Spotify’s Stream On event Monday (Feb. 22) was a showpiece that touched on a variety of new initiatives, features and expansions that the company has planned for 2021. But it also served to make crystal clear where its main growth priority lay: podcasts.
Throughout the two-hour-long presentation, the subject of podcasts and their growth came up repeatedly, with Spotify — which has spent billions on acquisitions in the podcasting space over the past several years, with more than 2 million podcasts now on the platform — showing off its latest initiatives for audio beyond music.
That starts with its new tools for its Anchor platform, including an integration with WordPress to allow podcasters to easily create a blog for their show (and bloggers to turn their words into podcasts), the ability to host polls and Q&As and, “in the coming months,” bringing video podcast functionality to the platform. There is also the ability to tag podcasts and individual episodes by theme or topic in order for listeners to both search and sort more easily, but also for the Spotify algorithm to be able to serve up similar content like it recommends music.
Spotify announced new monetization initiatives as well. Since introducing podcasts onto the platform, the streaming service has allowed them to embed ads within their streams, even in its premium, $9.99/month tier, which for music means an ad-free experience. Now, Spotify is expanding its ad experience for its podcasters, including the introduction of its Spotify Audience Network, aimed at connecting advertisers with creators within its ecosystem, while making new insights and data available through its Streaming Ad Insertion offer.
But soon, advertising will not be the only form of revenue for podcasters on the platform. The company announced that it would be allowing some podcasts to charge for subscriptions in exchange for bonus clips or content. It’s unclear how that will roll out or what it will entail — Spotify is currently offering a waitlist for creators to sign up to find out more as it becomes available — but its site says it will have “diversified options” around paid subscriptions.
Earlier this month, Spotify reported it had 155 million paid subscribers around the world, with 345 million monthly active users and $9.5 billion in revenue for 2020. A new podcast with Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen was another major podcasting-related takeaway from the event, while headline-grabbing news came through the company’s announced expansion to 80 new markets, bringing its total north of 170 around the world.
Read more Billboard coverage on Spotify’s Stream On event here.