Apple, Spotify, and Podcast Discovery

Apple, Spotify, and Podcast Discovery
Photo by Pawel Janiak / Unsplash

Do a quick Google search for “podcast discovery” and you’ll come across lists of show recommendations, newsletters to subscribe to, and even podcasts about podcasts.

All are valiant attempts at solving one of the biggest problems for podcast listeners — discovery — which so far no one has been able to crack at scale. Podcasts-about-podcasts are the closest solution because they’re already where you‘re listening. In the process of hearing about a new show that piques your interest you’re never more than a couple of taps away from subscribing within an app you already have open, it’s just that you probably don’t want to have to listen to an entire podcast to get recommendations for new shows.

Human curation, as has been proven time and time again, doesn’t scale well and so in the near future I think there will be more elegant solutions rolled out at the directory level for podcast discovery and recommendation.

Apple is, without a doubt, best positioned to fill this void seeing as they‘re responsible for an estimated market share of somewhere between 60–70% and popular apps like Overcast draw from its directory too.

That means that Apple has a wealth of aggregated — and anonymised — listener data from which to draw on. Late last year Apple began to roll out listener analytics for podcasters which is great for creators and is the first time that Apple has made any moves in the podcast market beyond being more than just a directory. There’s also likely a data set that covers listener behaviour of multiple shows which could be conceivably translated into curated recommendations at both the show and episode level, and offered as a ‘For You’ section within Apple’s native Podcasts app, similar to what’s available in Apple Music.

Spotify would also be well positioned to undertake this task. Their personalised playlists are a favourite amongst users of the music streaming service, and with their moves into providing podcasts — albeit at a glacial though arguably deliberate pace — it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine personalised podcast curation taking a more prominent place within this app.

This would certainly help retain listeners and be a nice bump to their average-user-listening-time numbers, especially since the company is going public and questions of the sustainability of their business model threatening to overshadow the move. There’s already evidence that Spotify plans to pursue podcasts as part of its long term strategy with the announcement of a new podcast format with “visual elements” called ‘Spotlight’ as well as the commission of exclusive original shows too.

On top of both of these there’s also the opportunity to tie in recommendations from social media as well. Overcast has a nice integration with Twitter to show what your friends have actively recommended by way of hitting a ⭐️ during an episode.

Spotify would also have a strong case for a “What Your Friends Are Listening To” section on account of its ties with Facebook and already providing music recommendations this way too.

Spotify still labels itself as Spotify Music on the App Store so there’s probably some way to go before it feels it’s laid enough groundwork to become a competitor to Apple’s directory and market share.

For now though I’ll continue to subscribe to newsletters for my recommendations.