The Ringer Staff Finds Out About Spotify Acquisition Talks—from the Wall Street Journal

Spotify’s interest in acquiring The Ringer, a sports and popular culture website and podcast network, came as a surprise to many, and particularly to Ringer employees, who learned of the news just like everyone else did: through a report published by The Wall Street Journal on January 17th.

Today, The Ringer’s team members issued a public response to the possible buyout. Comprised of a text-bearing image and a string of follow-up tweets, the message emphasized the professional diversity of the company’s staff: “The Ringer’s staff is made up of far more than podcasters: writers, editors, illustrators, fact checkers, copy editors, social media editors, and video and audio producers.”

The statement went on to say that the unionized office hopes to be fully recognized by Spotify if the sale goes through. The Ringer’s management team has not been communicative about the potential sale, and in response, a formal request for a meeting was filed by the representing union (Writers Guild of America, East) on behalf of employees.

At the time of writing, Spotify and The Ringer execs hadn’t publicly commented on the potential deal. Despite some investor concerns, it seems that Spotify will continue to bet big on podcasting in 2020. The streaming giant boasts over 113 million paying subscribers, all of whom are interested in music and podcasts—not online articles. And so, from the perspective of The Ringer’s writers, job future is a major worry, particularly because they weren’t consulted during negotiations.

Sources close to the Ringer-Spotify dialogue have emphasized that an agreement is far from set in stone. While the reported $200 million price tag is a hefty sum, it’s worth noting that The Ringer’s podcasts are downloaded about 35 million times per month, and its website draws in approximately 10 million unique visitors per month. It’s clear that The Ringer has a valuable audience, but the question remains: will Spotify be a good fit for the brand?

It’s hard to say at this point, but given that Spotify has aggressively pursued the podcast market over the past year or so, it’s not surprising that they’re eyeing a company like The Ringer. In 2019, the company spent over $400 million to acquire three major podcasting companies: Gimlet Media, Anchor, and Parcast. The Ringer would be yet another addition to Spotify’s growing podcast empire.

However, it’s worth noting that The Ringer is a unique entity in the podcasting world. While many of Spotify’s other podcasting acquisitions have focused on narrative-driven shows or true crime stories, The Ringer’s podcasts are more conversational in nature. They’re often hosted by personalities with strong opinions on sports and popular culture, and they frequently feature guest appearances from other notable figures in those industries.

It’s unclear how Spotify plans to integrate The Ringer into its existing podcasting lineup, but it’s possible that the acquisition could lead to changes in the editorial direction of The Ringer’s shows and website. If that’s the case, it’s understandable why employees of The Ringer might be concerned about their job security.

At this point, it’s impossible to predict whether or not the deal will go through, but it’s clear that The Ringer’s staff is hoping for more transparency and communication from their upper-level management team. Whether or not Spotify will be a good fit for The Ringer remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: the podcasting industry is changing rapidly, and it’s likely that we’ll continue to see major acquisitions and mergers in the years to come.