A reporter emailed me the other day and asked me for a comment on Spotify’s announcement that it is going to add podcasts to its lineup of audio offerings. What does this mean, she queried? What is the significance? Suddenly I began to wonder whether anyone will want to listen to podcasts on Spotify. So here’s what I wrote back to her:
“Much of Spotify activity is about playlist construction and/or serendipitous background listening. Will your typical Spotify listener want to interrupt her playlist or stream to suddenly audit some discussion about culture or politics? I’m guessing that the most successful initial podcasts on Spotify will be about music and/or contain many music elements. So perhaps initially effective podcasts will have some curative relationship to the content of individual listeners.
Or course, Spotify could also create a whole subplatform within its mobile, tablet, and web interfaces for podcasts, allowing consumers to leap over to that area for podcasting. But Spotify seems very intent on seeing all its content in integrative terms and deploying it with that philosophy in mind, so this acquisition poses a lot of very tricky questions for the company, I think.”
I suspect that Spotify gets the trickiness of this episode in its development. The whole idea is to figure out what you like/are doing/think/feel at any given moment and suggest content. From Spotify’s announcement earlier this month:
“For the first time, Spotify is adding video clips and audio shows to the music mix. We know there are times in the day you want to switch between music to catch up on the latest news, listen to your favourite podcast or simply watch something fun. And with a stellar range of entertainment to choose from there’s something for everyone. Spotify will suggest video and audio shows for you to watch and learn what you love.”
The experts (self-appointed and official) call this “context.” So the answer to the headline question above is—of course people will listen to podcasts on Spotify. But how many? And an even larger query looms: how many different formats (audio/video/podcasts/playlists/radio streams) can you jam into a smartphone application before it starts to lose its identity and begins to resemble a great big stuffed mobile media potato? I don’t know the answer to that one either, but it does feel like a problem.