Dear Gimlet, Spotify is Not the Future of Podcasting

I began listening to Startup and Reply All shortly after their inception. Besides This American Life, Gimlet's early programming was my first exposure to proper podcasting. I had never heard anything like it – well-produced, fully engaging, informative, somehow familiar, emotionally powerful. Trekking through internet paths less traveled with Alex and PJ. Keeping up with the tumultuous journey of Gimlet's making. I am deeply grateful for what y'all have made and I have followed these stories carefully.

Just a few days ago, however, I hear that #Gimlet will be acquired by #Spotify for more than $200 million. Despite the many hints at such a move, this still came as a shock.

In some of the early eps of #Startup, Alex Blumberg ruminates about how Gimlet's name should reflect its mission. I wish it was American Podcasting Corporation at this point. I have no love for corporations, or for a US-centric view of media, but at least it would be a reminder of what you have done up to this point – podcasting.

Merriam-Webster defines a podcast as “a program (such as a music or news program) that is like a radio or television show that is downloaded over the Internet.” This isn't just semantic, this goes to the core of what Reply All and so much of your other programming is – incredible audio shows made available over The Internet.

The Internet. Not Itunes, not Spotify, not the next walled garden of big tech. The Internet.

You have broken the essence of what you are; and your listeners' relationship with the work you do will never be the same.

To be clear, I 100% support your staff getting paid and y'all growing the brilliant content you offer. This costs money and ground-floor Gimleters have worked their asses off to build what you have. PJ, Alex, Sruthi et al deserve stability and recognition for their work. Whether it be ads, paid access to archives, merch, etc, of course Gimlet must monetize all this hard work.

But Spotify is not the way.

It is well-known that independent musicians make an inexcusably small amount from streaming on spotify (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/12/19/zoe-keating-spotify-2018-payout/). Spotify's model is not to encourage people to buy albums. It doesn't drive people towards directly supporting artists. It is a platform middleman that has deeply changed the way many people listen to music. For the worse. And while users mindlessly click through the same overplayed lists, tech execs and investors are hitting jackpot on everyone else's work (a reflection of the “share” economy, where the Ubers of the world take as much as they can, while others take on the work, risk and responsibility). For these and other reasons, I do not, and will not, use spotify.

Beyond these issues, spotify is NOT a podcasting tool. It may superficially work as an app to listen and subscribe to podcasts. And perhaps spotify subscribers won't notice the exclusive and inaccessible contracts that make content spotify-only, but plenty of others will never get to listen to what's behind those spotify.com links.

So in investor lingo, I guess this is Gimlet's “exit.” A departure from actual podcasting and the original principles which built Gimlet's shows and audience. And all this makes me deeply sad.

Thoughts, comments? Fediverse comment link