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‘This American Life’ Shifts Podcast Ad Sales to National Public Media

Ira Glass (Jamie McCarthy/Photographer: Jamie McCarthy/Get)

(Bloomberg) -- The long-running radio show and podcast This American Life is moving its podcast ad sales to National Public Media from New York Times Co. in the latest sign of shifting fortunes in the podcast industry.

The subsidiary of National Public Radio will begin exclusively selling podcast ads on the program starting Aug. 1, including a new spot voiced by host Ira Glass. This American Life’s radio sponsorships will be continued to be sold by PRX, a non-profit public media company. 

Many of the industry’s splashiest deals from years past have come up for renewal in recent months and provided podcast titans an opportunity to find new homes. The Times entered its ad sales arrangement with the show in 2020, a period when many producers were changing hands and looking for better deals. As the podcast ad market constricted over the past 18 months, the two organizations decided not to renew their agreement. The Times will still make the program’s archive and most recent episodes available to subscribers through its audio app.

This American Life  ranked No. 6 on a list of the most popular podcasts in the US in the first quarter, according to Edison Research. The program reaches more than 3.5 million listeners each week, according to its website.

“If we could have chosen any storyteller, any content producer, any entity who we would have been thrilled and proud to be associated with, it'd be This American Life,” said Gina Garrubbo, chief executive officer of National Public Media. “We consider it an extraordinary opportunity.” Garrubbo said the podcast ad market has been improving recently.

Seth Lind, director of operations at This American Life, said the group spoke with eight companies before landing on a deal with National Public Media.

“They came to us, and we were really impressed,” said Glass, who declined to share the deal terms but said they involved a minimum guarantee, or assured payments regardless of how many ads are sold. 

The Times is planning to move some of its podcasts behind its paywall, the Wall Street Journal has reported, rather than solely relying on ad revenue to support them. National Public Media has also begun working with Spotify Technology SA to make its unsold ad inventory available on the streaming service’s marketplace, the Spotify Audience Network. 

(Updates to add detail on radio sponsorships in second paragraph.)

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