Anchor, a Spotify company, is addressing the copycat podcast problem that has been preoccupying the industry for the past month. In an interview with The edgeMike Mignano, co-founder of Anchor and head of the podcast mission at Spotify, says the company is recalibrating its automated copycat detection system, implementing additional rules and reviews for people who want to monetize their show, and making it easier for developers to get copycats report indicates when all else fails.
Since August, publications like PodNews and Digiday pointed out that Anchor made it possible for users to upload rip-offs of legitimate, popular shows. People have found imitators of serial number, Nice white parents, and The Ezra Klein Show, among other. It appears that Anchor̵
Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports, tweeted screenshots of copycats Call her daddy shows and asks Anchor to return their calls. Aaron Mahnke, host of several popular iHeart shows, tweeted last week that his new show, American shadows, was also copied and distributed via anchor. “We spent money, time and energy building something new,” he wrote. “And 3 weeks later someone else is ranking and benefiting from it.”
Hey @anchor, don’t you mind people ripping off our pods along with thousands of others so fake accounts can collect advertising dollars from you? Also if someone could call us back that would be great. pic.twitter.com/s4aBPRuqiv
– Erika K Nardini (@EKANardini), August 19, 2020
These anchor shows, as the legitimate creators point out, are completely separate from the real podcasts, but they appear to be distributing the same audio content and potentially making money from the work of the original creators. According to Mignano, the imitators are an unexpected consequence of the rapid growth and novel attack methods.
According to Mignano, the copycats found a workaround in Anchor’s detection system. “This is definitely a new type of attack for Anchor,” he says. The people who uploaded these copycat shows downloaded the audio from another source, manually re-uploaded it to Anchor, and filled in the metadata so it essentially appears like a new podcast.
This manual process, he says, makes uploading copycat shows more time consuming and therefore less engaging and only achievable on a small scale. He says the company found “a few dozen” examples from the 650,000+ shows uploaded to Anchor this year. (In contrast, users can also upload shows more automatically by adding an RSS feed link in Anchor. However, the company would apparently determine if someone tried to upload a popular show’s feed and share it as their own feed.)
“The good news is that so many developers are using Anchor and that the growth has been far greater than I think, which is great, but I think the downside in this case is that with every fast growing platform that has brought it With some growing pain, we need to anticipate such things better, ”he says. “We’re working to ensure our copycat detection and outreach of creators continue to improve to keep up.”
Okay, time to talk about @anchor.
Anchor is a podcast platform that allows users to record audio from their device and upload it to a personal RSS feed (the backbone of podcast feeds). Cool right?
There’s only one problem: they don’t monitor what users upload. / 1
– Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) September 4, 2020
However, developers are especially excited about this attack because, unlike other podcast apps, Anchor allows developers to automatically monetize their show. This means that Anchor will insert ads and pay them based on the number of listeners. It is possible for copycat shows to piggyback the name and production quality of a reputable show in order to cash out. Mignano says Anchor didn’t pay any of the imitators.
“When we were notified that these podcasts existed and they bypassed our security precautions to even create the podcast, we removed them immediately,” he says.
As part of the answer, he says the Anchor team is working to make sure that re-uploaded shows would not have received monetization approval at all. “Given that this is a new type of attack, we’re doubling down the permits for new shows that want to make money,” he says. “Some of these new guidelines have already been implemented and others will be available soon.”
While Spotify has made a name for itself in podcasting with exclusive offers, Anchor’s system is set up so that shows can be shared on podcasting platforms. That made the copycat problem an industry-wide problem. Copycat shows have reportedly appeared on Apple and Overcast, among others, as Anchor allows creators to check a box to redistribute their RSS feed elsewhere.
Apple approves podcasts before they’re added to its catalog. However, these copycats made it. Apple declined to comment on this story. Meanwhile, Overcast says it relies on Apple’s security system for its catalog. So if a show goes through Anchor and Apple, it will end up in every other app that relies on Apple’s catalog.
Overcast doesn’t have an approval process of its own – it uses the existence of a podcast in the Apple Podcasts directory as a filter for whether it should appear in Overcast, and effectively outsources the approval process to Apple Podcasts, says Marco Arment, CEO and founder of Overcast The edge. “I can and can respond to any claims sent to me, but I get very few because Overcast does not directly approve or host podcasts,” he says. “The vast majority of claims I get are about podcasts hosted by Anchor.”