Podcasts are hearteningly enshittification resistant

Walled gardens considered harmful (to performers and audiences).

Cory Doctorow
6 min readJan 27


A scary abandoned room. The back wall is stained with the Spotify podcast selection screen. In the center of the room is an oversized mousetrap, baited with the Spotify logo.

In the enshittification cycle, a platform lures in users by giving them a good deal at first, then it lures in business customers (advertisers, sellers, performers) by shifting the surplus from users to them; finally, it takes all the surplus for itself, turning the whole thing into a pile of shit:


If you’d like an essay-formatted version of this post to read or share, here’s a link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:


When a company is neither disciplined by competition nor by regulation, enshittification inevitably ensues. If a user or business customer can’t jump ship — because of lock-in, high switching costs or network effects — then companies are powerfully tempted to mistreat them — not out of sadism, but instead to harvest their surplus and goose the company’s profits.

Half the results on the first five screens of an Amazon search result are ads. Amazon’s business customers spend $31b/year on payola, bidding to be at the top of Amazon’s search results: the top results aren’t the best matches to your search, they’re the matches that are most profitable for Amazon.

But out of the remaining half, many of the results are Amazon’s lookalike products: Amazon coerces sellers into shipping via Amazon warehouses (otherwise their products won’t be Prime eligible), and this not only lets Amazon extract 45%+ out of every sale in junk fees, it also lets them see the bills-of-lading that identify the manufacturers of products, whom Amazon can approach to make a knock-off.

These Amazon house-brand copycat products are cheaper than the original, because Amazon doesn’t charge itself >45% fees. It can allocate some of the surplus to shoppers — offering a discount on the price the OEM has had to inflate to cover Amazon’s fees — but keep the majority for its shareholders.

This is enshittification: Amazon is a place where buyers hold the sellers hostage…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr