Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Industries to Lay Off Over 30% of Staff

‘The Tipping Point’ author will step into editorial director role as part of executive shakeup 

(Bloomberg) — Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell’s company, Pushkin Industries, is laying off over 30% of its staff and shaking up its leadership team as the broader podcast industry continues to recalibrate after years of expensive deals and over-ambitious growth plans.

Seventeen out of 54 employees are being let go, including members of the executive team, said Jacob Weisberg, chief executive officer and co-founder. The goal, he said, is to set up the company for profitability next year.

As part of the changes, Weisberg will no longer serve as CEO. Instead, he is taking the title of executive chair. Gladwell, currently president, is becoming editorial director, and Gretta Cohn, who came to the company last year through its acquisition of her studio Transmitter, is the new president, overseeing day-to-day operations.

“It’s been five really intense years since we started the company, and I want to focus on the aspects of the job I think I’m best at,” Weisberg said.  

He added that in his new role he will offer editorial input on certain shows and look for new business projects. He’ll also spend more time on work outside of Pushkin, including as board chair for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The cuts represent a significant about-face for the company, which was still in growth mode not long ago. In June 2022, it announced a first-look deal with film and TV company A24 to adapt its audio series for the screen. The following month, it acquired Transmitter. But late last year, a distribution deal the company sought with Inc.’s Amazon Music fell through after the online retailer significantly lowered its offer.

Pushkin subsequently reduced its staff in cuts that took place earlier this year.

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

In the past year, Spotify Technology SA significantly reduced its spending in an effort to make its podcasting division profitable. It laid off hundreds of employees, canceled shows and didn’t renew agreements with some of its highest profile creators. Sirius XM Holdings Inc. also slowed down its deal-making. As a result, production companies that looked to the big platforms to generate sales of new shows have seen a significant reduction in business.

Other companies have similarly cut staff. Last week, Sony Group laid off employees in its podcast business and canceled a flagship show, High Low With EmRata.

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