After layoffs, SiriusXM looks to star-studded podcasts
I sadly cannot attend Podcast Evolutions this year. If you are in attendance and have some hot goss, feel free to send my way! Also some warm, dry weather — that would be nice.
Today, SiriusXM lays off hundreds of staffers, Twitter Spaces loses another feature, and podcast bros can’t catch a break on the dating market.
How will SiriusXM’s layoffs affect its podcasting business?
On Monday, SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz announced that she was cutting 475 roles, or about 8 percent of employees at the company. Citing economic uncertainty (novel!), Witz said the cuts are a consequence of management’s plan to “improve collaboration, consolidate teams to achieve greater efficiencies, and ultimately, design an organization structure that is best positioned to achieve our priorities.” Every department was hit, including engineering, sales, and of course, podcasting.
SiriusXM built itself into a podcasting force when it acquired Stitcher in 2020 for $325 million and has since added to its roster by buying Team Coco and 99% Invisible. Once you throw in licensing deals with Freakonomics Radio and Crooked Media, SiriusXM Podcast Network is the biggest podcast publisher in the industry, according to Edison and Triton Digital. But all those acquisitions mean lots of news staffers, many of whom were impacted by the layoffs. One podcasting team saw its staffing numbers cut in half.
It seems the company is determined to maintain that wide reach without the same breadth of content or staffing. At an all-hands meeting last month, chief content officer Scott Greenstein advocated for making fewer but better shows, according to a person who attended the meeting. Greenstein underscored that point at another all-hands yesterday in which he touted Kevin Hart and Conan O’Brien’s podcasts as success stories, the person said. It appears to be a continuation of the shift from quirkier shows by up-and-comers to podcasts hosted by big names with immediate draw. Greenstein’s comments set off alarm bells internally. “We are wary of the celebrity host-fueled podcasts,” the person said.
According to SiriusXM spokesperson Jessica Casano-Antonellis, Greenstein’s comments were meant to demonstrate what the company does particularly well: identify shows that have podcast-radio crossover potential. Hart had a SiriusXM channel before getting his podcast, while SiriusXM launched a Team Coco channel after acquiring the company last year.
Between Greenstein’s comments, the extensive staffing cuts, and Witz’s focus on consolidations, it seems inevitable that some podcasts will fall by the wayside.
Twitter Spaces is deleting old recordings
They’re really leaning in to doing it live. Twitter sent out a notification saying that the service will start wiping out old recorded broadcasts. The notification said, “if you’d like to retain any broadcasts you’ve recorded, you’ll need to download them soon or risk losing them,” and then directed to the Help Center. It appears that you can still record new Spaces, but how long will they remain up for you to access? Who’s to say. The deletions seem like the latest sign of cost cutting at Twitter — and a further deprioritization of audio features.
We have obviously come a long, long way from last summer when Twitter announced a beta podcast feature. Hardcore Twitter under Elon Musk did away with podcast playlists almost immediately, as well as most of the Spaces team. One of the key — and unique — components of the podcast feature was that it would create individualized playlists combining shows from RSS with recorded Spaces.
The move also comes at a time when the company laid off one of its most essential Spaces staffers, Leah Culver. Culver came to Twitter in 2021 after the company acquired her podcast app, Breaker. Culver lasted a lot longer than most of the Spaces team and tweeted last week that “my only regret is not getting fired for something awesome and hilarious. Instead I’m just part of the layoff of acquired founders.”
Twitter Spaces is one of the few live audio platforms still hanging in there, but it’s unclear how much longer that will be the case as the vertical is deprioritized over and over again. With so few people left at the company and so many problems to fix, it is hard to see how Spaces can move forward.
Chameleon: Wild Boys wins podcast of the year at the Ambies
The Podcast Academy announced its Awards for Excellence in Audio at the Ambies last night. Campside and Sony’s Chameleon: Wild Boys took home the award for Podcast of the Year. We’ll likely get more from Campside and Wild Boys producer Sam Mullins, as the studio inked a first-look deal with him just last month.
You can see the full list of winners here.
It’s hard out there for a podcast bro
With all due respect, there is a consequence to putting all your thoughts on the internet.
That’s all for now. See you next week!