Pushkin Industries lays off one-third of employees

Founder Malcolm Gladwell to be replaced as company president by Gretta Cohn

Podcast production company Pushkin Industries has laid off 17 out of 54 employees, according to a report from Bloomberg, alongside restructuring the company’s leadership team.

Pushkin Industries was founded in 2018 by New Yorker writer and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, and former editor-in-chief of The Slate Group Jacob Weisberg. The production company has produced a number of hit podcasts, including Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and partner content like A Life in Lyrics with iHeart and originals like The Happiness Lab. 

In addition to the layoffs, a number of changes have been made to the leadership team, with Gladwell and Weisberg stepping down from their roles as president and CEO respectively. Gladwell will now become the editorial director of the company, while Weisberg will serve as executive chair.

Gretta Cohn, former CEO and co-founder of Peabody-nominated podcast company Transmitter - which Pushkin acquired in July 2022 - will be replacing Gladwell as president. Until now, Cohn has continued working for Pushkin as senior vice president of content production. There is no news yet about who will be replacing Weisberg as CEO. 

“What I think has changed and had such a big effect is the position of some of the biggest players,” Weisberg told Bloomberg. “All these companies were investing a lot in podcasting and pulled back dramatically.”

A number of podcast platforms have started to pull back from podcast investments and cut costs as advertisers reduce their budgets due to macroeconomic conditions. Last month, Bloomberg reported that Sony Music will be quietly shutting down its hit podcast High Low with EmRata amidst its third round of podcast layoffs in two years. 

A spokesperson from Sony Music told PodPod that the decision to reduce the team’s size came as part of the company’s decision to further streamline its structure and continue to focus more on growing audiences for select ongoing shows, as well as its subscription business.

During a panel discussion at The Podcast Show this year, Tenderfoot TV president and co-founder Donald Albright said that for podcast companies to ensure that they have a stable revenue stream, they should look more into subscription strategies rather than advertising, as they would not be affected by global market conditions. 

“If you have a direct line to your consumer, then you have a lifeline whether you’re in bad economic times or not,” said Albright. “Companies need to be looking at that to diversify their revenue streams.”

Despite the recent slowdown in investments across the podcast advertising industry, the Interactive Advertising Bureau predicts that podcast advertising revenue will more than double between 2022 and 2025 and grow to $4 billion (£3.2B), according to its annual US Podcast Advertising Study which was published in May this year.