Spotify Consolidates Its Podcast Offering

Streaming service buys podcast network The Ringer

This week, Spotify announced plans to acquire sports and entertainment media company The Ringer in its quest to become the world’s leading audio platform. The deal follows three podcast acquisitions that Spotify made in the past year. Spotify hopes the acquisitions will broaden the appeal of its platform to the younger generation.

Spotify transformed music listening and the music industry when it launched in 2008. The company has since become the world’s most popular audio streaming service, with a community of more than 271 million users in 79 markets. The company’s listeners include 124 million Spotify Premium subscribers. The company claims to be driven by its love of music and strives to unlock the potential of artists by providing a platform for them to showcase their talents.

However, the music-streaming market has become competitive and crowded, with Apple, Google, Amazon, Pandora, Tidal, iHeartRadio and dozens more battling for a piece. To set itself apart from the crowded field, Spotify has moved into a new area: podcasts.

Podcasts have been a major focus for Spotify for over a year now. In October 2018, the company launched Spotify for Podcasters, inviting creators to upload their podcast episodes — and giving them access to data like listener numbers, demographics and engagement.

Spotify acquired privately held podcast producers Gimlet Media and Anchor in February 2019. Later that year, Spotify announced plans to acquire podcast company Parcast. At the time, the moves were seen as the next steps in Spotify’s ambitions to become “the Netflix of audio” by accelerating its spending on original content. Gimlet’s vast array of fiction and non-fiction shows include Reply All, StartUp and Homecoming, which was recently adapted into an Amazon Prime Video series.

However, Anchor brings a different mindset to Spotify, with its easy-to-use podcast creation technology. Anchor serves as a platform for podcast creators to make and distribute their shows.

The Ringer, launched by sports writer Bill Simmons in 2016, is a podcast network that hosts a blend of sports, pop culture, politics, and tech content. The Ringer Podcast Network features over 30 popular podcasts, including chart-topping shows such as The Bill Simmons Podcast, The Rewatchables and The Ryen Russillo Podcast. The Ringer also boasts a successful video network that offers the Sports Emmy-winning NBA Desktop show, as well as post-show discussions of Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies.

Spotify has also inked content deals, including a partnership to produce exclusive podcasts for Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company. In June 2019, the company redesigned its app for paid customers to give podcasts a more prominent place: one tab for music, one for podcasts.

Spotify is not alone in offering podcasts. Apple has long been the dominant platform, having offered news and narrative podcasts since 2005. Apple currently has a bigger catalogue of 750,000 podcasts. But in recent years, newcomers like Luminary and Stitcher have sprung up to offer premium curated podcasts. Spotify plans to offer exclusive content as well in an attempt to lure customers from other podcast platforms.

YouTube became the go-to for original video. Spotify will be looking to emulate YouTube and successfully position itself as the essential platform for podcasts. The Ringer acquisition should prove to be a formidable asset for Spotify as it strives to grab the world by the ears.