Two years ago, it would have been unfathomable that Reply All, a critical darling that defined the podcast boom, would end the way it has. But the scandal around Gimlet’s work culture and the role former Reply All co-host PJ Vogt and producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni played in fostering it cast a shadow on the show from which it has never recovered. The show may still have a future, but for now, the whole episode is a reminder of how impermanent the media landscape is, even for a series as beloved as Reply All. “I sort of assumed I would make this show for the rest of my life,” co-host Alex Goldman said in a tweet. “But things change.”
SCOOP: Reply All will end in its current form next month
It’s the end of an era. A year after the Test Kitchen scandal, the Reply All listeners have come to know and love will end.
The Verge broke the story Wednesday that Reply All’s current co-hosts, Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi, are stepping away from the show and that the last episode of “this iteration” of the podcast will air on June 23rd. A statement later issued by Reply All’s staff confirmed that it won’t just be Goldman and Dzotsi moving on. “Ultimately, staff who have been working on this show for a long time — in some cases five, six, seven years at this point — are ready to pursue other things.”
It is unclear whether — or in what form — Reply All will return, but it’s an unceremonious end to a show that was once among the buzziest and most respected in the industry. The show, which explores tech and society, was the jewel in Gimlet’s crown when it was acquired by Spotify for $194 million in 2019. That all crumbled two years later when Reply All published The Test Kitchen, a limited series on the discriminatory work culture of Bon Appétit magazine. Former Gimlet staffers set off a social media firestorm when they accused co-host PJ Vogt and producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni of fostering a similar environment and blocking internal efforts at making Gimlet more inclusive. Vogt and Pinnamaneni left the show shortly after, and the show never fully recovered.
The news comes at a time of change for the studio. Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen announced last month that she will be returning to The New York Times as an opinion columnist. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Gimlet co-founder Matthew Lieber, who had been serving as Spotify’s head of studios podcast operations since 2019, would also be leaving. And while Gimlet was part of Spotify’s first big push into original podcasts, its programming is being drowned out by the rising tide of content. As of today, it only has three shows in Spotify’s top 100 and none in the top 20.
Reply All staffers took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to express sadness about the show’s conclusion and hope for the future. “I have a lot of ideas for things I’m excited to work on,” Goldman tweeted, “but for now I’m excited to have a little break.” Dzotsi said he will share more thoughts on the situation when the last episode airs on June 23rd and that “for me, it’s time. And that’s a good thing.”
Is YouTube becoming the podcast platform of choice?
Maybe, sorta? That depends on how you define a “podcast.” A new study from Cumulus Media and Signal Hill found that people who listened to at least one hour of podcasts a week tune in using YouTube more than Spotify or Apple Podcasts. There is a catch, though: unlike in past years, researchers included consumers specifically seeking out and watching video podcasts. Including podcast watchers, instead of just listeners, put Google’s video platform over the edge.
For respondents who consumed at least one hour of podcasts a week, 25 percent chose YouTube as their preferred platform, while 23 percent went for Spotify, and 15 percent chose Apple Podcasts. Last year, with the old methodology, Spotify took the top spot, while Apple was number one in 2020 and 2019.
“Weekly podcast listeners are really into video streaming,” said Brittany Faison, insights manager for Cumulus. “This just shows you how the podcast landscape is evolving.”
It’s increasingly apparent how important video is becoming to what was once an audio-only medium. Filming podcast recordings has become standard practice for many of the top shows, and podcast clips often go viral on social media in their video form rather than audio (like yesterday’s absolutely wild clip from Plug Talk in which an OnlyFans creator explained her investigation into Instagram’s account review process, which now has 1 million views on Twitter). Plus, YouTube stars are now crossing over into podcasting — two YouTubers, MrBallen and Emma Chamberlain, have shows in Spotify’s top 10 shows.
But video is not the only factor. More than 45 percent of people consuming podcasts on YouTube aren’t even bothering to watch the video. But they turn to the platform, Faison said, because of convenience. YouTube and Spotify both ranked high for ease of use since music and podcasts are available in the same app, while Apple still separates its music and podcast apps. But for iPhone owners, Apple wins convenience points since the app comes pre-downloaded; Apple Podcasts is still the most preferred app among iPhone users.
Apple is also the platform of choice for people who listen to more than six hours’ worth of podcasting a week. Heavy listeners don’t particularly care for video podcasts, the study found, and are also more likely to have started listening to podcasts at least four years ago. That means they formed their listening habits when Apple Podcasts was still king.
I have to say I definitely fall in that latter category. That’s no shade on Spotify, but I have been building my podcast library on Apple for a decade now, and I am too old and lazy to change. Also, I have less than zero desire to watch video podcasts. I stare at a screen most of the day — I just want some chill storytelling time about the history of cheese.
That’s all for today! I’ll see you all bright and early* tomorrow.
*Probably around 1:00 pm.