over Messages in a new Shared with You section in Listen Now; and new personalized recommendations in Listen Now with suggestions based on other shows users listen to and topics they care about. The recommendations are based on the more than 100 categories and subcategories, which creators can modify in Apple Podcasts Connect or through a third-party hosting provider.


The Ambies, the podcast awards bestowed by the Podcast Academy, is accepting nominations for the 2022 awards through Dec. 3. The Ambies have expanded the show recognition categories to include best podcast for kids and best indie podcast. The entry fee is $100 for Podcast Academy members and $175 for non-members. Up to seven nominees will be selected for each category from all submissions and announced in early 2022. More info is available at this link.


Vox Media has hired Katherine Wells, previously executive producer of podcasts at The Atlantic, in a new role as editorial director of explanatory audio. Wells will oversee all of Vox’s narrative shows, including “Unexplainable” and “The Impact,” as well as lead efforts to pilot and develop a new slate of narrative explanatory shows in 2022. Wells starts her new role in October. Prior to The Atlantic, she oversaw the launch of Gimlet Media’s “Every Little Thing” and has been a producer for shows including Radiolab’s “More Perfect,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Science Friday.”