There have been some interesting developments in the audio streaming sphere: Spotify is trialling a new feature to its service, a section similar to Instagram’s Reels, Facebook’s Newsfeed, or TikTok’s For You feed. Spotify’s vertical scrolling feed would be a section specifically dedicated to encourage podcast discoverability, something which does not yet quite exist for audio outside pre- or mid-roll ads in podcast episodes themselves. With machine-learning technology stemming from start-up company Podz – which Spotify bought for $49 million – 60-second clips are selected from a variety of podcasts based on user-interests and played with a dynamic transcript alongside the show’s cover art. Now that we have the essentials out of the way, it’s okay if you’re thinking “so what”? What makes this new feature particularly newsworthy?
The truth is, this new feature is a significant move (although it’s worth mentioning that it may not last: Spotify say they routinely try and test new features all the time, and not all make it).
The future is audio
The reason being it is another sign that podcasting, and the audio world in general, is continuing to grow, to change, and to expand. Spotify is looking to make the space more user-friendly and to get listeners hooked – more so than they already are.
For all the advertisers reading (and listening), this is where your ears should be pricking up: audio is and will remain a great opportunity for some time to come. Podcast listeners are a highly receptive and engaged audience – with 67% of listeners claiming they are attentive to ads, which is over 20% more than TV audiences (46%) – severely increasing the chance of brand recall and purchase intent.
The future is AI
We can also see this is a promising glimpse of what is to come when it comes to AI-boosted transcription technology, one of the core factors of what make audio a generally brand-safe environment. The ew feature is trialling the more mainstream use of dynamic transcripts to aid listeners in exploring new podcasts. Importantly, these excerpts will not be generated by show-producers themselves, which means all insights (dare I say earsights?) will be gained through a fully automated process.
We can also read this as Spotify looking to truly harness AI, speech recognition and automation to climb to the top of the podcasting league, knocking Apple off the main stage. A move that can seen to work in tandem with this is Spotify’s new “Car Mode” interface update, where machine learning is paired with minimal visual distractions to render a more personalised yet simplified version of the app that allows for handsfree searching, whether it’s specific artists, songs, or even playlists handsfree.
Your role within a digitised sound sphere
If we zoom out of focus and away from Spotify for a second, we can also recognise that this is part of a wider trend, as a host of other audio media are branching out from radio and into the podsphere – iHeart radio and SiriusXM are diversifying their offerings to include podcasts, with the former dedicating a whole new company to the venture – another indication (as if any was needed) that the industry only shows signs of growth.
Spotify’s expansion should be a clear signal to the audio advertising industry: the company is using its resources to enhance UX through furthering their machine learning capabilities. It is a great opportunity for companies and brands to reach their audience in a different way, a way that promises more engagement and recall, and it shows how much room for growth, innovation, and creativity there is yet to come.