Spotify

Spotify tests in-app offers, an interactive ad format for podcasts

Posted by | ad tech, Ads, advertising, Apps, Media, Mobile, Podcasts, Spotify | No Comments

Spotify is testing a new, more interactive ad format designed for podcasts: the in-app offer. Instead of prompting listeners to remember a coupon code or visit a specific website address, the in-app offer allows users to redeem an offer at a time that’s convenient for them. This is done by way of a visual reminder within the Spotify app, which displays the sponsors on the podcast episode’s page.

Below the podcast and description, a new section titled “Episode Sponsors” will appear, allowing listeners to then click through on the offer to redeem the coupon or other special deal. This will open the user’s browser to the advertiser’s landing page for immediate redemption, says Spotify.

“The average podcast listener has heard a countless number of ads ending with promo codes or show-specific websites, carefully repeated three times so as not to forget it. In-App Offers makes it vastly simpler for listeners to redeem deals whenever they come back to the app, and we can all benefit from one fewer ‘w-w-w-dot’ spelling lesson from our favorite podcast creators,” says Joel Withrow, senior product manager of Podcast Monetization at Spotify, in a statement.

The product is designed to better fit with the way users actually listen to podcasts — usually, while they’re doing something else, like cooking, cleaning, working out or driving for example. That means they often have to make a mental note of the offers they hear and want to research later. But this can be challenging.

The new product is in early alpha testing in the U.S. with Harry’s in Last Podcast on the Left and in Germany with HelloFresh in Herrengedeck. There isn’t yet a way to sign up to participate.

Image Credits: Spotify

The new feature builds on Spotify’s existing Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, introduced at the beginning of 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. SAI technology makes key data — like ad impressions, frequency, reach, plus anonymized age, gender and device type — available to podcasters and advertisers on Spotify for the first time. This sort of data was more difficult if not impossible, to collect via podcasts that were served only as downloads from RSS feeds.

The company explained at the time of launch the problem it aimed to solve was on the advertiser’s side — they didn’t know whether or not the ad they purchase is being consumed by the user.

SAI will be widely available to advertisers in the U.S. starting this summer, and is now available to select advertisers in Germany.

The addition of in-app offers to Spotify’s suite comes following a continued heavy investment in podcasts, podcast tools and podcasting ad technology on the company’s part. The company recently announced an exclusive audio partnership with DC & Warner Bros. and the launch of podcast playlists, for example. Spotify also just landed a podcast deal with Kim Kardashian West, focused on criminal justice, and brought top podcast The Joe Rogan Experience to its platform exclusively.

Meanwhile, Spotify says it’s seeing triple-digit growth in podcast consumption, year-over-year, on its platform, while podcasts, more broadly, are reaching 1 in 3 or 100 million Americans every month.

Spotify didn’t say when the new in-app offers ad experience would be publicly available.

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Grow Credit, which builds credit scores by paying for online subscriptions, gets Mucker cash

Posted by | Android, DraftKings, Grow Credit, Jason Robins, Marqeta, mastercard, Mucker Labs, Netflix, Recent Funding, Spotify, Startups, TC | No Comments

Grow Credit, the startup that launched last year to help customers build out their credit scores by providing a credit line for online subscriptions like Spotify and Netflix, has added Mucker Labs as an investor and closed its seed round with $2 million in total commitments.

The Los Angeles startup founded by serial entrepreneur Joe Bayen, had been bootstrapped initially and then received funding from a clutch of core angel investors before signing a deal with Mucker earlier this month, according to Bayen.

Using the Marqeta platform, Grow Credit can extend a loan to customers to expand their subscription services. Using the Mastercard network for payments, and Marqeta’s tools to restrict payment access, Grow offers credit facilities to its customers to pay for their monthly subscriptions. By using Grow Credit for those payments, users can improve their credit scores by as much as 61 points in a nine-month span, says Bayen.

The company doesn’t charge any fees for its loans, but users can upgrade their service. The initial tier is free for access to $15 of credit, once a user connects their bank account. For a $4.99 monthly fee, customers can get up to $50 of subscriptions covered by the service. For $9.99 that credit line increases to $150, Bayen said.

Increases to a user’s credit score can make a significant dent in their costs for things like lease agreements for cars, mortgages for houses and better rates on other credit cards, said Bayen.

“Everything is cheaper, you can get access to a credit card with lower interest rates and better rewards,” he said. “We’re looking at ourselves as the single best route to getting access to an Apple card.”

Additional capital for the new round came from individual investors like DraftKings chief executive, Jason Robins; former National Football League player and hall of famer Ronnie Lott; and Sebastien Deguy, VP of 3D at Adobe.

Coming up, Grow Credit said it has a deal in the works with one very large consumer bank in the U.S. and will be launching the Android version of its app in a few weeks.

 

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YouTube Music adds a transfer option ahead of Google Play Music’s shutdown this year

Posted by | Android, Apple, apple music, artist, computing, Entertainment, Google, Google Play, google play music, mobile software, music services, operating systems, smartphones, Software, Spotify, TC, YouTube, YouTube Music | No Comments

Google is making it easier for Google Play Music users to make the switch to the company’s now preferred music app, YouTube Music, ahead of its plans to shut down Google Play Music later this year. Starting today, Google Play Music users will be able to move their libraries, personal taste preferences and playlists to the newer YouTube Music service by way of a new “transfer” option available in the app.

The company has been steadily working to make YouTube Music its default music service, in order to eventually replace Google Play Music. Last year, for example, Google shut down the Google Play Artist Hub and began preinstalling YouTube Music on Android smartphones. It said at the time those moves were part of its broader strategy to merge the two services.

Now we have a deadline of sorts for Google Play Music’s end-of-life — sometime later this year, according to Google’s announcement.

One challenge in this transition was the ability for Google Play users to retain their personalization preferences, library and playlists from Google Play Music, when moving to the new service. Most users did not relish the idea of starting from scratch after building up years of history on Google Play Music.

That’s where today’s new “transfer” option comes in.

On YouTube Music, users will be able to now click on a “transfer” button on iOS and Android to start the transfer of their uploads, purchases, added songs and albums, personal and subscribed playlists, likes and dislikes, curated stations and personal taste preferences.

Following the transfer, users will immediately see an updated YouTube Music home screen reflecting the impact of this new data on their personalized recommendations. YouTube Music will also email users when the transfer is complete and their music has been fully added to the in-app “Library” tab.

Current customers will be alerted to the transfer option via an email that includes more detailed instructions.

Google also addressed Google Play Music user feedback by rolling out new features to YouTube Music aimed at making its newer service more compatible (in terms of feature set) with the older one.

It recently added increased playlist length (from 1,000 to 5,000 songs), support for uploads (up to 100,000 tracks — which is 50,000 more compared with Google Play Music), offline listening, lyrics and an Explore tab for discovering new music, playlists and genres.

In addition, podcast listeners are able to visit a webpage (http://podcasts.google.com/transfer) to transfer their subscriptions and episode progress to Google Podcasts with a single click. The Google Podcasts app, like YouTube Music, will serve as Google’s default podcast listening experience, similar to how Apple’s Podcasts is its own dedicated app for audio programs.

YouTube Music has yet to rival Spotify or Apple in terms of paying music subscribers. Earlier this year, the company said YouTube Music and YouTube Premium combined to have more than 20 million paid subscribers, but it didn’t break out how many users converted to paid customers to access the music subscription offering. Meanwhile, Apple announced last year its Apple Music service topped 60 million subscribers; Spotify as of Q1 2020 now has 130 million paid subscribers.

In part, YouTube Music’s struggles are due to the fact that Google is operating two separate music services, splitting its customer base. When Google Play Music fully shuts down, that could change.

YouTube Music is being offered at the same $9.99 per month subscription price as Google Play Music, which includes on-demand streaming, background listening, offline access and an ad-free experience. For $11.99 per month, users can extend that experience to YouTube by way of YouTube Premium.

Google didn’t provide an exact date for the shutdown of Google Play Music.

“For now, users will continue to have access to both services,” the company said. “We want to ensure everyone has time to transfer their content and get used to YouTube Music, so we’ll provide plenty of notice ahead of users no longer having access to Google Play Music later this year.”

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Spotify Kids app rolls out blocking, listening history features for parents

Posted by | Apps, children, family, kids, Media, Mobile, Music, music streaming, parents, Spotify | No Comments

Spotify is expanding the capabilities of its parental controls on its Spotify Kids app, aimed at children ages 3 and up on a parent’s Spotify Premium Family plan. Before, parents could only select whether the child was directed to the experience for younger or older children. Now, they’ll be able to specifically block content from their child’s account when accessing the child’s listening history.

These features had been hinted at when Spotify Kids made its U.S. debut in March. At the time, Spotify said it heard from parents testing the app in other markets how they wanted to have even more control over the app’s included content. Though the company didn’t detail its plans then, it did say new features would involve allowing parents making more specific choices over what their child could stream.

Both new features are now included in the PIN-protected “Grown Ups” section, previously called the “Parental Settings.” Once there, a parent can select which child’s account they want to to update or view.

The Listening History option will allow them to view every track the child has streamed on the Spotify Kids app over the past three months. From here, a parent can also opt to select a track and block it by tapping the “block” icon next to the track in question.

These blocked tracks are then removed from the child’s account and can’t be streamed. However, parents can unblock the track further down the road if they choose, by accessing either the Listening History section or the Blocked Tracks section and tapping the red icon next to each track.

Spotify says these new features are the first step in many planned updates for its Kids application, which today includes more than 8,000 kid-appropriate songs, stories, audiobooks and sounds that are curated into 125+ playlists. Though the app is aimed at kids young and old, many children will age out of it around their tweens, despite its support for an “older kids” experience. That’s because kids have established some favorite artists and musical preferences by then, and the more limited catalog on Spotify Kids doesn’t deliver. Plus, the downside of hand-curation means newly emerging hits — like, say, those blowing up on TikTok — may not make an appearance on Spotify Kids until later.

While it makes sense that Spotify would focus more immediately on parental controls catering to parents of the younger children, in time being able to go the other direction — perhaps a whitelisting option or the import of pre-approved playlists — would be appreciated by parents of older kids.

The Spotify Kids app is now live across 14 global markets, including as of today, Japan and Germany.

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Spotify launches its promised fundraising feature for artists

Posted by | artists, Fundraising, Mobile, Music, Spotify, TC | No Comments

Last month, Spotify announced that as part of its coronavirus relief efforts it would soon add new fundraising features for artists on its platform. Today, the company is following through with the launch of “Artist Fundraising Pick,” a feature that allows artists to fundraise for themselves, their crews, or one of the verified music relief initiatives Spotify has already vetted through the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project.

At launch, Spotify is working with a small group of fundraising partners to make the donation process easier, including Cash App, GoFundMe, and PayPal.me.

Cash App is currently Spotify’s preferred method, as it has also established a $1 million relief effort for artists. When Spotify artists choose their “$cashtag” as their Artist Fundraising Pick and secure at least one donation of any size, they’ll receive an additional $100 in their account from Cash App up until a collective total of $1 million has been contributed. This works for artists in the U.S. and U.K., but Spotify users worldwide can donate through Cash App.

To use the new fundraising tools, artists (or Spotify for Artists admin users) will go to their Artist dashboard and click “Get started” on the banner at the top to submit their Fundraising Pick. This is a similar process as to how artists choose which track they want to display on their profile.

Once live, fans can donate to the cause through the artist’s profile. In addition to Cash App, PayPal is broadly available and GoFundMe is available in 19 markets.

If the artist chooses to raise for a music relief organization, they can select from those associated with Spotify’s existing charity project, which launched last month in partnership with MusiCares, PRS Foundation, and Help Musicians. It has now expanded to include a wider range of participating organizations, including several local options, and is continuing to grow.

At launch, a handful of artists already have the new feature live, including Tyrese Pope and Boy Scouts who are fundraising through Cash App; Marshmello who is fundraising for MusiCares; and Benjamin Ingrosso who is fundraising for Musikerforbundet.

Spotify says it moved to quickly launch this feature because it believed it was in a unique position to help artists raise money from a global network of fans. However, it cautions that it’s never built a fundraising feature like this before, and considers this a “first version.” Over time, the feature will likely evolve and update based on artist feedback.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world — and there are many worthy causes to support at this time,” the company wrote in an announcement. “With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our COVID-19 Music Relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry,” it said.

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Players Ntwrk launches celebrity gaming channel backed by WME, Daylight and Stratton Sclavos

Posted by | digital media, Endeavor, Entertainment, esports, Gaming, HBO, Internet, lebron james, Netflix, Players Ntwrk, producer, sacramento kings, Spotify, TC, telecommunications, Twitch, twitch tv, video hosting, wme | No Comments

Emerging from the smoldering wreckage of Echo Fox and Vision Venture Partners, the investor Stratton Sclavos is rising again to launch a new esports-related venture — a gaming-focused digital network also backed by the WME talent agency and Daylight Holdings.

Tapping Daylight and WME’s roster of talent, Sclavos has created Players Ntwrk, a new gaming-focused production company that will look to compete with other upstarts angling to tap into esports and competitive gaming’s newly dominant place in the entertainment firmament.

Players Ntwrk will feature original programming, unscripted series, celebrity gameplay and live events tapping talent from music, traditional pro-sports and the esports gaming world.

Sclavos and the multifaceted talent manager and president of Daylight Holdings, Ben Curtis, dreamed up Players Ntwrk as a way to tie together disparate groups of athletes and entertainers around their shared love of gaming and entertainment. The network will initially leverage relationships with WME and Klutch Sports Group, the agency founded by LeBron James’ longtime manager, Rich Paul, to find talent for programming.

The network will launch on Tuesday at 5:00 pm Pacific for two hours of gameplay featuring the New Orleans Pelicans Guard/Forward Josh Hart and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox on the Players Ntwrk Twitch channel. Additional live streams will be broadcast Friday and Saturday, the company said.

Over the next 12 weeks the network will add live programming featuring all of its “First Squad” talent and experimenting with different gaming and unscripted formats. Ultimately, the network will produce between 12 and 15 hours of original programming per week by the end of the second quarter and will ramp up to 20 to 24 hours of programming per-week by the end of the year.

Initial programming is going to be devoted to charity fundraising, with proceeds going to designated charities based on direct audience donations, the company said.

Players Ntwrk’s First Squad talent roster includes:

  • Professional athletes: De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Josh Hart (New Orleans Pelicans), Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns) and Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)
  • Music and Entertainment: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Murda Beatz, producer Boi-1da, actor/former athlete Donovan Carter (Ballers)
  • Creators/Streamers: KatGunn, Sodapoppin, Cash, Jesser, Jericho, Octane, Sigils, Sonii and DenkOps

Players Ntwrk joins companies like Venn, which are angling to gain a slice of the roughly 37.5 million monthly viewers that are expected to watch live streams on Twitch by the end of 2020, according to research done by eMarketer.

“The number of viewers and subscribers consuming gaming entertainment across YouTube and Twitch tops other entertainment services such as Netflix, HBO, Spotify and ESPN combined,” said Sclavos, in a statement. “Entertainment spectacle is trumping hardcore gaming competition. That kind of engagement makes it clear; gaming entertainment is the next pop culture phenomena. PLAYERS NTWRK is the only platform embracing and executing this new reality by creating original content with the most influential people who also happen to be fans themselves.”

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Spotify mimics Apple’s design with new podcast show page updates

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Podcasting, Podcasts, Spotify, streaming, streaming music | No Comments

Spotify’s ongoing investments in the podcast-streaming side of its business helped boost podcast listening on its service by 200% last year. But today, only 16% of Spotify’s monthly listeners are engaging with podcasts — a number the company today hopes to nudge higher by redesigning the podcast side of its streaming app. The new layout now makes it easier to view information about podcasts and improves discovery of new shows.

In particular, Spotify has given podcast show trailers a more prominent position in its app.

Show trailers help podcasts find new listeners by offering a concise introduction to the podcast and its creators. A good trailer hooks listeners on the show’s concept by selling its strengths, or even by offering a snippet of content that makes listeners hungry to hear more.

In the updated version of Spotify’s app, these trailers are labeled “trailer” and are highlighted at the top of the episode list, separated from the content as Apple does in its own podcasts app.

The belief here is that listeners need an easier way to check out the different podcasts out there, without having to commit to full episodes. That’s more important than ever as Spotify’s podcast library expands. The app’s catalog now has more than 700,000 podcasts across all sorts of topics — a figure that’s growing quickly. In January, Spotify was at the Consumer Electronics Show touting its “over 500,000” podcasts. By the time of this month’s earnings, it was using the higher number.

Also to aid in discovery, Spotify is adding descriptive show categories underneath the show’s description. These will be simple labels, like “true crime,” “personal stories,” “travel,” “relationships” and more. This change is also focused on catching up with market leader Apple Podcasts, which already categorizes its podcasts in a similar way.

The other major change is to the landing page for podcast shows in Spotify, which are getting a revamp to be more readable at a glance.

The updated layout has moved the descriptions up to the top of the page, so you don’t have to swipe on a show to read about it. Before, Spotify would display the podcast’s thumbnail image at the top, and you’d swipe left to view the description. Now, the layout looks more like — yes, you guessed it — Apple Podcasts.

The combined changes do make Spotify’s app more usable for podcast listening and discovery — especially for people who are used to Apple Podcasts’ design and layout but are now making the jump to Spotify. However, Spotify’s real advantage in podcasts isn’t just how it can mimic Apple’s better design, but how it’s catering to creators, investing in originals and exclusives, personalizing its recommendations and, now, its ads.

Spotify says the redesign is rolling out to its mobile app starting today.

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Adding India to your business

Posted by | Amazon, Android, Asia, Brainly, Column, duolingo, FlixBus, india, LinkedIn, Netflix, Paytm, Snap, Snapchat, Spotify, Tinder, Truecaller, Twitter, Vyng, wattpad | No Comments
Kumar Shah
Contributor

Kumar Shah is the founder of Transit Capital, a cross-border VC firm that partners with growth-stage entrepreneurs building global champions.

At the start of recruiting season in business school, a top-tier consulting firm sent an invite to the entire class: “over your career, you will either be sitting with us or across from us. We would like to get to know you.”

If you’re building a large-scale technology startup, sooner or later, you should be having a conversation about the Indian market. India’s growth is often compared to China’s, but the big difference between these two markets is that India has an open internet infrastructure, where the best product wins.

In the last decade, Indian consumers have enjoyed the trifecta of cheap smartphones (courtesy of Android), some of the lowest data rates on the planet (courtesy of Mukesh Ambani’s telecom firm Jio) and rising disposable income. Most consumer startups from the U.S., Europe and China have already seen a large number of users organically adopt their product as hundreds of millions of Indians have come online.

Some examples:

  • for most of 2018 and 2019, Tinder was the highest grossing app in India
  • Quora and Pinterest are consistently in the top 30 most visited websites
  • India is the largest or second-largest user base for Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Linkedin, Twitter, Snapchat and many other platforms

Snapchat, in particular, has seen tremendous growth in the Indian market. In March 2019, Snap launched eight new languages — five of which are spoken in India. Consequently, the company reported in Q3 2019 that 6 million out of the 7 million new Daily Active Users added were from outside the U.S. Snapchat’s stock is up almost 3x in the last year, well ahead of Nasdaq’s performance in the same period.

As a cross-border investment firm investing in U.S. and European companies to help them grow in India, we thought it would be useful to share our conversations with growth-stage entrepreneurs about the Indian market. In this article, we will focus on consumer-facing (B2C and B2B2C) companies.

What segment of India do you want to target first? 

While everyone thinks of India as a singular 1.3 billion-consumer market, there are, in fact, multiple sub-segments that have their own characteristics and are acquired differently. The India 1 segment, arguably the most lucrative, constitutes the 25+ million Indians who have credit cards, form the 10 million iPhone install base and were Netflix’s first 500,000 users in the country. The India 2 segment requires products that work in languages other than English and potentially different product features (such as voice input). Snapchat is now focused on acquiring India 2 users with its new language strategy.

What are the best ways to acquire users in this segment?

The short answer is — it depends. If you are in a category (such as gaming) that appeals to a broad demographic and geography, strategic partnerships with mobile OEMs or unicorns building super apps (Paytm and PhonePe for example) will give you a high-volume distribution channel. If you are a wellness app that is focused on India 1 users only, then it makes sense to prioritize channels or partnerships, such as hospital chains in Tier 1 cities, to acquire that segment of users. If you already have organic traction in the country, look at your analytics (for example, cities where your users are based, price range of phone models being used and so on) to understand your initial set of power users.

What is your monetization and pricing strategy? 

The monetization strategy that worked in your existing market(s) may not work in the Indian market. From both an addressable base of paying customers (see the install base of credit cards above) to the ARPU, Asian markets have significantly lagged their western counterparts.

The good news is that with the strong adoption of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a first-of-its-kind payments protocol that can be implemented by third-party applications, there is almost no friction (or costs) to receive payment amounts as small as two cents. When in India, you should be using UPI.

While Tinder found success with subscription billing at U.S. prices, Netflix entered India with a ~$7/month billing plan in line with their global rates but realized that growth would only come through innovations such as mobile-only plans at $2.80/month. Apple and Spotify have been clear that they want to target the mass market and launched with plans that are close to $1.50/month, a significant discount to their U.S. and European plans.

While these companies have found success with subscription billing, more likely monetization models are advertising led (YouTube) or freemium. Are there features in your product that you can charge a premium for while still offering a subset of the product for free (and cover your direct costs through advertising)? Are there partnerships (such as the ones that Netflix and Amazon Video have signed with Indian telcos) where you can get paid indirectly for your core product?

Build your costs in line with your target segment and pricing

Now that you have a better idea of your target market size and expected pricing, you should build a cost structure that is in line with expected revenues. Most of the companies we track have acquired their first five million customers (or more) in India with an initial team of one to three people on the ground. From both a team build out as well as customer acquisition cost point of view, most companies have been disappointed that they have invested in resources well ahead of understanding the size of their target market and expected revenues.

Find a local partner

If you aren’t setting up a local team in the near term, we recommend having a local partner/shareholder that is aligned with your business and plans. From regular follow-ups on strategic conversations to keeping tabs on changes in regulations, having someone local who understands your business is critical to your entry and expansion plans. Similar to the scrutiny that internet companies face in other countries, India is also drafting regulations for localized data storage and mandating a local point of contact for companies that have more than 5 million users.

For entrepreneurs building global champions, having an India strategy is essential and can form the beachhead to expand into Southeast Asia and the Middle East. As Mary Meeker has repeatedly noted in her annual report, India and Indonesia will be the first and third-largest open internet markets in the world.

What excites our team is that India is already home to significant user bases for early and growth-stage private companies such as Truecaller (100 million daily users), Quora (second largest market), Duolingo (10 million users), Brainly (20 million users), Wattpad (3 million users) and Vyng (14 million installs), while others such as FlixBus are actively setting up operations.

We hope you found the above information helpful. And if you are building a global technology company, we would like to get to know you.

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Spotify prototypes Tastebuds to revive social music discovery

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Social, Spotify, spotify social, Spotify Social Listening, tastebuds.fm, TC | No Comments

Spotify is prototyping a new way to see what friends have been listening to, called “Tastebuds.” Despite how discovering music is inherently social, Spotify has no features for directly interacting with friends within its mobile app after axing its own inbox in 2017 and keeping its Friend Activity ticker restricted to desktop.

It seemed like Spotify was purposefully restricting social features to force users to rely on the company’s own playlists and discovery surfaces. This gave Spotify the power to play king-maker, massively influencing which artists got featured and rose to stardom. This in turn gave it leverage in its combative negotiations with record labels, which worried their artists might get left off playlists if they don’t play nice with Spotify in terms of sustainable royalty rates and access to exclusives.

That strategy seems to have paid off with Spotify improving its licensing deals and becoming a critical promotional partner for the labels, paving the way to its IPO. Spotify’s shares sit around $152, up from its direct listing price of $132, though down from its first-day pop that saw it rise to $165. More comfortable in its position, now Spotify seems ready to relinquish more control of discovery and enable users to be better inspired by what friends are playing.

Spotify Tastebuds code via Jane Manchun Wong

Tastebuds is designed to let users explore the music taste profiles of their friends. Tastebuds lives as a navigation option alongside your Library and Home/Browse sections. Anyone can access a non-functioning landing page for the feature at https://open.spotify.com/tastebuds. The feature explains itself, with text noting “What’s Tastebuds? Now you can discover music through friends whose taste you trust.”

The prototype feature was discovered in the web version of Spotify by reverse engineering sorceress and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong, who gave us some more details on how it works. Users tap the pen icon to “search the people you follow.” From there they can view information about what users have been playing most and easily listen along or add songs to their own library.

Without Tastebuds, there are only a few buried ways to interact socially on Spotify. You can message friends a piece of music through buttons for SMS, Facebook Messenger and more, or post songs to your Instagram or Snapchat Story. Spotify used to have an in-app inbox for trading songs, but removed it in favor of shuttling users to more popular messaging apps. On the desktop app, but not mobile or web, you can view a Friend Activity ticker of songs your Facebook friends are currently listening to. Or you can search for specific users and follow them or view playlists they’ve made public, though Spotify doesn’t promote user search much.

Spotify has a few other social features it has experimented with but never launched. Those include a Friends Weekly playlist spotted last year by The Verge’s Dani Deahl. Then this May, we reported Wong had spotted a shared-queue Social Listening feature that let you and friends play songs simultaneously while apart. Back in 2014, I wrote that Spotify should move beyond blog-esque browsing to create a “PlayFeed” playlist that would dynamically update with algorithmic recommendations, new releases from your top artists and friends’ top listens. It has since launched Discovery Weekly and Release Radar, and Tastebuds could finally bring in that final social piece.

Spotify’s simultaneous social listening prototype

The result is that you can only see either a myopic snapshot of friends’ current songs, the few and often outdated playlists they manually made public or you message them songs elsewhere. There was no great way to get a holistic view of what a friend has been jamming to lately, or their music preferences overall.

We’ve reached out to Spotify seeking more information about how Tastebuds works, how privacy functions around who can see what and if and when the feature might launch. We’re also interested to see if Spotify has any deal in place with a music dating startup called Tastebuds.fm which launched way back in 2010 to help people connect and flirt through song sharing. [Update: A Spotify spokesperson confirms that “We’re always testing new products and experiences, but have no further news to share at this time.” They also said this is not related to the Tastebuds.fm startup.] 

Social is a huge but under-tapped opportunity for Spotify. Not only could social recommendations get users listening to Spotify for longer, thereby hearing more ads or becoming less likely to cancel their subscription, it also helps Spotify lock in users with a social graph they can’t find elsewhere. While competitors like Apple Music or YouTube might offer similar music catalogs, users won’t stray from Spotify if they become addicted to social discovery through Tastebuds.

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Spotify turns its personalization technology to podcasts with launch of Your Daily Podcasts

Posted by | Apps, Media, Mobile, Podcasts, Spotify, streaming | No Comments

Spotify is taking the personalization technology that powers its music playlists, like Discover Weekly and Daily Mix, and turning it to podcasts. The company announced this morning the launch of a new podcast playlist called Your Daily Podcasts, that allows users to discover new shows and keep up with their favorites. In other words, it’s a discovery mechanism for finding new podcasts — similar to how Discovery Weekly will recommend new music.

The playlist will only appear when you’ve listened to at least four podcasts in the past 90 days, Spotify says. It will be available in the “Your Top Podcasts” shelf in the Home tab or in the “Made for You” hub in the app.

As with Spotify’s music playlists, algorithms will be used to analyze your podcast listening behavior like what’s you’ve recently streamed and what you follow. It will then recommend what episode to listen to next based on this history and what sort of podcasts you like. This could be the next episode in something you’re already listening to, a standalone evergreen episode from a popular podcast, or a more timely episode from a daily updating podcast, the company says. It also promises it won’t skip ahead if you’re listening to a story-driven sequential series.

After a few recommended episodes from your own subscriptions or history, Spotify will suggest new shows and begin playing their episodes after a brief intro that says, “And now, something new based on your listening.”

But unlike Discover Weekly, where the main goal is to keep users engaged and subscribed to Spotify’s service, Your Daily Podcasts has a secondary motive as well — to point users to Spotify’s own, in-house programs. While the new playlist at launch doesn’t appear to be favoring Spotify’s shows over others, it certainly is including them.

Over time, Spotify’s playlist could help grow the fan bases for its own programming, which listeners can’t get elsewhere. That also keeps them subscribed. Plus, podcasts are another surface against which Spotify can advertise, and they don’t have the hefty licensing fees associated with streaming music — especially when their creation is handled in-house.

In the third quarter, Spotify launched 22 original and exclusive titles from Spotify Studios, including The Ringer: The Hottest Take and The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet in the U.S. It also launched a number of originals from the studios it recently acquired, Gimlet and Parcast, the company said. As a result of its efforts, it’s seeing exponential growth in podcast hours streamed (up 39% from the prior quarter).

However, podcast adoption among the overall user base lags…just under 14% of users are listening to the audio programs. A new playlist like this could help, but it also misunderstands how some people listen to audio shows. They don’t necessarily want to hear any ol’ program they like at any time. Much like selecting something to watch on TV, people will be in the “mood” for one type of podcast over another at different times. Sometimes, it may be true crime, sometimes news, sometimes pop culture, sometimes comedy, etc. Throwing all those genres into the same mix is a disjointed experience.

If anything, Spotify should be trying to design a podcast experience that looks more like Netflix than a music app. Perhaps with rows where there are different grouping by genre or topic, or rows featuring short-form quick bites or longer, in-depth shows. A row with clips where you could check out new shows then click “subscribe” to keep following them. It could even put easy-to-access buttons next to these rows in order to launch a stream of favorites from a given genre. Basically, personalize the whole podcast interface so it feels like your own rather than trying to do that within a single playlist.

This is not Spotify’s first attempt at a podcast playlist. It also recently launched “Your Daily Drive” which combines music and podcasts. And it now allows users to create their own playlists using podcasts.

Spotify says the new playlist is available free and Premium users in U.S., U.K., Germany, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

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