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Insider March 3, 2023 — A surprising departure at iHeart

A top ad executive is out as podcast revenue tapers off.

I got a lil iHeart scoop for you guys to start the weekend, plus some positive findings from the latest Infinite Dial report.

Head of iHeart Audience Network is out as podcast revenues slow

As layoffs roil the industry, from Spotify to NPR, iHeart Media is not immune. Last week, the company laid off at least 10 people in the podcast division, including a handful of hosts and executive producers. Now, it appears that Sarah van Mosel is no longer the executive vice president of the iHeart Audience Network after less than a year in the post.

Van Mosel is a longtime podcast revenue executive, having held top spots at New York Public Radio, Acast, and Stitcher, and she was seen as a big get for iHeart when she joined last year. According to her LinkedIn, she transitioned to the role of strategic advisor in February, though Hot Pod has learned she is no longer an employee at the company. It is unclear whether the decision to leave that spot was her own. Neither van Mosel nor iHeart responded to request for comment.

The move comes at a time when the company is anxious about growth. The cuts were made shortly before iHeart disclosed 2022 earnings, in which they reported 42 percent growth in podcast revenue over the course of the year. That is a truly respectable number, but perhaps their expectations were set high because of the 148 percent growth the segment experienced in 2021. That year-over-year growth rate also decelerated over the course of 2022, going from 78 percent in the first quarter to 60 percent in the second quarter, 42 percent in the third quarter, and finally to 17 percent in the fourth quarter.

“Even the podcasting industry is not immune to some effects of the advertising slowdown,” iHeart CEO Bob Pittman said on an investor call this week. “Considering the macroeconomic challenges in the current environment, we think our digital and podcasting business has performed well in the fourth quarter, but we also seek concrete ways to improve the performance going forward.”

He did not specify what that would entail, but I will be curious to see who takes van Mosel’s spot and how iHeart will shift its strategy to regain that growth. I am not convinced that triple-digit growth is an attainable (or even worthy) goal when you already bring in more than $350 million in revenue, but that’s why I am a wee writer, not a billionaire investor.

Spreaker now offers a free tier

Speaking of iHeart finding new ways to make money, its podcast publishing tool Spreaker is going for the Anchor play. Spreaker, which was previously only available to paid customers through plans ranging from $8 to $250 per month, now offers a free basic tier

While “free” isn’t normally the best way to make more money, podcasters who subscribe to the free tier also have access to Spreaker’s monetization tool. From the money earned through that tool, Spreaker takes a 40 percent cut. Spreaker is currently the third-most-used podcast host, according to Livewire Labs, but far behind leaders Buzzsprout and Anchor. 

Edison: podcast listening has recovered

That’s good to hear! After last year’s Infinite Dial report freaked people out by showing a three-point dip in monthly podcast listeners, the latest report found that the number of monthly listeners has reached an all-time high. 

Edison reported that 42 percent of people in the US 12 and older listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, up from 38 percent last year. As in previous years, that rate was a good chunk higher amongst men than women – 46 percent of men reported listening to a podcast in the last month, compared to 39 percent of women. Weekly podcast listening stats also improved significantly, with 31 percent of respondents saying they listened to a podcast in the past week, up from only 26 percent last year.

Another area that saw significant growth? Audiobooks (that’s right, ya girl is not gonna miss an opportunity to talk audiobooks). According to Edison, 35 percent of respondents said that they have listened to an audiobook in the past year, up from 28 percent in 2022. That is good news for Spotify, which has bet big (if not podcasting-big) that audiobooks are the next big-revenue vertical.

There’s plenty else to dig into here. You can check out the full report on Edison’s website

Have a great weekend! I’ll see you Tuesday.