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Spotify shocked outside observers yesterday when it announced it would lay off 200 employees in its podcast division and combine Gimlet and Percast into one business. But former and current Spotify podcast employees have long seen the writing on the wall.
A former Gimlet employee who participated in yesterday’s layoffs said, “In recent months, the atmosphere inside Gimlet has been like walking on eggshells, so they will definitely be laying off employees in the coming months. I expected it in advance,” he said. hot pod. “Zero joy. [The layoffs] It is now a question of when it will happen. I was surprised by the fact that it was yesterday. ”
“Zero joy. [The layoffs] It’s more a matter of when it happens. “
It’s been over a year since Spotify first abandoned its eponymous podcast production division. Last fall, Spotify laid off dozens of Gimlet and Percast employees and pulled 11 original shows out of production. It started this year with a 600 headcount cut across the company (including a number of advertising and business jobs under Podsights and Chartable). High-profile executives such as content chief Dawn Ostroff, who ran Spotify’s podcast business, have left. Celebrities such as Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, Brené Brown, and Esther Perel have terminated their contracts with the platform. Jemere Hill is not out yet, but is considering other options.
As bloomberg According to reports last week, neither Percast nor Gimlet received an annual budget, so they were unable to greenlight new shows or approve travel expenses. It’s the first time this week that Spotify knows why. Both Gimlet and Parcast have merged to form a new Spotify Originals studio focused on original production, including production of shows such as: Stolen things, journals, science vs science, heavyweights, serial killers, conspiracy theories.
Another Gimlet employee who was laid off said production staff — producers, reporters and engineers — appear to be the hardest hit by the layoffs.
Both non-fiction and fiction shows were affected. Spotify spokesperson Gray Mumford confirmed. Case 63finished its first season last fall, but plans to continue. The show is produced by Gimlet, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac’s production companies Forty Sixty and Mad Jean Media.Many of the Gimlet Novel Team Collaborate Case 63Mumford said the chart-topping fiction podcast starring Moore and Isaac is now under the direction of Spotify’s head of development Liz Gately.
As for what Spotify wants Gimlet and the rest of Parcast to do, it seems to go along with the policy of not getting in the way, as it accepts contracts with creators and third parties. The company has clarified that the next phase of its podcast strategy is to focus on creators and users, including on its advertising and monetization platform, Spotify for Podcasters.
“We know creators are embracing a global audience on our platform, but we want more discovery power to grow our audience. While we appreciate the Creator Support Program, we also know that you want more options and flexibility when it comes to monetization. Given these learnings and our leadership position, we recently embarked on the next phase of our podcast strategy focused on delivering even more value to creators (and users!) ,” wrote Sahar Elhabashi, head of podcast business at Spotify.
“They have completely different styles of production and development.”
Many former employees say the Gimlet-Percast merger seems unnatural. His Parcast, which Spotify acquired in 2019, focuses primarily on podcasts about real-life crimes, with shows like: criminal passion and criminal couple. Gimlet is known for its line of audio journalism series, interview podcasts and scripted audio dramas. Gimlet won his first Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting earlier this year. Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s By investigative journalist Connie Walker.second season of Stolen I got a green light.
“I don’t know what it means to have Percast and Gimlet in one team. support,” said one former Gimlet employee who retired ahead of this week’s layoffs.
Gimlet exploded primarily through original programming and helped define the podcast craze.like the series Reply All, The Nod, Heavyweight, and start up It helped push the boundaries of what’s possible in audio storytelling, and advertisers and investors alike lined up to get involved. But under Spotify’s leadership, both Gimlet and Parcast struggled to find direction. reply all came to an ignominious end just over a year ago, and Spotify-owned Gimlet has yet to produce a similar hit.
At least part of the blame is that Spotify didn’t fully understand what it was buying for a total of about $300 million. Parcast and Gimlet integration was a great example.
“Our programming and content are completely different,” said one Gimlet employee who was laid off yesterday. “The fact that Spotify integrates them so clumsily is only further proof that they don’t really fully understand or appreciate either of us.”
Hasty consolidations and retirements of original programming include Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to merge its HBO Max and Discovery Plus services into one streaming platform, and Paramount’s decision to merge Showtime to produce premium scripted series. , reflecting similar tactics in the world of streaming video.like yellow jacket) Paramount Plus offers programming from CBS, BET and TV Land, as well as live sports.
Such a decision reflects the realities of today’s cash-strapped streaming environment. Just like Netflix used to binge-buy at Cannes and now produce reality shows like: too hot to touchSpotify is moving away from expensive originals and embracing partnerships with amateur podcasters and creators (not to mention top-tier celebrity audio deals like Joe Rogan). In both cases, companies are cutting back on original programming in favor of content that is cheaper to produce and generates more attention and downloads.
Max Willens, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence, said less authoritative content would have less impact on advertisers. “I think advertisers will welcome this decision in the sense that they will get more ad space, possibly at a more attractive price. The content produced was expensive, slow to produce, and often accompanied by high advertising prices, which could infuriate advertisers.”
But for those working in the audio industry, Spotify’s hasty exit from the world of podcasting and proprietary audio journalism is in line with what they’ve expected from tech companies.
“[The individuals laid off] They are one of the most talented and experienced producers in the entire industry,” said a Gimlet staffer who retired ahead of layoffs this week. “It’s a pity that Spotify never understood that and how they leveraged their creativity and experience.”
Audiobooks and podcasts could be a haven in case of SAG strike
SAG-AFTRA has won overwhelming votes in favor of a strike if no deal is reached with the studios, trade union leaders said Monday night. SAG-AFTRA, traditionally known as the Hollywood Actors Guild, whose 160,000-strong membership includes his DJs, news anchors, voice-over artists, as well as podcast hosts and audiobooks. A narrator is also included.
The impending SAG-AFTRA strike is by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and will only affect contracts negotiated with them. Productions covered by SAG’s television and theater contracts are considered off-limits.
“Only works covered by the Television/Theatrical Codified Basic Agreement and Television Agreement will be entered into. […in the event of a strike]. Scripted dramatic live-action entertainment productions covered by SAG-AFTRA TV/Theater contracts are considered strike productions,” SAG-AFTRA chief communications officer Pamela Greenwalt said in an email. wrote.
In other words, most podcast and audiobook contracts under SAG-AFTRA are not considered “structural” work. This contrasts with the ongoing WGA strike, where writing for scripted fiction podcasts covered by the WGA is not kosher, and strike members are not allowed to work on non-union projects.
“Thus, the work of members (celebrity or not) under the SAG-AFTRA audiobook contract is not subject to a television/theater strike, but if a strike is required, the All members will respect the actions of ,” Greenwalt said.
That means the audio world could be a go-to for performers looking to work during the Hollywood strike. With the likes of Demi Moore, Chris Pine, Rami Malek and Matthew McConaughey contributing their voice talent to fictional podcasts, celebrity audio dramas are definitely in vogue these days. Audible has introduced dozens of audiobooks narrated by celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Thandiwe Newton, and more.
Whether SAG-AFTRA will go on strike is still unclear. The union plans to start contract negotiations with AMPTP on June 7. If an agreement cannot be reached with the studio, SAG-AFTRA could go on strike.