Jason Calacanis Says He Will Shut Down Podcast Network ThisWeekIn.com, This Week In Startups Will Continue

Jason Calacanis has announced via blog post that he’s planning to wind down his podcast network ThisWeekIn.com and return the remaining funds to investors.

Two of the shows, This Week In Startups (which Calacanis hosts) and Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, will continue, but the company itself is shutting down. Calacanis wrote that ThisWeekIn wasn’t a failure, just “a moderate success” that “would not be able to scale.” Here’s his argument about why a podcasting company is unlikely to make big money:

Very, very few podcasts have made it to scale, and to me that says this business will never be big. Why? Well, you need folks like Leo [Laporte] or Adam [Carolla] to make millions of dollars and have breakout success, but if they decide to stop doing their show, the networks will shutter. That simple.

It just doesn’t make sense to invest in a business with this kind of limited upside.

In fact, the only way to make podcasting a real big business would be if you could somehow get the top seven podcasters to team up and make a meganetwork. If Leo Laporte, Kevin Rose, Adam Carolla, Kevin Pollak — plus three or four more — all did shows as one company, it would have $8M to $15M in revenue and be worth $50M to $75M, but that’s a lot of personality to try and corral — I dare say it’s impossible.

Back in 2010, the company raised $300,000 in funding from Matt Coffin, Sky Dayton, and Calacanis himself. At the time, Calacanis compared the model to Weblogs Inc., the blog network that he sold to Aol. (Before the funding was announced, Leo Laporte, host of This Week In Tech, criticized Calacanis for using the “This Week In” name. Calacanis responded that he’d gotten Laporte’s blessing.)

Over email, Calacanis (who runs Mahalo and the Launch conference, and may be preparing for something new) emphasized that the company was doing all right, breaking even with $500,000 in annual revenue and two hit shows (Calacanis’ and Pollak’s). He also said that there will be no layoffs, with the five full-time employees continuing to work on This Week In Startups.