When Luminary Media launched in April 2019, its goal was to become the Netflix of podcasting — delivering a tantalizing mix of original ad-free shows and aggregated programming that could convince loads of people to start paying for podcasts. Backed by $100 million in funding, the company spent lavishly for exclusive rights to podcasts from TV stars like Trevor Noah and Lena Dunham and rolled out an aggressive marketing campaign with outdoor ads in Chicago, New York, Austin and Los Angeles.
A year later, Luminary is still struggling to live up to those grand ambitions. Over the last 90 days, the company hasn’t cracked the Top 500 entertainment apps in the U.S. in average daily iPhone downloads, according to the mobile insights and analytics firm App Annie. A few notable creators, including former Obama adviser David Axelrod, have recently left the service. And several podcasters who have worked with Luminary said that few people seem to be listening to their shows, despite being given big budgets and creative freedom.