iHeart’s Stephanie Coombes finishes up with ARN: “I’ve loved every second”


After three years as iHeart’s Podcast Content Director, Stephanie Coombes has left ARN.

In a LinkedIn post, Coombes says “I finished up with the company last week (which is a nicely opaque way to say I accepted a redundancy).”

The final email Coombes sent to her colleagues was, as she describes it “a love letter to the planned insanity I so enjoyed at ARN.”

The hilarious message, as follows, came with a mild content warning:

Whenever someone asks me what it’s like at ARN, one evening comes to mind.

It was past six and I had just finished the exquisitely boring task of writing up some budget or other. The only other people still working were, of course, the promotions team. Three women gathered around a table, heads bent over a small object nestled in one of their palms.

Curiosity got the best of me. I drifted over to see what they were doing.

“I suppose an elastic would be too tight?”

“Depends on the size, I guess. We could use a ribbon?”

“Yeah! That’s a good idea!”

Craning my head, I realised they were discussing a small crown, which cleared nothing up. I asked what they were doing.

“Oh, this is for the penis pageant,” they replied matter-of-factly.

“I’m sorry, the what now?”

“The PENIS pageant,” they repeated. “KJ have been running a competition to find the listener with the best-looking penis. We’re trying to work out how to attach this crown. To the winning penis.”

Coombes says this remains the funniest problem she has ever encountered in a workplace.

In a world filled with supercilious media, how refreshing it is to be a small cog in a workplace where a penis crown is awarded such dedicated professional attention. It also nicely sums up working at ARN.

I genuinely mean this in the best possible way: ARN is a company which takes dumb shit really, really seriously.

Over the next couple of years I had many of my own chances to take dumb shit seriously. There are more instances than I can list here, but I particularly recall sitting in a meeting with my producers, trying to align the schedules of a drag queen and her podcast guest, a man we only knew as ‘ASMR Daddy’.

I looked at us, adults in grown-up clothes, with responsibilities and wages, saying the words ‘ASMR Daddy’ with totally straight faces. It felt like I’d fallen through the looking glass. I couldn’t believe we were being paid to be there.

Of course, sometimes work feels like work. Replying to emails, endless meetings, writing contracts – on a scale of one to penis pageant, these are all zeros.

But there have been more than enough joyous moments with colleagues to keep me going.

Coombes added that there is no algorithm or AI program which can replace the frisson of interesting people working together for a common creative cause.

While so many companies commit the naïve and short-sighted blunder of wedging ChatGPT into their content (at great financial expense and with no return) I am heartened to see ARN has abstained from this mistake. A smart company is one which recognises its competitive advantage. In ARN’s case, this is its people.”

Corporations will often ask that we abandon that which makes us human: our compassion, personality, absurdity, empathy. They want us to view each other as line items, and make tough decisions under the guise of it ‘just being business.’”

But our business is people. Our business is human connection and telling each other’s stories. A media company is exemplary when it leans into the humanity of its staff. Doing so grants them the ability to take the absurdity of the human condition and spin it into art.

Yes, art.

Even the penis pageant.

My parting request is that you all keep on being the fun, creative, quirky, hard-working weirdos I’ve enjoyed spending the last three years with no matter where you end up next.

On that note, thank you so much for your kindness and friendship over the last few years. I know there’s been plenty of creative argy-bargy, but I’ve loved every second.

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Jason, Andrew Toppin from Mubarek Victoria
26 Mar 2024 - 8:50 am

Hope nova entertainment buys out iHeartRadio and makes it part of the Nova Player app so that the Nova Player app can be an international app and we can have even more concerts, more competitions more stations and everything between


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