Spotify is losing another talk content executive. The Verge has learned that Nir Zicherman, who leads the company’s new audiobook vertical, will be leaving the company this year. He will depart as one of the last remaining executives who built Spotify’s podcasting business.
Zicherman co-founded podcast creation and distribution tool Anchor with Michael Mignano, who left Spotify last year. Spotify bought Anchor in 2019 for $150 million, at which point Zicherman and Mignano joined the company’s product division. Zicherman took charge of the audiobook business in 2022. He will stay on until October 1st to help set up the next audiobook lead, according to Spotify spokesperson Rosa Oh.
Spotify’s audiobook team also works closely on business strategy with David Kaefer, the company’s VP of business affairs, Oh says. Kaefer will support the transition and continue working with the company’s new audiobook leader.
Spotify debuted its audiobook vertical last fall after completing its $123 million acquisition of audiobook distributor Findaway. The vertical adopted an a la carte purchase model, which has been complicated by Apple’s strict in-app purchase rules. However, Zicherman told Hot Pod in February that the company is looking to develop new business models for audiobooks, which could include free ad-supported titles or even a Netflix-style all-you-can-listen subscription.
“The future that I see at Spotify is many different business models.”
“Applying a blanket approach to everything — every piece of content, every creator, just like in podcasting — I think actually hurts the industry,” Zicherman said at Hot Pod Summit. “So the future that I see at Spotify is many different business models to support all the different types of podcast content that exists and all the different types of audiobook content that exists.”
Spotify will begin an external search for the next audiobook executive, according to Oh, and whoever fills that role will have a big job ahead of them. Last year, CEO Daniel Ek touted audiobooks to investors as the company’s third major vertical after music and podcasts. The industry is certainly growing. The Audio Publishers Association reported a 25 percent increase in sales in North America in 2021 for a total of $1.6 billion. But Ek is dreaming bigger; he said that the global market for audiobooks could be worth as much as $70 billion.
Zicherman’s departure is not only a big change for the company’s audiobook effort but also marks another loss among Spotify’s old guard of podcasting. Over the past year, most of the founders and top executives that came to Spotify during its podcast boom have opted to leave. Last spring, the company’s top podcast dealmaker, Courtney Holt, announced his departure, followed by Mignano, who led the company’s podcasting tech stack. Gimlet co-founder Alex Blumberg quietly left in the fall around the same time his podcast How To Save a Planet got canceled. In January, Dawn Ostroff, the company’s chief content and advertising officer, announced her leave, soon followed by Parcast founder and head of talk creator content and partnerships Max Cutler.
Update April 17th, 6:15PM ET: This piece has been updated with more information about Spotify’s audiobooks leadership and transition.