Last month, Spotify made headlines by announcing it was acquiring both Gimlet and Anchor, podcast companies that each dominate in their respective spheres of consumer content consumption and creation. The news sent shockwaves through the industry, as people guessed at what such consolidation would do to the market overall.
At SXSW, the leaders of all three companies — now one — took the stage together with Cheddar’s Alex Heath to dispel rumors and talk about their own vision of the future of podcasting.
As if the crowd needed any convincing on the new cultural importance of the medium, the panel began by asking everyone in the audience who listened to more than one podcast a week to raise their hand. Unsurprisingly, nearly everyone in the room did. From there, the audience continued to nod along as Spotify’s Dawn Ostroff, Gimlet’s Matt Lieber, and Anchor’s Michael Mignano regaled the audience with the impressive gains in the podcasting market, including the fact that in 2018 more podcast were created than any other year.
Clearly, from a tech and venture perspective, the panel was perfectly timed. The takeaway seemed to be that the industry is new enough to still have rapid innovation happening, but still established enough to be worth the time and money of audio giants like Spotify.
Beyond the cynical economics however, Lieber unconsciously pushed the panel toward a tone that was much more reminiscent of love letter than business brief. Explaining what podcasts meant to him, he explained how growing up, his school days were bookended by NPR—his bedtimes featured a lullaby of jazz radio hosts. “It’s companionship,” Lieber said. For him, Spotify’s acquisition means enabling that connection for more people, getting into their ears and hearts just a little bit easier.
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