AMA with Matt Lieber

April 10, 2019

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Are there any thoughts yet about whether the Gimlet membership program will continue and what it might look like in the future?

The membership program is 100% continuing.  There are going to be some changes.

Current memberships will convert to become free.  New memberships will be $1 for a lifetime plan. Slack channel stays.  Exclusive content stays (AMA coming soon with Saki Knafo, host of Conviction).  We’ll be sending more information about this over email later this week.

Hi Matt! I remember the episode where your equity was discussed. What is your side of the story for that?

I think my side of that story is pretty well represented in the StartUp episode about it.  Alex and I had a serious negotiation, and we ended up in a place we both felt good about. Now that the acquisition is closed, we feel the same way.

Have you all been getting more sleep in the past few weeks?


Is gimlet staying in the new gimlet office or moving in with Spotify?

Gimlet is staying in our offices in Brooklyn.  We just built 13 new studios there, so we aren’t going anywhere,.  We’re a short 15 minute subway ride to Spotify in Manhattan, so I will spend time over here too.

Will the process for defining the success of an individual show be different at spotify?

This is a great question, and I have a meeting later today with my new colleagues at Spotify to discuss it.  But honestly, we’ve always focused on creating shows that elevate the role of audio in people’s lives, through storytelling and conversation.  That won’t change. It’s probable that under the wing of Spotify, we’ll be able to take some bigger swings, and bigger risks, and I’m excited for that

Were you shopping Gimlet around to other media companies, as well?

Nope, we weren’t shopping Gimlet.

Do the hosts and producers have equity?

Every employee at Gimlet had equity, yes.

Is Ralphie considered a Spotify employee now or what exactly is the story

I don’t like to talk about specific employees, but I will share that we have had some disciplinary issues with R.  No further comment.

It was great seeing you during the sxsw panel yesterday. #podgrasping

Podgrasping is my word of the year.

Are you and Alex contractually obligated to remain with Gimlet for any period of time or can you take your money and run?

We’re not going anywhere!

As a longtime Gimlet listener (pre-Gimlet!) and an even longer-time podcast listener, I'm very curious what your thoughts are on the free and open podcast format and whether this purchase portends a siloing.

Our existing shows will continue to be available widely.  So if you want to listen to Reply All episodes on Apple, or Pocketcasts, or the web, or anywhere else, you can.  You’ll probably see us experiment with new shows, and windowing, and that sort of thing. Spotify has a free and paid tier, so all the content is available to everyone, on every platform. In general, I do think podcasting will move a few degrees toward a world that looks more like TV/Video.  Some programming will be available everywhere, ad-supported, some will be exclusive, some windowed, etc. There are different distribution models, and different business models, that make sense for different kinds of content, and I think that’s a good thing.

Do you think Luminary is a viable competitor to Gimlet?

I think the acquisition of Gimlet and Anchor are validation that there’s a lot of real traction, and value, in on demand audio.  You’ll see more startups get going because of that, and Luminary is one of them. I’m not too familiar with their product because they haven’t launched yet, but in general I think more players is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Was the Crimetown-Spotify exclusivity agreement for Season 2 an experiment related to the acquisition? If so, how do you perceive the results of that experiment? And is there a plan for a wider Crimetown season 2 release, or will it always be available through Spotify only?

Crimetown season 2 will be available widely later this year.  What we learned: 1) We can build new audiences on Spotify, if we have a great show with good marketing.  2) in general, if you have a show that’s widely available and then you pull it back to be exclusive, that can piss off some listeners.

Can you give us some insight into what we can expect with the [Spotify acquisition], and also will Gimlet retain its full editorial independence?

Gimlet’s journalism, will continue to be independently driven.  If you listened to Conviction, you’ll know that we will follow a story wherever it leads, even if it involved deep reporting, asking adversarial questions, and lots of research.  That kind of work is costly and time consuming, and we will continue to do that. In terms of podcast’s open-ness being the reason for the medium’s success… I would propose a contrarian point of view on that.  It is a success for some creators. But in general, I believe podcasts can be much larger in terms of the impact, the number of listeners we reach, and the economics that are available for creators. I mean podcasting is a 500M industry this year.  Radio is a 17B industry. That seems wrong to me.

Are there ideas for shows that you feel you can take on now that you were reticent to try previously because of resources?

Yes, I think this will be the case.  Stay tuned.

Is there a clear short/med/long plan has been outlined for changes post acquisition?

Currently it’s business as usual.  We’re working together with Spotify on incremental planning now- we think there’s a lot of opportunity to work together to bring more data to producers to inform creative decision making… to bring Gimlet shows to a wider global audience… to help advertisers with better data and reach.  We’re working out all that stuff now.

Do you have an example of a project Gimlet wanted to take on, but didn’t have the resources pre-acquisition?

Not that I can share here. But sometimes we have projects that would require lots of resources, and just wouldn’t make sense in a purely ad supported world, as an independent company.  Now that may change

Did Gimlet have any relationship with Anchor prior to the acquisitions? Are Gimlet and Anchor folks working together at Spotify?

We were friends with Anchor, but hadn’t worked with them formally.

Have you been listening to anything really interesting lately?

Bear Brook.  Obsessed.

Is Spotify retaining the business side of Gimlet or just the creative side?

Everyone at Gimlet is continuing with us, as part of the acquisition.  Gimlet Creative, our Sales and Operations team, are critical to making Gimlet what it is, and are part of the next chapter of the journey, for sure.

How much airtime has been devoted to his growth into company leadership and internal conflict therein, does he plan on keeping a business leadership role or shifting more to pure focus on creative leadership?

The beauty of Gimlet, and our success, is a function of our having merged a culture of creative and business leadership, together.  That won’t change.