National Geographic lays off audio team behind Overheard podcast

Founding producer Jacob Pinter says he doesn’t yet know what this means for the future of the podcast

National Geographic has reportedly laid off the audio team behind its hit science podcast Overheard, according to a tweet by the podcast’s founding producer Jacob Pinter. 

Pinter tweeted the news on Monday, when he was told about the layoffs, calling it a “bittersweet” day - falling on the same week that an ad for Overheard covered a Times Square billboard and a day before The Webby Awards, where the podcast was nominated for Best Science & Education Podcast.

“We don’t know yet what will happen to Overheard at National Geographic, which I helped launch four years and 100-something episodes ago,” said Pinter in a series of tweets. “Our tagline is: stories about our 'big, weird, beautiful world'. It’s been a joy to work with National Geographic Explorers who make the world even bigger, weirder, and beautiful-er. And it’s been such a privilege to be part of this small but mighty team.”

National Geographic senior podcast editor Eli Chen also tweeted about the situation, having also been told that she was being laid off and said that it was “due to restructuring at Nat Geo and [parent company] Disney”. National Geographic has not yet made any official announcements about the layoffs, or said if the Overheard podcast will be cancelled or moving on without the original team. 

A spokesperson from National Geographic and Disney told PodPod that like other media organisations, the company continues to rethink and evolve its audio strategy but that the company still isn't in the audio business.

"In order to set the National Geographic Magazine and its Digital & Social experiences up for success in the ever-evolving media landscape we all face every day, we had to make some tough staffing decisions," said the spokesperson. "We are so grateful to all who have contributed to what the brand is today, and to all those dedicated to keeping this brand - and these experiences - relevant and thriving well into the future." 

In September 2022, National Geographic laid off six of its top editors, three months after the publication appointed Nathan Lump as the newest editor-in-chief. An anonymous employee at the organisation told The Washington Post that the layoffs were a “desperate cost-cutting measure”, although Lump said that the changes were made to help grow the staff and talent and deepen relationships with readers.

National Geographic is not the only publication to make podcasting cuts recently; nonprofit organisation NPR also announced a round of layoffs and budget cuts earlier this year. This led to the cancellation of four podcasts under the company including human behavioural science podcast Invisibilia which has operated since 2015, hip-hop podcastLouder Than A Riot, news podcast Rough Translation, and comedy podcast Everyone & Their Mom

“We literally are fighting to secure the future of NPR at this very moment by restructuring our cost structure. It's that important,” said NPR chief executive officer John Lansing in an interview with the organisation. "It's existential."