Did Spotify Just Win The Podcast Platform Battle?


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Published on August 21st, 2020

If might surprise you to hear this, but of all the things Podcasters think about when they’re making shows and trying to appeal to an audience, the platform they’re broadcasting on is close to the back of the queue.

So long as they get a fair deal from that platform, and the platform has proven that it can connect broadcasters and podcasters with an audience, most aspiring podcasters are happy to go with the flow and use their services indefinitely.

They might consider moving in the future if they got a large cash offer to do so, or if they had reason to be dissatisfied with a customer service experience, but for the overwhelming majority of podcasters with small to medium-sized audiences, the issue never comes up.

The relative relaxation of podcasters about where they broadcast is a stark contrast to the position of the platform providers themselves, of which there seem to be more and more every week.

The situation is comparable to that of online slots websites, hundreds of which sprang up over the course of the past few years only to find a market that’s become increasingly saturated.

Those websites now live and die by the range and quality of the online slots they offer to their players, and the benefits and incentives they can package alongside them.

The better online slots websites are still going from strength to strength. The weaker ones will fall away.

The same might be about to happen with podcasting platforms, and it might be Spotify that’s set the ball rolling on that process.

It’s been known for a while that Spotify would like to ‘do more’ when it comes to podcasts.

It’s already cornered the market on music streaming, with subscriber numbers believed to be around double those of its closest rival in the shape of Apple Music, but that isn’t enough for Spotify’s appetite.

Around a year ago, they publicly stated that they were looking to create exclusive shows, connect the people who created those shows with an enormous global audience, and pay them better advertising money than they’d get anywhere else. They weren’t joking.

They backed up their intentions with an allocation of five hundred million dollars in funds earmarked to capture the lion’s share of the podcast market, and it’s been spending that money wisely.

Gimlet Media and Anchor were strong early acquisitions, and the spending and strategy from those acquisitions onward has been no less impressive.

Spending half a billion dollars on anything is beyond the means of most companies, but Spotify’s hunger is driven by the prizes on offer.

As an estimate, it’s thought that the global advertising revenue for podcasts is worth almost seven hundred million dollars each year.

Spotify knows that it can’t swallow up the whole sector and take all of that money, but even if it were to take a third of it – which is by no means impossible – the outlay would pay for itself within less than three years.

With expertise, a means for podcast creation, and access to the same algorithms that help connect people with their new favorite bands and artists, Spotify’s so-called ‘discovery platform’ looks like the most sophisticated tool in podcasting for anyone hoping to make a connection with listeners, and that’s not all. Spotify wasn’t done spending yet.

In May, the company announced that it had taken Joe Rogan away from Apple and YouTube in an exclusive deal that cost one hundred million dollars. Whether or not Rogan is the biggest name in podcasting isn’t for us to say, but only a fool would suggest that he wasn’t one of the biggest.

He was available on multiple platforms, but now he’s only available on one – and it’s Spotify. That doesn’t just go for anything Rogan creates from now on – the deal also covers his entire back catalog.

You might not have noticed it yet because the terms of the deal are yet to ‘go live,’ but Joe Rogan content will disappear from every other medium other than Spotify at the start of September.

The deal is done. Spotify has pulled off a huge coup and secured themselves the services of someone who’s known to get more than two hundred million listens per month and attracts colossal advertising sums.

What Spotify is hoping is that once Rogan’s fans have followed him across to Spotify, they’ll also use Spotify as their preferred means of listening to their other favorite podcasts, too. Human beings are, by and large, creatures of convenience. There may be something to be said for that idea.

At the same time all of this happening, the company has introduced video podcasts for a select number of content creators.

The invitation isn’t open to everybody yet, but if Spotify finds success with the format – which the odds are in favor of – the day will come when anyone who hosts a podcast on Spotify can also use the visual medium if they so desire.

Right now only tried and tested podcasters have been allowed to take part in the trial – most of whom come from a sporting background like “Fantasy Footballers,” and “Book of Basketball,” but the fact that they’ve signed up Warner Brothers to make superhero themed-podcasts is a likely sign that others aren’t far behind.

Kim Kardashian has signed an exclusive contract and is likely to go into video broadcasting.

Spotify Launched In India

Addison Rae has been brought in from Tik Tok, and as Addison Rae’s channel doesn’t make any sense without a visual presence, that will likely be handled the same way.

What does this all mean for the average podcaster? That probably depends on your attitude to podcasting. If you do this as a hobby and you don’t mind too much where the money comes from so long as you earn a little, it may not matter very much.

If you already have a career on podcasting though – or you’d like your podcast to become a career – it might make sense to follow the money.

Spotify is spending that money, and right now appears to have the best potential to earn significant amounts of it, too.

Apple Music and YouTube may yet respond with new initiatives of their own, but as of August 2020, Spotify is firmly in the driving seat when it comes to the future of the podcasting format.

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