Podcasting

Spotify’s increased focus on podcasts in 2019 includes selling its own ads

Posted by | ad tech, advertising, CES 2019, Media, Mobile, Podcasting, Podcasts, Spotify, TC | No Comments

Having established itself as a top streaming service with now over 200 million users, Spotify this year is preparing to focus more of its attention on podcasts. The company plans bring its personalization technology to podcasts in order to make better recommendations, update its app’s interface so people can access podcasts more easily, and broker more exclusives with podcast creators. It’s also getting into the business of selling ads within podcasts, as a means of generating revenue from this increasingly popular form of audio programming.

In fact, Spotify has already begun to dabble in podcast ad sales, ahead of this larger push.

Spotify, we’ve learned, has been selling its own advertisements in its original podcasts since mid-2018 year, including in programs like Spotify Original “Amy Schumer Presents: 3 Girls, 1 Keith,” “The Joe Budden Podcast,” “Dissect,” “Showstopper,” and others. With more exclusives planned for the year ahead, the portion of Spotify’s ad business focused on podcasts will also grow.

The company appears to be taking a different approach to working with podcasters than it does with it comes to working with music artists.

Today, Spotify gives artists tools that help share their work and be discovered – it invested in distribution platform DistroKid, for example, and now lets artists submit tracks for playlist consideration. With podcasters, however, Spotify wants to either bring their voices in-house, or at least exclusively license their content.

“Over the last year, we become very focused on building out a great podcast universe,” said Head of Spotify Studios Courtney Holt, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. “The first step was to make sure that we’ve got the world’s best podcasts on Spotify, and integrated the experience into the service in a way that allowed people to build habits and behavior there,” he said.

“What we started to see is that the types of podcasts that really were working on Spotify were ones where they were really authentic voices…so we just decided to invest more in those types of voices,” Holt added.

Spotify’s collection of originals has been steadily growing over the past year. Last August, for example, Spotify nabbed an exclusive deal with the “Joe Budden” podcast, which is aimed at hip-hop and rap culture fans, and launched its first branded podcast, “Ebb & Flow,” focused on hip-hop and R&B. Its full original lineup today also includes “Dissect,” Amy Schumer’s “3 Girls, 1 Keith,” “Mogul,” “The Rewind with Guy Raz,” “Showstopper,” “Unpacked,” “Crimetown” (Its first season was wide, second season is exclusive to Spotify), “UnderCover,” and “El Chapo: El Jefe y su Juicio.”

At CES, Spotify announced the addition of one more –  journalist Jemele Hill is coming Spotify with an exclusive podcast called “Unbothered,” which will feature high-profile guests in sports, music, politics, culture, and more.

In growing its collection of originals, the company found that podcasters who joined Spotify exclusively were actually able to grow their audience, despite leaving other distribution platforms.

For example, the Joe Budden podcast had its highest streaming day ever after joining Spotify.

This has led Spotify to believe that influencers in the podcast community will be able to bring their community with them when they become a Spotify exclusive, and then further grow their listener base by tapping into Spotify’s larger music user base and, soon, an improved recommendation system.

There are other perks for Spotify, too – when users come to Spotify and begin to listen to podcasts, they often then spend more time engaged with the app, it found.

“People who consume podcasts on Spotify are consuming more of Spotify – including music,” said Holt. “So we found that in increasing our [podcast] catalog and spending more time to make the user experience better, it wasn’t taking away from music, it was enhancing the overall time spent on the platform,” he noted.

While chasing exclusive deals to bring more original podcasts to Spotify will be a big initiative this year, Spotify will continue to offer its recently launched podcasts submission feature to everyone else.

With this sort of basic infrastructure in place, Spotify now wants to help users discover new podcasts and improve the listening experience.

One aspect of this will involve pointing listeners to other podcast content they may like.

For instance, Spotify could point Joe Budden fans to other podcasts about hip-hop and rap. It will also leverage its multi-year partnership with Samsung to allow listeners pick up where they left off in an episode as they move between different devices. And it will turn its personalization and recommendation technology to podcasts – including the ads in the podcasts themselves.

“Think about what we’ve done around music – the more understand you around the music you stream, the more we can personalize the ad experience. Now we can take that to podcasts,” said Brian Benedik, VP and Global Head of Advertising Sales at Spotify, when asked about the potential for Spotify selling ads in podcasts.

The company has been testing the waters with its own podcast ad sales since mid 2018, Benedik said. The sales are handled in-house by Spotify’s ad sales team for the time being.

Benedik had also appeared on a panel this week at CES, where he talked about the value of contextual advertising – meaning, ads that can be personalized to the user based on factors like mood, behavior and moments. This data could be appealing to podcast advertisers, as well.

But to scale its efforts around podcast ads, Spotify will need to invest in digital ad insertion technology. We’re hearing that Spotify is currently deciding whether that’s something it wants to build in-house or acquire outright.

Spotify’s rival Pandora went the latter route. It closed on the acquisition of adtech company Adswizz in May 2018, then introduced capabilities for shorter, more personalized ads in August. By November, Pandora announced it was bringing its Genome technology to podcasts, which allowed for a recommendation system.

Now Spotify aims to catch up.

The addition of podcasts has reoriented Spotify’s focus as company, Holt said.

“We’re an audio company. We’re trying to be the world’s best audio service,” he told the audience at CES. “It’s a pure play for us. We’re seeing increased engagement; there’s great commercial opportunities from podcasting that we’ve never seen on the platform…And, obviously, exclusives are to give us something that makes the platform truly unique – to have people come to Spotify for something you can’t get anywhere else is the sort of cherry on top of that entire strategy,” Holt said.

Image credits: Spotify

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Podcasting app Anchor can now find you a cohost

Posted by | anchor, Apps, audio, Mobile, mobile apps, Podcasting, Social, Startups | No Comments

Fresh off its relaunch as an app offering a suite of tools for podcasters, Anchor today is rolling a new feature that will make it easier for people to find someone to podcast with: Cohosts. As the name implies, the app will now connect you – sometimes immediately, if people are available – with another person who’s interested in discussing the topic you’ve chosen.

The result is a more engaging podcast where a conversation is taking place between two people, rather than a monologue.

“We give people the ability to choose a topic that they want to talk about on their podcasts, and the product will get to work trying to match you up with someone who wants to talk about the exact thing,” explains Anchor CEO Mike Mignano.

At first, Anchor will try to match you with someone who’s also currently in the app, he says. If it’s not able to do that, then it will notify you when it finds a match through an alert on your phone.

“We’ve developed an intelligent matching system to make sure there’s a high likelihood that you get matched up with someone that wants to talk at the same time,” Mignano notes.

The topics users select can be either broad – like politics – or narrow and hyper-specific, the company says.

One you’ve been offered a connection to a cohost, you have 30 seconds to meet in the app and decide how you want to get started. The recording will then start automatically, and will continue for up to 15 minutes. Both users will receive a copy of the recording and can choose to publish it to their own podcast right away, or save it for later.

After the recording, podcasters rate each other with a simple thumbs up or down. (If down, you’ll need to select a reason in case Anchor needs to step in and review bad behavior. Bad actors will no longer be permitted to use the service.)

If both give each other a thumbs up, though, they’ll automatically be favorited on each other’s account, so they can find each other again. Next time they want to record, they’ll have the option to team up through Anchor’s “Record with Friends” feature, where there’s no time limit.

Those who are highly rated will also get better ranked in the matching algorithm, Anchor notes.

If a podcaster has a particular topic in mind – like wanting to discuss Stephen King novels, for example – Mignano continues, they’re very likely to return to the app when they get a match, the team found during testing.

The Cohosts feature was beta tested with a small subset of users prior to today’s launch, but the company declines to share how many users tested it or how many people are currently using the app to create podcasts.

However, the app’s big makeover which took place in February basically turned Anchor into a different kind of app – so it’s still establishing a new user base.

While before, the app was focused on recording audio, Anchor 3.0 is meant to be a podcasting suite in your pocket. The new version includes recording features with no time limits, a built-in library of transition sounds, tools for adding music, support for voice messages (a call-in like feature), free hosting, and a push button experience for publishing to share your podcast to all the top platforms.

Matching cohosts in teams of two may just be the start.

Mignano hints that a future version of Anchor may include more flexibility on the number of cohosts. “You can imagine us doing something like, if the user specifies the topic, they can indicate how many people they want to have a conversation with,” he teases.

The new feature recalls Anchor’s roots as a platform for social audio.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while, says Mignano. “If you think back to Anchor 2.0 – and 3.0, as well – we’ve always wanted to make Anchor a little more interactive than a standard podcasting platform. To us, democratizing audio doesn’t just mean making it easier to create. It also means modernizing the format by making it more shareable, easier to interact with, short form, etc.,” he says.

The Cohosts feature is rolling out today in Anchor’s app.

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Sick of SoundCloud? Anchor offers podcast transfer with free hosting

Posted by | anchor fm, Apps, Media, Mobile, Podcasting, Social, soundcloud, Startups, TC | No Comments

 SoundCloud is on shaky financial footing, saying it only has enough money to last a few more months unless someone buys or invests in it. That’s sure to cause anxiety in content creators with their life’s work stored on SoundCloud. Now some new startups are nipping at SoundCloud’s heels by focusing on podcasting in ways the music streaming service never did.
Anchor is a… Read More

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Can podcasting save the world?

Posted by | digital audio, digital media, Mobile, podcast, Podcasting, Startups, TC, technology, world wide web | No Comments

 As writers resort to attention-getting headlines to maintain readership it’s clear that the educated, mobile, and bored reader is now turning into a listener. While written news continues to flood us from every conceivable angle there is one small, quiet voice still speaking to us from our earbuds: the podcaster speaking truth to power, bullshitting about movies, or spinning long… Read More

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