The economic downturn continues. This time, it’s the once white-hot podcasting sector’s turn to descend into a celebrity-fueled wasteland where dreams go to die and the zeitgeist is measured in ad dollars. After 15 years of serving up audio, stalwart podcast app Stitcher will be sunsetted on August 29th, 2023.
Why is Stitcher being shut down?
First, let’s get the basic facts out of the way. SiriusXM (Stitcher’s parent company) has announced it will be merging podcasts into its SiriusXM subscription service. You’ll still be able to listen to Stitcher in your app and web browser until the end of August. Original shows by the SiriusXM Podcast Network - consisting of Stitcher Studios, Earwolf, Team Coco and SXM Podcasts - will continue to be made available.
In an internal memo, SiriusXM executives Joe Inzerillo, John Trimble and Scott Greenstein wrote, “The scale and reach of our widely distributed podcasts has been and remains a crucial accelerant for our advertising sales business, while incorporating podcasts more holistically into our flagship SiriusXM subscription service will help to drive further growth.”
Stitcher isn’t the first podcasting company to be hit
Since the start of 2023, more than one established content publishing conglomerate has fallen to inoperable losses, including MTV News, Buzzfeed News and Vice Media. But it doesn’t stop there. The video game industry is being hit by layoffs. Even the grandfather of tech giants, Google (Alphabet), cut 6% of their workforce in 2023.
Audio companies clearly aren’t exempt. In January, layoffs were announced by Vox Media, Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Studios and even the mighty Spotify. In March, SiriusXM itself slashed 8% of its workforce, putting almost 500 employees out of commission.
Stitcher has signed exclusive deals with a number of shows. And Stitcher Premium, which provides ad-free access for $4.95/mo, is also being discontinued. It follows that going forward, fans will still have access to exclusive shows previously available on Stitcher using any other platform. But unless the shows can find new, exclusive platforms, they’ll likely be available everywhere as ad-supported versions, just like the rest of the podcasting horde.
What does Stitcher’s downfall mean for podcasting?
Opinion time! The podcast industry, along with many others, is losing its luster. How did this happen? And how did it happen so quickly? What is SiriusXM expected to do next? Let’s look for clues.
In May 2020, Spotify announced the biggest-ever podcast deal with Joe Rogan since the invention of podcasting, valued at $100m. You could almost hear the collective click of browser tabs being opened to the RØDECaster Pro checkout page on Amazon.
The deal signaled a new highwater mark for the medium, changing the interest of advertisers from micro/topical/niche shows and towards celebrity-or-nothing ad deals in just 3 short years. In retrospect, this might be seen as the moment where podcasting became inextricable from celebrity.
While Serial used podcasting to raise our hopes in justice, the Joe Rogan deal signaled something entirely different. Now, at the same time as they prune off their underperforming free user base, SiriusXM will continue to produce audio content as they’ve always done: by introducing stars from the SiriusXM network to podcasting.
There’s more to podcasting than ad spend
So, even as podcasting ad-spend continues to boom in the United States, SiriusXM has chosen to forego freely providing audio to a listener base that clearly isn’t spending as much as advertisers hoped they would. Isn’t this the type of red flag which you might expect from an enterprise a few financial quarters ahead of the pack? SiriusXM acquired Stitcher for $325 million in 2020.
Now, just three years later, this sure does look like the moment they’ve decided to cut their losses and woo advertisers with a new strategy - consolidation under a unified and established brand with fingers in pies outside of podcasting. Whether or not podcasting will still be considered a viable (albeit unlikely) path to success in 2 years remains pure guesswork. Things sure do change fast around here.
For the vast majority of podcast listeners, Stitcher’s death-spiral is little more than an inconvenience. Hardcore Stitcher users will be upset, but move on. Stitcher creators, however, will now need to figure out what to do with the vacuum left by Stitcher’s downfall.
The end of Stitcher (and an era)
It’s the end of an era in podcasting. For any true Stitcher believers, it’s comforting to know that the brand name will live on through the uninterrupted production of original shows by Stitcher Studios - albeit under a giant corporate and celebrity-focused umbrella. For show creators, don’t forget to remove that Stitcher link from your website. And for those who’re just here for the content, a shrug emoji should do the job while you switch apps.
Sad? Wipe away those tears and have a hearty chuckle over a few dated explainer videos from the early days of the “Stitcher Radio” app, lovingly compiled in a History of Stitcher adio by Podnews.
Stitcher: radio evolved https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu85KG6KPgA
Lastly, that idea for a cutting edge podcast that keeps you up at night? Saspod works with creators to create outstanding podcasts for the next generation of listeners. We’re waiting to hear from you. Get in touch with your show idea and make a killer podcast today.