Under part of a deal being announced Tuesday, Hot Pod will become the first paid-subscription product offered by The Verge, where executives are interested in seeing if they can offer a broader portfolio of similar editorial concepts in months to come, says Nilay Patel, editor of The Verge in an interview. Ashley Carman, a senior Verge reporter, will replace Nicholas Quah (above, pictured), who launched Hot Pod in 2014, and who will become a podcast critic for Vox Media’s Vulture. Vox also owns sites like SB Nation, Recode and The Cut.
The Verge has “in ten years amassed a huge audience, and we have never made anybody pay for anything. We are interested and excited about what that looks like,” says Patel. “We think this is the right product and the right audience and think Ashley can deliver a lot of value that is worth paying for to an audience that can trade on that information. We are looking at it as a test. We have a lot to learn.”
Vox Media and Quah declined to disclose financial terms of the deal or to discuss how many people Hot Pod reaches with its mix of news and a subscription-based “Insider” newsletter. Quah founded the site in 2014 as a side gig, and says he has been eager to turn it over to another party that can “really scale it up” and grow his classified ads, subscriptions, and handful of annual events.
Vox intends to keep the subscription price for Hod Pod at $7 per month and will give all paid Hot Pod subscribers a three-month subscription to New York magazine, another company holding.
Readers can expect to see Hot Pod tackle a raft of issues that are surfacing as the podcasting industry gets bigger, with major media companies jockeying with entrepreneurs for talent and consumer attention. The live audio sector is booming, says Carman, with Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces joining a fray that already involves Spotify and others. “There is a lot of bigger talk right now with a lot of Hollywood players coming into the space to develop their own narrative-led shows and attracting Hollywood talent and developing those things into movies,” she says. “It’s going to be interesting, and we hope to really cover where independent voices can find access here,” among other trends.
Vox Media has bolstered its business in recent months with a series of recent acquisitions, including one that helps it jump into the live-audio business itself. Vox in April announced it would buy Café Studios Inc., the producer of several podcasts led by former Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. In August, the company agreed to buy Punch, a website focused on cocktails that was launched by book publisher Penguin Random House.
Quah believes his work attracts people from all facets of the podcasting industry, whether they focus on talent, distribution or other areas of the business. As the site has grown, he says, “it’s a lot to juggle as a solo printer.” In any case, says Patel, the founder can always tell Hot Pod’s new custodians what he thinks of its direction via Vox’s Slack channels.