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Insider May 12, 2022 – Big moves at Spotify

Max Cutler will spearhead a new creator content mission, while Bill Simmons will lead the streamer’s push into global sports.

Apologies for the late send, readers. Spotify issued details on its podcast business reorganization and ya girl had to motor. More on that below, plus the inescapable encroachment of true crime. I myself don’t care for tales of grizzly murder (give me obscure NYC history or celebrity gossip any day), but SiriusXM reports that the youngs love it. Youngs, by their definition, is anyone under 35. So I have three more years to live it up before moving to Boca.

Reorg at Spotify paves way for push into sports and creator content

Spotify’s podcast operation is getting a refresh. A month after news broke that dealmaker Courtney Holt would be leaving Spotify after nearly five years, the company has announced a reorg of its studio. Parcast founder and content exec Max Cutler will be promoted to head of talk creator content and partnerships. In addition to cutting licensing deals like Holt did, he will oversee a new initiative to bring creator content to the platform. Julie McNamara, who ran programming at Paramount Plus before joining Spotify last year, will continue to oversee originals. She had a big win recently with the astronomical ratings for Batman Unburied, which snagged the No. 1 spot from Joe Rogan on the streamer’s charts.

The company also tapped Bill Simmons to lead global sports content in addition to his duties at The Ringer. Even if Simmons’ new role is something of a surprise, Spotify’s further push into sports should not be. Noted soccer fan Daniel Ek has been building Spotify’s sports presence for the past few years, buying The Ringer for nearly $200 million in 2020 and live audio app Locker Room (now branded Spotify Live) for more than $67 million. Outside of the talk space, Spotify inked a deal in March with FC Barcelona to rebrand their stadium and appear on team shirts beginning with the 2022–2023 season. When talking about the FC Barcelona partnership with investors last month, he explained the rationale: “I know a lot of you are Americans, but let me just state sports is a massive thing globally.” 

The reorg comes on the heels of three top Spotify leaders resigning over the last month, including Holt. After two years at the helm of Gimlet, Lydia Polgreen announced she would be taking a job as an opinion columnist with The New York Times, where she previously worked from 2002 to 2016. Earlier this month, Hot Pod broke the news that Michael Mignano, who co-founded DIY podcast platform Anchor and sold the app to Spotify in 2019, would be leaving after three years leading Spotify’s podcasting tech stack to join an early-stage VC firm. 

Holt, who brokered the deals with stars like Joe Rogan, Alex Cooper, and Dax Shepard that made Spotify podcasting’s Goliath, leaves a big hole with his departure. But the reorg appears to give focus to the company’s podcast priorities and plans for expansion: Hollywood veteran McNamara leading entertainment and journalism, early audio founder Cutler dealing with the massive tide of creator content, and Simmons leading the charge on building sports programming on an international scale.

And that’s not all! Spotify will be making more big appointments this summer, including Polgreen and Cutler’s replacements and a new head of talk markets.

Podcasting’s newest listeners are younger, more diverse, and really, really love true crime

Podcasting is finally becoming more inclusive, according to a report SiriusXM released during the Upfronts. While the traditional podcast listener is white, male, and Gen X or Millennial, the study found that the demographics of new listeners are changing. Two-thirds of new podcast consumers are under the age of 35 and half are women. Plus, new listeners are significantly more likely to be Black or Latinx.

Tastes are shifting, too. The top three genres for long-standing podcast audiences are comedy, news and politics, and sports. While newer listeners also tune into comedy more than any other genre, they prioritize true crime and celebrity podcasts over sports and news. That could help explain the increasing dominance of shows like Crime Junkie and My Favorite Murder in the ratings.

Ratings: Crime Junkie snags the No. 2 spot from The Daily

Speaking of true crime! In the first three months of 2022, Crime Junkie snagged the No. 2 spot in Edison’s quarterly ranking of podcasts (it was ranked third in 2021), and it wasn’t the only true crime show to see a boost. My Favorite Murder rose one spot to No. 5, while Dateline NBC entered the top 10 for the first time. Meanwhile, Morbid jumped three spots, from 14 to 11. 

Some news and politics shows, meanwhile, trended downward. Traditionally the runner-up to Joe Rogan’s perpetual chart-topper, The Daily fell to No. 3. Plus, top 10 mainstay Pod Save America fell three spots, from 10 to 13.

While this reinforces SXM’s findings re: true crime, the latter part of this year could look different. News and politics shows, naturally, tend to climb during election season. Between the contentious midterms and the likely overturn of Roe v. Wade, topical shows like The Daily could climb again. 

That’s all for today! I’ll be back tomorrow with Upfronts highlights and how “podcast” has outlived its namesake.