Media Unleashed

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Spotify Elevates the Podcast Medium

By: Elizabeth Abate    February 25, 2020

RapCaviar. Brain Food. Most Necessary. Mood Booster. These are all titles of Spotify’s popular and artfully curated playlists. We’re now seeing podcast titles like Last Podcast on the Left added to the list of content that is only available exclusively to Spotify listeners. In the US, primary choices for digital streaming audio are Pandora Radio, iHeartRadio, Apple Music and Amazon Music. According to eMarketer, Pandora claims the top spot in listenership, with Spotify trailing slightly behind. Analysts predict that Spotify will surpass Pandora in listeners by 2021. This projected growth stems in part from Spotify’s investment in podcast content.

In addition to music, Spotify has steadily increased its podcast game by offering podcasts within the platform. Spotify streams content directly to users without the need to download episodes first. This has historically been a hurdle for Apple Podcast users with limited phone space and patience which has recently been rectified. In fact, the term podcast comes from a mix of the word broadcast and Apple’s now seemingly antiquated iPod device, originally coined as a term of audio content that could be downloaded to an iPod. In February 2019, Spotify acquired The Ringer, which is a network of primarily sports-related podcasts with a significant following of around 100 million monthly downloads. Spotify also recently acquired three other podcast companies including Parcast, Gimlet and Anchor, which signifies the company’s priority of investing in the medium.

Perhaps the greatest advancement of Spotify’s podcast offering (according to the opinion of a certain media practitioner) is the ability to inject ads dynamically into podcast content. Until recently, podcast advertising was limited to a linear experience, where every user hears the same ad on a podcast because it’s recorded within the actual podcast itself. Spotify has created an environment that allows advertisers to reach a targeted segment of users within podcasts.

Spotify is meaningfully pushing podcast content to listeners to convert music-only listeners to music and podcast content listeners. One way they’ve been doing that is with seamless, organic integrations into users’ Daily Drive playlists, which are custom, curated streams of content. In their words, “a mix of news and music made for your commute.” Apple is still number one in podcasts, but Apple Music lags behind significantly in overall subscribers. It will be interesting to see if Spotify can convert more of their 271 monthly active users to podcast listeners, knocking Apple out of the top spot for podcasts.