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So much for the holiday weekend — it’s a busy week already! We’ve got another major shake-up at Spotify and a bitter cancellation at WNYC. Plus, Hot Pod Summit is this Thursday! Let’s get into it.
Max Cutler is leaving Spotify
Spotify’s podcasting old guard is dwindling. Just as the dust was beginning to settle on Dawn Ostroff’s departure, Spotify’s podcast vertical takes another hit. Max Cutler, who has been with the company for almost four years and was instrumental in building its podcast business, told staffers on Tuesday that he will be leaving, as well.
Cutler founded horror and true crime podcast studio Parcast before Spotify bought the company in 2019 for $55 million. After managing Parcast for Spotify, Cutler moved up the ranks to lead new content initiatives and last year was promoted to head of talk creator content and partnerships. According to an internal memo viewed by Hot Pod, Cutler plans to launch a new venture.
The podcasting vertical at Spotify has already gone through a major restructure
“With the traditional media industry ripe for disruption, I am excited to take on this new challenge and drive innovation forward,” Cutler said in the memo. “I am deeply grateful to Daniel, Alex, and Sahar for their unwavering support of my decision to return to my entrepreneurial roots as I embark on this next chapter.”
The podcasting vertical at Spotify has already gone through a major restructure, and it is poised to do so once more. With Ostroff leaving as the chief of content and advertising business, former head of content Sahar Elhabashi has taken her place. But unlike Ostroff, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars on exclusives and originals like The Joe Rogan Experience and Batman Unburied, Elhabashi will not report directly to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. Alex Norström, chief business officer, now has oversight of the whole podcasting business.
Once Cutler leaves in May, his responsibilities will be distributed. According to Spotify spokesperson Rosa Oh, head of talk studios Julie McNamara will take on licensed exclusives featuring the streamer’s top talent like Alex Cooper and Emma Chamberlain. The Ringer founder Bill Simmons was tasked last year with overseeing the company’s global sports strategy; he’ll now report up to Elhabashi and work with Lee Brown, the leader of Spotify’s global ads business and platform, to develop podcast monetization across the board. Bryan Thoensen, who came to Spotify last fall from TikTok to lead third-party content partnerships, will be expanding his team. Oh says that there will be no layoffs associated with Cutler’s departure.
As multiyear contracts have run up, many of the founders and executives who came to Spotify during its podcast spending spree a few years ago have opted to leave. In addition to Cutler and Ostroff, Gimlet co-founder Alex Blumberg quietly departed in the fall, around the same time his studio experienced layoffs and cancellations (including his own show, How To Save a Planet). Former Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen left last summer, as did longtime podcast dealmaker Courtney Holt. Anchor co-founder Michael Mignano departed last June, though his co-founder Nir Zicherman has stayed on to lead audiobooks.
WNYC and PRX cancel The Takeaway
WNYC and PRX will not renew joint daily show The Takeaway when it wraps in June, citing financial trouble and low syndication rates. The news broke on Friday when host Melissa Harris-Perry shared details of the cancellation on Twitter.
The Takeaway has gone through a few iterations since longtime host John Hockenberry left in 2017 amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations. Tanzina Vega replaced him and served as host until 2021 when she left following a series of complaints that she had berated staff members. Harris-Perry, who had previously been a host on MSNBC, took over in 2021.
WNYC’s chief content officer, Andrew Golis, and senior vice president Kenya Young informed staffers of the decision last week. “Despite the show’s excellence, it has seen declines in audience and station carriage,” they said in a memo. “Combined with the show’s pre-existing financial deficits, and the revenue headwinds we — like all media organizations — face in this current climate, this led us to the decision with PRX to wind down the show at the end of this contract.”
According to New York Public Radio spokeswoman Jennifer Houlihan Roussel, the show’s station carriage has decreased by 13 percent in recent years. The show will end on June 2nd, and staff will be paid through the end of June.
Harris-Perry was deeply unhappy about the decision and was open about her disappointment on social media. “Budgets are moral documents. Individuals, households, municipalities, organizations have limited resources. How those resources are allocated is a clear indication of what is valued, especially when resources are most limited,” she tweeted Tuesday. “@WNYC execs do not value @TheTakeaway.”
Hot Pod Summit & On Air Fest are this week
Hot Pod Summit is this Thursday! We have a killer lineup featuring speakers from YouTube, Spotify, and iHeartMedia, plus a live podcast recording of Decoder. For those not attending, I’ll have a full recap for you in next week’s newsletter.
A big thanks to AdsWizz and Subtext for supporting Hot Pod Summit. AdsWizz is a self-serve advertising platform for creating and running audio ads. Subtext is a text messaging platform designed to connect creators directly with their subscribers.
Hot Pod Summit is held in partnership with On Air Fest and our partners at work x work. This year’s On Air Fest brings top-tier talent to the MainStage and introduces a Podcast Penthouse for live podcast tapings and, for the first time ever, a first-of-its-kind fan-forward exhibition.
That’s all for now! I’ll be back next week with highlights from Hot Pod Summit.