How it happened: Why Sputnik shows disappeared from your podcast player

How it happened: Why Sputnik shows disappeared from your podcast player

Last week, people woke up to find that all Sputnik Radio shows were suddenly unavailable on Spotify and in their favorite podcast players. The show that hosts Tech for the People every day on Wednesdays, By Any Means Necessary, was just one of those shows.

There are dozens of podcast players. How did it disappear from Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast and so many others all at once?

All it took was one website to turn off access.

A podcast is just a specially-formatted text file that includes some information about the show and each episode, including a link to an MP3 file. Any application can take these files and use the content to present an audio player.

But the file – the RSS feed – doesn’t include the audio file itself. Like the RSS feed, it has to be hosted on a website somewhere. Distribution networks often provide the hosting. Sputnik used – like Tech for the People’s The Reboot uses – Spreaker to distribute its feed and audio to potentially dozens of podcast platforms.

Each podcast platform, like Apple or Google or Spotify, looks back at the podcast information provided by Spreaker and then downloads the audio from Spreaker.

When it removed By Any Means Necessary, Political Misfits and other shows from its platform, Spreaker made sure that when everyone’s podcast apps looked for those shows, they couldn’t find them.

At the end of the day, one or two private companies showed that they hold the power to impact what information and programming can be consumed by the rest of the world.

1. I do not speak for Sputnik in any way.
2. It’s possible to distribute your podcast directly on Spotify without going through Spreaker. I don’t know what Sputnik’s setup was, but either way Spotify removed all Sputnik and RT content on its own as well.