Issue 198,  published March 5, 2019

Gimlet at Spotify: Business as usual… for now

Also at Thursday’s Hot Pod Summit (gotta keep the #brand strong, friends), I was joined on stage by Courtney Holt, Spotify’s Head of Studios and Video, along with Gimlet co-founders Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber, who both now hold Managing Director titles at the company, to talk through some details about the Swedish streaming platform’s splashy dive into podcasting and its big to transition into an all-consuming audio content provider.

We touched on a bunch of different topics — intentions, view of the market, original content production, Holt’s time at Maker Studios, potential comparisons to what happened at YouTube, existential anxiety and miserablism — but I reckon the key takeaway that you’d want to know comes in the form of a Matt Lieber quote from the conversation. “We’re going to continue to experiment,” he said. “We don’t have a master plan, and we didn’t come here to reveal a master plan about how all of this is going to work, but I think our goals are to get more people listening to podcasts, and to get more people checking out podcasts on Spotify. We’re going to figure out how that works.”

That very quote shows up in Fast Company’s write-up of the interview (“Spotify’s promise to worried Gimlet fans: We won’t ‘disrupt’ podcast magic”), courtesy of Melissa Locker, who also highlights the details that Gimlet’s shows will continue to be available everywhere, at least in the immediate future. On-stage, Holt himself emphasized not wanting to “disadvantage users to prove a point.”

Another detail that struck me: while the details of the relationship between Gimlet and Spotify continues to be ironed out, the trio expressed that Gimlet will proceed to exist as its own world within whatever Spotify’s original podcast strategy turns out to be. To put a fine point on it: I was told that Gimlet will not be in charge of developing all of Spotify’s upcoming new podcasts.

A development that happened the very next day appears to bear out this configuration. On Friday, Spotify announced that Liz Gateley, a TV veteran who was most recently the EVP and Head of Programming at Lifetime, is joining as the company’s new Head of Creative Development, where, as she outlined in a LinkedIn post, she will “be overseeing their original content development teams on both coasts and their expansion into Comedy, Sports, YA Fiction & Scripted, News/Docs and obviously more Music formats in the podcast space.” The entertainment trades seem to be directly tying Gateley’s responsibilities to the company’s growing podcast activities.

So, it seems that Gimlet will continue to move forward as it always has… for now. I spent yesterday morning reading about Richard Pleper’s recent resignation as HBO chief in the wake of Time Warner’s acquisition by AT&T, and I wonder.

Anyway, two more Spotify developments to note — that weren’t directly touched on in the panel — before moving off this story.

  • The first you might have already heard: recent job postings have surfaced suggesting that the company is looking to develop sports podcasts. Here’s Music Business Worldwide on the matter.
  • The second you might not: Joel Withrow, the Director of Product at Panoply, has recently moved over to Spotify to serve as a senior product manager.