Taylor Swift is now a podcasting influencer – The Verge

By Ariel Shapiro, lead reporter of Hot Pod, a newsletter covering podcasting and the audio industry. She previously worked at Forbes, where she covered media and entertainment.
This is Hot PodThe Verge’s newsletter about podcasting and the audio industry. Sign up here for more.
I hope all you East Coasters had a cozy nor’easter. By the time the snow stopped this morning and I tried to take my baby outside for some winter frolicking, it had already turned to slush. He doesn’t know the difference, but I am bummed!
Today, we’re looking at layoffs at SiriusXM, a new podcast deal for Meghan Markle, and how the “Swift Effect” made Travis Kelce’s podcast a top 10 hit. But first, one more programming announcement for Hot Pod Summit!
One thing we keep hearing from readers and Hot Pod Summit attendees is a desire to understand what on earth is going on with podcast advertising. Between falling CPMs, challenges with metrics, and YouTube’s increasing dominance in the space, there is a lot to unpack. I am excited to announce that Kelli Hurley, global head of revenue partnerships at SiriusXM, and Tomas Rodriguez, senior director of audio partnerships at The Trade Desk, will be joining me onstage to discuss the state of the ad market. I know I have a lot of questions, and I am sure you do as well. 
Hot Pod Summit, our invite-only event for leaders in the podcast industry, is happening on Wednesday, February 28th. The summit will kick off On Air Fest Brooklyn 2024 and is hosted in conjunction with our friends at work x work.
On Air Fest will be taking place February 29th to March 1st. You can see the lineup for On Air Fest here, including Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Dubner, Norah Jones, Laurie Anderson, Seth Meyers, Nick Quah, Avery Trufelman, and talent from Audible, Netflix, iHeart, WBUR, Vox Media Podcast Network, and more. Click here to buy tickets to On Air Fest.
Thank you to our official lead sponsors for Hot Pod Summit 2024: AdsWizz and Simplecast. AdsWizz runs a self-serve advertising platform for creating and running audio ads. Simplecast offers podcast hosting, distribution, and analytics.
This is surely as great a victory as winning the Super Bowl. Edison Research released its list of top podcasts during the fourth quarter and found that the “Taylor Swift Effect” on New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce is very real.
Between October and December, New Heights was the sixth most popular podcast, up from number 67 the prior quarter. It is worth keeping in mind that Swift and Travis Kelce went public with their relationship in October
Edison’s ranking is based on survey responses rather than raw listening data, but it is considered to be extremely reliable. At number six, New Heights is more popular than blockbuster shows like This American Life, SmartLess, and The Ben Shapiro Show.
Yesterday, SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz announced another round of layoffs in a memo to staff. She said that about 3 percent of staff, or about 160 people, would be impacted by the cuts. 
“To continue on our path to future subscriber growth and sustain our Company’s success as the competitive landscape evolves, it’s imperative that we become even more efficient, agile, and flexible,” Witz wrote. “From uniting teams and better aligning initiatives, to investing in new technologies that will power our transformation, we are focused on increasing efficiencies and redeploying resources to support the strategic priorities of our business.”
I find the language here interesting. It reminds me of the announcement last week from Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kyncl in which he justified layoffs by saying the company would have greater capacity to focus on the core music business. Or the announcement from Spotify last week, announcing it was sunsetting some of its own podcast creation tools in favor of Riverside so resources could be allocated elsewhere. (There were no layoffs associated with the change.) 
Last year, CEOs justified layoffs by citing macroeconomic factors and shakiness in the advertising industry. But the predicted recession never came to pass, and now when cuts are made, it is not out of financial distress but to serve long-term strategy. It’s a refrain I imagine we will hear more of in the coming months and one that will likely be cold comfort to the workers left adrift.
It was not entirely clear what the future had in store for Archewell’s podcast arm after a very public and nasty breakup with Spotify, but eight months later, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s production company has landed a new deal. Markle will host a new show for Lemonada, which has partnered with other famous women including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Samantha Bee, and Sarah Silverman.
Markle’s prior show, Archetypes, was a hit for Spotify and racked up about a million downloads per episode. But Archewell and Spotify struggled to develop additional series, with Harry reportedly pitching show ideas like interviewing Vladimir Putin about his childhood. Their deal, cut during Spotify’s spend-happy days of 2020, reportedly cost $20 million.
Financials were not disclosed for Markle’s new deal with Lemonada. In the new arrangement, Lemonada will also handle the distribution of Archetypes across platforms. 
“We are beyond honored that Meghan has trusted us to help democratize access to Archetypes, and that so many more people around the world will have access to the series soon. Meghan’s talent as host, creator and conversationalist is unparalleled and we are thrilled to co-create a new series with her that fosters her approach to creating art that matters,” Lemonada CEO Jessica Cordova Kramer told Deadline.
He would not be the first. According to a report from Semafor, there is some tension between Trevor Noah and Spotify executives over the direction of his show. Noah’s team has reportedly discussed renegotiating his deal with the streamer. 
Since it debuted in November, Noah has had a mix of business leaders and celebrity guests. But Semafor reports that higher-ups are pushing for splashy celebrity interviews, something Noah has been adamantly against.
Spotify declined to comment on the report but did tell Semafor that “we are happy with the show and we have no news on any changes to share.”
That’s all for today! I’ll be back on Thursday for Insiders. As for the rest of you, see you next week!
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