Spotify has a brand new original topping its podcast chart, but it would probably prefer if you didn’t know about it.
Last week, Spotify launched a new pop culture show, Breaking Bread, on Spotify Live. Breaking Bread’s recordings now rank at number 11 on Spotify’s top podcast chart after holding the number two spot for most of the week, putting it just behind Joe Rogan. The show’s popularity — and the reason the company might be staying quiet about its new hit — is due to its two hosts: Jackie Oshry Weinreb and Claudia Oshry (aka Instagram’s girlwithnojob), who come with a huge built-in audience. While the sisters have delivered their massive fanbase to the app, they have a controversial history that could be problematic for Spotify at a time when the company is being extra cautious.
The sisters had a short-lived show in 2018 on Oath, Verizon’s now-defunct media brand, that was canceled after The Daily Beast reported that their mom is notorious conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller and that the sisters had both previously posted racist and anti-Muslim statements on social media. The sisters apologized, deleted their Twitter accounts, and relaunched with The Morning Toast as an independent podcast. Some fans have been uncomfortable with their unwillingness to disavow their mother’s activities, but their audience is undeniable. The Oshry sisters have more than 3.5 million Instagram followers between them, their flagship podcast currently ranks in the top 100 on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and they maintain what appears to be a robust Patreon base (the stats are now private, but as of 2019, they had more than 9,000 subscribers). The Oshry sisters did not respond to a request for comment.
But if the Oshry sisters are controversial, you wouldn’t know it from their show. The Morning Toast is mostly run-of-the-mill pop culture fare, and Breaking Bread is much of the same: Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe dress, Hailey Bieber’s skincare line, Britney Spears’ wedding. The Spotify Live platform also allows fans to participate in the show, asking for advice on light topics like puppy training and bachelorette woes.
Following the model of other Spotify Live shows like After Hours with Alex Cooper and Dating Harry Jowsey, the original show takes place on the Live app and is posted as a podcast on Spotify later. Unlike those shows, Breaking Bread received no promotion from Spotify. The company did not issue a press release about the show and did not push it on any of its social channels. The only promotion seems to have come from the Oshrys themselves on their social accounts and podcast.
That may have something to do with the backlash Spotify has received for its nine-figure deal with controversy machine Joe Rogan. Rogan has the undisputed biggest podcast in the world, and as Spotify grows its podcasting might, the company needs him. But Spotify’s unfailing support for Rogan has caused some reputational, if not monetary, damage. Spotify declined to comment on why they chose to partner with the Oshry sisters or whether their past has anything to do with the lack of promotion for the show, but with the way the company has approached Breaking Bread, it seems to be going for the Oshrys’ substantial fanbase without the baggage.
Even if Breaking Bread itself is inoffensive, it is debuting at a time when Spotify is being particularly careful. Last week, the company announced a Safety Advisory Council to assist in its content moderation policies (a move Geller called “a government sponsored internal coup”) and cut a new deal with Integral Ad Science to firm up its brand safety analytics for advertisers.
But the company also is trying to boost its social audio app Spotify Live (previously branded Spotify Greenroom) at a time when social audio is flailing, and Breaking Bread may be its biggest hit yet. If the Oshrys continue to deliver numbers, the show will be hard for the company to ignore.