"The goal is breaking through the clutter," McNamara said. "So we look at what can do that, and one prong of that is if you have a notable host, that immediately draws in interest and press and curiosity."
Not all of Spotify's original and exclusive podcasts have been hits, and some of its exclusive partnership deals were not renewed. Earlier this year, Spotify opted not to renew its exclusive podcast deal with Barack and Michelle Obama's production company.
Spotify also has made cuts in the audio space. Last month, the company scrapped 11 podcasts and laid off nearly 40 people, including staffers at Gimlet and Parcast studios.
"If you're a strategic division of a company, you're going to continue to evaluate portfolios and strategy to make sure that you are doing what is necessary to be a winner in the space," McNamara said.
One of the company's most popular exclusive podcasts remains "The Joe Rogan Experience," which generated controversy earlier this year when Neil Young and other musicians accused the program of spreading COVID-19 misinformation and criticized Rogan's past use of the N-word.
Spotify defended its content moderation policies and managed to weather the storm and calls for a boycott.
Despite a deteriorating climate that has brought steep layoffs to the tech sector, McNamara said that podcast consumption continues to grow, adding, "We are continuing to invest both in terms of needed head count and financially, so there's not a pullback on our investment."
And podcasts continue to attract creatives like Peele, who are drawn to the possibilities of working in a new medium. Horror is especially suited to audio, he says.
"For starters, it's so intimate," Peele said. "You put earbuds in and you are literally inside someone's head, which means you have them captive. They are ripe for the taking to get scared — which I love."
He added: "If people have to turn it off before they fall asleep because they are worried about nightmares, then we've done something right and I'll be happy."
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