Podcasts on Spotify, reactions from producers

Spotify finally took the lid off of a long rumored integration of podcasts at a media event in NYC today. Through quick conversations with podcasters and producers, here are the biggest points of optimism, skepticism, and confusion I’ve heard so far:

New listeners exposed to podcasts

Producers know better than anyone how difficult it is for people to get into podcasts. The ecosystem is crowded and fragmented, the vocabulary is alienating and technical, still no major players on Android, and many popular apps are paid-only. With Spotify integrating podcasts, a massive audience of over 60 million people is now exposed to “audio shows” without most of the traditional friction that exists around listening to a podcast. Our first look at the in-app integration shows a big emphasis on discovery with the “show” page’s design directly borrowing from Spotify’s playlist “browse” feature.

Spotify as a walled garden

The idea of Spotify as a walled garden is still a major open question. Today basically anyone can list their show in the current default podcast directory, iTunes, so if Spotify is working with content creators on a selective basis it introduces a barrier in an ecosystem where few currently exist. It’s unclear if any show will be able to list in Spotify and what implications that has on our understanding of “professional” vs “hobbyist” content.

Show me the money

Spotify’s reputation for not fairly compensating artists was top of mind amongst many podcasters. Many producer reactions showed high skepticism and mistrust around how Spotify will compensate content creators and what level of revenue even popular shows could expect. Despite optimism around exposure to new listeners, many producers were unsure if the tradeoff is worthwhile if Spotify isn’t building a functioning and fair model to compensate content creators.

It’s hard to say much more here since no information was publicly shared around the economics of spoken word audio on the platform, hopefully we’ll learn more in the coming days as the rollout gets started.

Integrated audio ads vs dynamic audio ads

Podcasts fortunate enough to have paid sponsorships have advertisements directly integrated as part of the audio file distributed in their RSS feeds (often read by hosts themselves as opposed to voice actors). There are many unanswered questions around whether listeners will have to endure Spotify’s audio ads in addition to the ads that are directly embedded in an episode, or if Spotify expects content creators to remove in-episode ads before publishing on Spotify (a potentially unappealing prospect since most shows won’t be making any meaningful revenue from Spotify).


Amir Shaikh was previously product manager at SoundCloud. He now works with Michael Evensen on building Spoken.am, a new place to discover and discuss story-driven podcasts. In the meantime, sign up at spoken.am for weekly recommendations (hand-picked by real producers).