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When Spotify introduced yesterday that it will lay off 200 staff from its podcast unit and mix Gimlet and Parcast right into a single operation, it got here as a shock to exterior observers. However former and present podcast staff at Spotify have seen the writing on the wall for a while.
“We undoubtedly have anticipated for a number of months now that they’d be axing folks because the vibe at Gimlet had been very a lot one in all strolling on eggshells for months now,” one former Gimlet worker who was part of yesterday’s layoffs instructed Sizzling Pod. “Zero pleasure. [The layoffs] have been extra only a matter of when. The truth that it was yesterday, that was the shock.”
“Zero pleasure. [The layoffs] have been extra only a matter of when.”
It’s been greater than a yr since Spotify first eradicated its namesake podcast manufacturing unit. Final fall, Spotify laid off dozens of Gimlet and Parcast employees and pulled 11 unique exhibits from manufacturing. It started this yr by axing 600 jobs companywide (together with numerous advert and enterprise jobs beneath Podsights and Chartable). Excessive-profile executives corresponding to content material chief Daybreak Ostroff (who steered Spotify’s podcast operations) have left. Distinguished names, together with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Greater Floor Productions, Brené Brown, and Esther Perel, have exited offers with the platform. Jemele Hill hasn’t left but however is weighing different choices.
As Bloomberg reported final week, neither Parcast nor Gimlet had obtained annual budgets, so that they hadn’t been in a position to greenlight new exhibits or approve journey bills. It was solely this week that we came upon Spotify’s reasoning for this: each Gimlet and Parcast will likely be mixed to type a brand new Spotify Originals studio centered on unique productions, which can embody producing exhibits like Stolen, The Journal, Science Vs, Heavyweight, Serial Killers, and Conspiracy Theories.
One other Gimlet worker who was laid off famous that manufacturing employees — producers, reporters, and engineers — appear to be most closely hit by the job cuts.
Each nonfiction and fiction exhibits have been impacted. Spotify spokesperson Gray Munford confirmed that Case 63, which dropped its first season final fall, will likely be persevering with. The present is produced by Gimlet together with Julianne Moore and Oscar Issac’s manufacturing firms, FortySixty and Mad Gene Media. A lot of the fiction crew behind Case 63, the chart-topping fiction podcast starring Moore and Issac (together with Spotify’s head of scripted fiction Mimi O’Donnell) is now beneath Spotify’s head of improvement, Liz Gateley, based on Munford.
So far as what Spotify desires the remaining chunk of Gimlet and Parcast to be doing, it seems to be alongside the traces of not getting in the way in which because it embraces creators and third-party offers. The corporate spelled out clearly that the subsequent part of its podcast technique was to concentrate on creators and customers, together with the Spotify for Podcasters — the corporate’s advert and monetization platform.
“We all know that creators have embraced the worldwide viewers on our platform however need improved discovery to assist them develop their viewers. We additionally know that they admire our instruments and creator assist applications however need extra optionality and suppleness by way of monetization. Fortuitously, Spotify shouldn’t be an organization that ever sits nonetheless. Given these learnings and our management place, we just lately launched into the subsequent part of our podcast technique, which is concentrated on delivering much more worth for creators (and customers!),” wrote Sahar Elhabashi, Spotify’s head of podcast enterprise.
“They’re very totally different kinds of manufacturing and improvement.”
The merging of Gimlet and Parcast appears to be an unnatural one, based on numerous former staff. Parcast, which Spotify acquired in 2019, focuses largely on true-crime podcasts, with exhibits like Crimes of Ardour. Gimlet is thought for its lineup of audio journalism collection and interview podcasts, in addition to scripted audio dramas. Gimlet received its first Pulitzer Prize in audio reporting earlier this yr for Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s by investigative journalist Connie Walker. A 3rd season of Stolen has been greenlit.
“I’m unsure what folding Parcast and Gimlet collectively in a single crew means. They’re very totally different kinds of manufacturing and improvement, so that they want totally different sorts of assist by way of advertising and marketing, PR, improvement, and different talent units,” mentioned one former Gimlet worker, who left previous to this week’s layoffs.
Gimlet blew up largely because of its unique exhibits, which helped outline the podcast growth. Sequence like Reply All, The Nod, Heavyweight, and StartUp helped push the bar on what audio storytelling could possibly be, and each advertisers and buyers lined as much as become involved. However beneath the management of Spotify, each Gimlet and Parcast struggled to seek out route. Reply All got here to an inglorious finish simply over a yr in the past, and Gimlet beneath Spotify hasn’t produced one other equal hit.
The blame is not less than partly because of Spotify’s lack of ability to completely perceive what it was shopping for for a mixed whole of roughly $300 million. Unifying Parcast and Gimlet was a superb instance of that.
“Our exhibits and content material are very totally different,” mentioned one Gimlet employee who was laid off yesterday. “The truth that Spotify is merging them so clumsily solely additional illustrates that they by no means actually understood or appreciated both of us absolutely.”
The hasty merger and axing of unique programming echo related ways from the world of streaming video, corresponding to Warner Bros. Discovery’s choice to mix HBO Max and Discovery Plus’ choices into one streaming platform or Paramount’s choice to merge Showtime (which generates premium scripted collection like Yellowjackets) with Paramount Plus, which is dwelling to exhibits from CBS, BET, and TV Land — in addition to reside sports activities.
Such choices mirror the truth of at the moment’s cash-strapped streaming setting. Very similar to how Netflix would as soon as go on shopping for sprees at Cannes and now makes actuality exhibits like Too Sizzling to Deal with, Spotify is transferring away from dear originals and embracing newbie podcasters and creator partnerships (to not point out its highest-value celeb audio offers, corresponding to that with Joe Rogan). In each circumstances, firms are trimming their unique programming in favor of content material that’s cheaper to provide and generates extra eyeballs and downloads.
Much less prestigious content material received’t make a distinction to advertisers, says Max Willens, a senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. “I might say that advertisers will welcome this choice within the sense that it might give them extra stock to promote in opposition to, presumably at a extra engaging worth. The longform, extremely produced content material that Gimlet made its title creating was costlier and took longer to provide, and infrequently commanded premium advert costs, which advertisers typically chafed at.”
However for many who work within the audio business, Spotify’s hasty exit from the world of podcasting and unique audio journalism aligns with the conduct they’ve grown to count on from the tech firm.
“[The individuals laid off] are a few of the most proficient, skilled producers in the whole business,” mentioned a Gimlet staffer who left previous to this week’s layoffs. “It’s disappointing that Spotify by no means understood that — and the best way to harness that creativity and expertise.”
Audiobooks and podcasts might turn into a haven within the occasion of a SAG strike
SAG-AFTRA overwhelmingly voted in assist of a strike in the event that they don’t attain a cope with the studios, union management introduced on Monday night time. Though SAG-AFTRA is thought historically as Hollywood’s actor union, its 160,000-strong membership consists of DJs, information anchors, voiceover artists — in addition to podcast hosts and audiobook narrators.
The looming SAG-AFTRA strike is with the Alliance of Movement Image and Tv Producers (AMPTP) and would solely affect contracts bargained with them. Productions coated by SAG’s TV and theatrical contracts can be thought-about off-limits.
“Solely productions which can be coated by the TV/Theatrical Codified Primary Settlement and Tv Settlement can be struck in […in the event of a strike]. Scripted dramatic reside motion leisure manufacturing that’s coated by the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Contracts can be thought-about struck work,” wrote SAG-AFTRA’s chief communications officer Pamela Greenwalt in an electronic mail.
In different phrases, most podcast and audiobook contracts beneath SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t be thought-about “struck” work. That is in distinction to the continued WGA strike, the place writing on scripted, fiction podcasts coated by WGA isn’t kosher and placing members will not be allowed to work on non-union tasks.
“So whereas work by any member (celeb or in any other case) beneath SAG-AFTRA’s Audiobook Contracts would NOT be coated by a TV/Theatrical strike, all members will honor that motion within the areas of labor which can be impacted ought to a strike should be referred to as,” clarified Greenwalt.
Which signifies that for performers trying to work throughout a Hollywood strike, the audio world might turn into their go-to vacation spot. Celeb audio dramas have definitely turn into in vogue recently, with the likes of Demi Moore, Chris Pine, Rami Malek, Matthew McConaughey, and others contributing their voice skills to fiction podcasts. Audible has showcased numerous celebrity-narrated audiobooks by Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Thandiwe Newton, and others.
It’s nonetheless unsure whether or not SAG-AFTRA will even name a strike. The union is scheduled to begin contract negotiations with AMPTP on June seventh. Within the occasion that they’re unable to achieve a cope with the studios, SAG-AFTRA can then take steps to go on strike.
Correction June sixth, 7:40PM ET: This text initially acknowledged the Stolen collection was renewed for a second season. Truly, “Surviving St. Michaels” is its second season, and it’s been renewed for a 3rd season.
Correction June seventh, 10:52AM ET: This story referenced a Parcast present referred to as “Prison Ardour”, the precise present is “Crimes of Ardour”.