I’m not sure what happens when two high-profile companies with seemingly obtuse profiles in the same industry collide in one headline. But that’s exactly what’s going on, as news began to leak earlier this week that music/podcast streaming service Spotify is in “advanced talks” to buy music/podcast distribution service SoundCloud.
Of course, this blog is focused on news about podcasting. And while both SoundCloud and Spotify have their own places in the current podcast market, it’s been a bit off an odd trip for both companies:
SoundCloud began as a collaboration tool for musicians but later morphed into a music sharing and distribution hub, eventually adding support for podcasts. SoundCloud’s podcasting program was in beta for years before it officially launched. The company has been hemorrhaging money, burning thru multiple rounds of venture capital in an attempt to stay ahead of mounting financial pressure from the major record labels. SoundCloud launched its own premium music-streaming service and began running ads against content for non-paying account holders. Curiously, the company has mostly kept the music and podcasting sides separate. But apparently, embedded SoundCloud players featuring podcast episodes will automatically begin to play SoundCloud-hosted music files if the player isn’t paused after the podcast is finished. This can happen without warning, much to the chagrin of podcasters who thought they were embedding single-episode players onto their websites.
Spotify is the Swedish-born music-streaming platform that perfected the idea of the Celestial Jukebox; Any song from any artist whenever you want it at the touch of a button. The company grew slowly as it moved into more markets around the world, finally pushing into North America five years ago. When Spotify announced in 2015 that it would be adding support for podcasts, it felt like this could be some seriously new ground for podcasting to break. But Spotify has chosen to work with a small group of content partners and the company has been very slow to add new shows to its podcast directory. And while Spotify has done better in the revenue department than SoundCloud, Spotify was still taking on new debt from investors earlier this year.
Just what any of this means for podcasting is anyones guess. Spotify could try to absorb SoundCloud into its existing platform, or it could let SoundCloud continue to operate independently. Tho, I’m not sure I like the name SpotiCloud. However, Soundify does have a nice ring to it.
SoundCloud and Spotify are two big audio platforms that have made their fair share of podcasting news over the last year. Here’s a brief roundup of what the two services have been up to lately.
Earlier this month, SoundCloud launched its new SoundCloud Go service. SoundCloud Go is aimed squarely at music fans. It’s unclear what this new service may mean for podcasters. SoundCloud Go boasts these features:
More tracks: 125 million+
Unlock previews as full tracks
SoundCloud Go is currently offering a one-month free trial with a price of $9.99/month after that. U.S. based SoundCloud users with Pro Unlimited accounts will be able to subscribe to the service for a discount at $4.99/month.
Swedish streaming service Spotify announced it’d be adding podcasts to its platform almost one year ago. Since then, the company has kept its podcasting support in a fairly limited beta stage while it manually adds new shows to its directory. Last month, it was announced that Spotify received another $1billion worth of funding:
The money is technically “convertible debt,” which means the investors will have a chance to buy in at a discounted rate should Spotify decide to go public. Some experts say that’s going to happen in 2017—Spotify already had $600 million in the bank at the time of this new round, so even though they’re losing money (Spotify lost $180 million in 2014), this new investment will likely keep the company afloat until their IPO.
The launch of SoundCloud Go puts the two services in more direct competition. SoundCloud’s financial status has been somewhat grim for awhile. SoundCloud Go may be a good way for the company to bring in desperately needed revenue. Meanwhile, Spotify’s growth has been slow but steady. However, the company faces increasing costs due to the complex and costly nature of music licensing. If the two services don’t reach financial stability soon, it may the beginning of the end for them both.
You made a pretty big splash in the podcasting world when, earlier this year, you announced that you’d be bringing podcasts to Spotify. Many of us in the podcasting community looked forward to having a new distribution channel for our shows. We learned during the announcement that Spotify would be partnering with a select group of content providers at launch. This seemed logical as a way for you to “test the waters” as far as adding a new type of media to your platform. But we assumed that you’d eventually open up Spotify’s podcasting platform to everyone. And that hasn’t happened.
I’ve been a user of the Spotify application since it launched in the U.S. It quickly became my preferred music player. I spent hours discovering new songs and rediscovering old favorites thanks to your platform’s ease of use and wide ranging catalog. That appreciation for Spotify as a music service created some real excitement at the possibility of others finding podcasts thru your platform. But due to the closed nature of Spotify’s current podcast directory, that’s simply not possible.
Surely, Mr. Ek, you can see that, in the way music listeners want more than just a slice of all of the music being made today, they’d also want more than a small fraction of all of the podcasts being produced? During last month’s announcement, the impression you gave is that you want Spotify to become a true world class media consumption platform. But how can that happen if users are clicking away from Spotify to listen to the podcasts that aren’t available on your application?
If making that simple appeal isn’t enough, consider this: Historically, the two largest podcasting consumption platforms have been Apple’s iTunes and the Stitcher app. iTunes has always been a huge competitor to Spotify and Stitcher was acquired last year by Deezer, another one of your competitors. Both iTunes and Stitcher have massive podcast catalogs because they’re open. Anyone can submit a show to these services and usually get listed within a few business days. And it is these services that listeners (i.e. your customers) will go to when they can’t find their desired podcasts inside of Spotify.
I hope I’ve made it clear, Mr. Ek, that the current state of podcasting within Spotify has negative repercussions. Not only for podcasters but also for the Spotify platform. It’s not often in life you can make a true win-win decision. But opening up Spotify to all podcasters would be one of those rare instances. Why not take advantage of the opportunity now and let us in? We’d love to share our shows with you!
Podcast Producer and Contributing Editor
It seemed inevitable that podcasts would eventually come to Deezer, the streaming service that acquired Stitcher last year. Earlier this month, Deezer added over 20,000 podcasts and radio shows to its catalog. Previously, the platform had only been delivering music to its subscribers.
Deezer is based in France. As such, the new spoken-word content is being rolled out first in its home country as well as European neighbors Sweden and United Kingdom. The company will expand this new offering to other countries over time but no exact timeline has been provided as to when it might reach the rest of the world.
A complete directory of Deezer’s podcasts isn’t immediately available online. But the company is working with partners like Slate, Financial Times, NPR and WNYC to provide its initial spoken word content. It seems only logical that all of Stitcher’s catalog would eventually be rolled into Deezer, and that the Stitcher platform itself would be killed off. Regardless, it looks like Deezer’s podcast directory will be similar to Spotify in that it’s a closed environment, available only to those who have access to a partnership.
If Stitcher is destined to be ultimately subsumed into Deezer, there’s some hope that Stitcher’s partner portal will go with it. In which case, we can expect Deezer’s podcast directory to be open to user submissions. In the end, if companies like Spotify and Deezer really want to compete with Apple in terms of podcast consumption, they’ll need catalogs that carry everything the space has to offer. Not just shows produced by big names and heavy hitters.
It was rumored earlier this year that streaming-media service Spotify could be adding podcasts to its platform. Today, those rumors became truth as Spotify announced it will be enhancing its products with new offerings like podcasts and videos. Until now, Spotify has only provided music streaming with some limited ability to download songs for offline playback. This move brings Spotify more in line with competitors like Apple’s iTunes, which has offered multiple types of media for years.
There aren’t many public details as of yet about how podcasting will work within Spotify. The screenshot shown here was taken from a Spotify promotional video. In it, we see a mockup of the mobile app with familiar and predictable podcasts such as WTF, Nerdist and Startup. Spotify appears to be launching its podcast support with a closed, curated directory instead of a user-driven directory like iTunes.
Spotify will be working with a slate of new content partners to beef up the offerings of its platform. The only names on the list that are particularly interesting to podcasters will be TWiT, WNYC and Slate. The rest (such as ABC, Adult Swim and Comedy Central) will likely be bringing video to the service.
No information is available yet as to how content producers can become Spotify partners. But something tells me Spotify is in no hurry to work with smaller, independent creators. We’ll see what happens over time.
Digital media platforms are all about one thing: content. Apple has known this for years, and that’s why the company has expanded its iTunes Store to include much more than just music. And while Apple was a trailblazer in its adoption of podcasting, other players have followed suit over the years. Now, it looks like Swedish music streamer Spotify is poised to add podcasts to its own platform.
According to Bloomberg Business, Spotify has held some talks with potential content partners that would bring podcasts to its streaming music player. It’s not yet known who these potential partners may be, or if the Spotify platform will be as open as the iTunes Store in terms of accepting podcast submissions.
The article notes that Spotify is already streaming some content similar in nature to podcasts:
Spotify, which hosts some podcast-like audio such as Spanish lessons along with millions of songs, plans to add more non-music programming, according to the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. While the discussions have occurred for several months, there is no firm plan or introduction date, one of the people said.
One problem that all music streaming services face is the high cost of licensing songs from major labels. Since podcasts are ostensibly free, Spotify adding them to its platform would be an easy way to bolster its catalog with a diverse array of content without having to cut big royalty checks to producers. Podcasting within Spotify may even include video, allowing users to switch between audio and video on the fly.
This news follows other recent moves by Spotify competitors. Last year, Apple acquired Swell, a spoken word-focused audio streaming app, and Deezer bought out Stitcher. It’s still unclear as to why the bigger companies in both those deals even made these moves. But in the end, it all comes down to the content. Everyone’s looking for more of it or at least, different ways to curate and distribute it.