published June 18, 2019

This Week in Spotify

The Spotify beat is buzzing. In the recent weeks, we’ve seen the release of a spinoff app, a new personalized playlist called “Your Daily Drive” that’s meant to reconstruct the morning commute listening experience, the rollout of a library redesign for premium users that emphasizes podcast discovery, and a few exclusive content partnership announcements (see the Obamas, also Rob Riggle).

It’s a whole lot of press releases, and that’s probably the point. We’ll see how the actual business shakes out from these moves, but for now, when you get the opportunity to drive some headlines, you do it, I suppose.

Don’t forget to look around the corners, though. Two things that caught my eye:

(1) Spotted this little development, first written up by The Drum, which is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle: “Spotify now lets advertisers target podcast listeners.”

According to the write-up, the advertising tool is rolling out in select markets, and two brands, Samsung and 3M, are already on-board for the test.

Two things. First, and as always, it’s worth reiterating that Spotify’s whole initiative around building podcast inventory and growing podcast listening on-platform is a means to an end — the end being revenue, of course. And second, the advertising side of Spotify’s business is a means of a kind. Last March, Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy told investors: “The ad-supported service is also a subsidy program that offsets the cost of new-user acquisition”… acquisition into paid subscriptions, of course. (That quote pops up in Meeker’s report, interestingly enough.)

(2) Water and Music’s Cherie Hu flagged this on Twitter: Spotify recently published a job posting up for a producer to work the end-to-end production of the company’s upcoming “internal News-focused podcasts.” The official job posting isn’t up anymore, but you can still spot the details here. It’s, uh, a lot for a single job.

Speaking of news podcasts on Spotify, what do you suppose is the thinking around NPR’s hourly news briefing appearing on the “Your Daily Drive” playlist? I’m sure it’s all still tentative for now, and of course, it’s good and important for NPR to experiment and try stuff out. But I do hope the public radio mothership is actively working through with the implications of successfully riding Spotify as a direct digital highway to listeners. Particularly as they pertain to the local public radio station system, otherwise known as one of the last bastions of local news that people keep saying is in trouble and needs saving, which doesn’t seem to factor into the “Your Daily Drive” playlist whatsoever at the moment. The same deal can be applied to smart speakers to some extent, I think.

Again, it’s all early days. But if I was station head, I imagine I’d be wary AF. How does my  geographically-bounded station fit — strategically, logistically, creatively — into the NPR’s arrangement with Spotify, and whatever platform comes next? More broadly, what are the risk ramifications of lending public radio’s non-profit journalistic power to centralizing profit-seeking entity? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯