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Meghan Markle’s new podcast in uphill battle after 'Archetypes' flop deemed 'woke, irrelevant’

Meghan Markle has inked a new podcast deal with Lemonada Media seven months after her $20 million contract with Spotify ended after just 12 episodes.

Meghan Markle said this week she was "proud" to announce she has signed a new deal with Lemonada Media to continue her "love of podcasting." 

The "creative partnership" with Lemonada comes less than a year after she and Spotify "mutually" agreed to part ways following just 12 episodes of her "Archetypes" podcast. 

In 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex signed multi-year deal with Spotify worth about $20 million, which produced the podcast in which the 42-year-old invited guests to "investigate, dissect and subvert the labels that try to hold women back."

Despite topping Joe Rogan on the platform after it premiered in 2022 to be the top Spotify podcast in 47 countries and welcoming guests like Serena Williams, Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey, the partnership fizzled after just one season.

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"Spotify and Archewell Audio have mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together," a joint statement from Spotify and Archewell sent to FOX Business said last June. 

The series averaged more than 1 million listens per episode and more than 10 million total, according to Markle and Prince Harry’s media company Archewell Productions. 

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Neither Spotify nor Archewell went into detail about what happened, but Spotify executive Bill Simmons called Markle and Prince Harry "f-----g grifters" after their contract was canceled. 

"‘The F-----g Grifters.’ That’s the podcast we shoulda launched with them," Simmons said on his own podcast after the cancellation of the contract. "I gotta get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories."

United Talent Agency (UTA) CEO Jeremy Zimmer also criticized the duchess for being "not a great audio talent."

"Turns out Meghan Markle was not a great audio talent, or necessarily any kind of talent," Zimmer told website Semafor when asked about the podcast cancellation. "And, you know, just because you're famous doesn't make you great at something."

Markle was also accused of passing off much of the interviewing to her producers and then having her audio spliced in later with her only conducting celebrity interviews herself.  

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"There was a lack of authenticity when you discovered that Meghan prioritized interviewing the celebrities personally but allowed producers to interview some of the featured experts while dropping Meghan’s audio in later," Kinsey Schofield, a royal expert and host of the "To Di For" podcast, told FOX Business. 

"The topics were too woke and irrelevant. Are we really complaining about stereotypes in Austin Powers movies? Let it go. Hollywood has matured beyond that type of comedy being acceptable. Stop trying to solve problems that are no longer an issue." 

Schofield also noted that while "Meghan assured us that their Spotify deal was going to amplify regular people making a difference in the world, Meghan interviewed Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey."

She said that Spotify had wanted both Markle and Prince Harry as hosts originally. 

"They likely would not have signed such a financially lucrative deal with only Meghan but all they got out of Harry was one holiday special that he barely appeared in," she said. "Meghan's 12 episodes and their one holiday special lacked the return on investment Spotify needed to justify the relationship."

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She added that Markle should "shape her next project based" on Lemonada’s "success and experience. I think it says a lot that a startup with approximately 50 shows under their umbrella is Meghan's new home. Was she too much of a risk for Audible or iHeart? I imagine the answer is yes.

"Stay consistent. Focus on a relatable niche that is realistic and interesting to the audience she has already developed. Less scripted. More authentic. More long-form conversations. Less complaining. More solutions. Less producers. More content," Schofield advised. 

Royal watcher Hilary Fordwich said ending the duchess’ contract was simply a business decision. 

"Business is business. When any company spends money, they are totally and utterly focused on return," she told FOX Business. "While usually monetary concerns, there are times when less concrete goals are set, such as a branding move, which may well be a component of Lemonada’s decision, given they are a small player in the podcast space. So, this is a step ‘up’ for them and a seemingly step ‘down’ for MM as this is a far smaller ‘deal.’

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"Archetypes legitimately topped the streaming charts, yet Meghan's then rapidly descended down the ratings list as each episode was later released. Indeed, embarrassingly, Spotify was accused, by those ‘in the know’ of artificially letting Archetypes remain within the ‘Top Podcasts’ regardless of plummeting popularity with real listeners dwindling down each week, setting a ghastly track record."

Fordwich said in her new podcast Markle should "work harder."

"Researching rich and appropriate content, bringing proper data versus her limited personal and inward focused approach, audience matters, what matters to them is paramount," she suggested. 

Royal expert Shannon Felton Spence said Lemonada, which is also home to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ "Wiser Than Me" podcast, which was chosen as 2023 Show of the Year by Apple Podcasts, "prides itself on being authentic and telling truly real and diverse stories." 

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She said Lemonada podcast hosts spend time engaging with guests and listeners in a way that "extends beyond the audio files."

"The line between listener and friend is blurred at Lemonada," she explained. "This is going to be the essential challenge for Meghan. The reason Archetypes was ultimately unsuccessful is because it was overly produced. It was one-sided … Meghan will need to dig deep and bring that Tig-ness back to audiences. If she can do it, Lemonada will be the perfect place for her."

Markle shut down her lifestyle website, The Tig, months after she started dating Harry in 2017. 

The site, aimed to share Markle’s personal reflections as well as her passions for food and travel, was created in 2014. Its name is inspired by the Italian wine Tignanello.

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