Spotify Buys Podz to Make It Easier to Find Podcasts You Actually Like

Spotify is betting that machine learning technology can help it make podcast discovery better.

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Illustration: Lionel Bonaventure / AFP (Getty Images)

Finding a new podcast you actually like is easier said than done. It’s a task that requires time, effort, and a good chunk of your attention. Spotify wants to make this tedious process easier and is betting that podcast discovery technology developed by a startup will help its users find and get hooked on new shows.

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The company announced on Thursday that it had acquired the podcast discovery platform Podz, a startup that developed a so-called “audio newsfeed” that features 60-second clips from different podcasts. Here’s where the technology comes in: Instead of simply reproducing the clips chosen by podcast creators, Podz uses a machine learning model to select clips of shows’ best moments. This allows users to preview a variety of podcasts in minutes rather than listening to entire 30- or 60-minute shows.

Spotify said that combining Podz with its 2.6 million podcast repertoire, learnings from its previous work in music discovery, and current investments in podcast recommendation will allow it to take podcast discovery to the next level. Altogether, the company maintains that it will be easier for users to find shows they like and for podcast creators to build a fan base.

“Spotify has had machine learning experts focused on improving audio discovery for almost a decade, but there is more work to be done,” the company said in a news announcement. “We believe that Podz’ technology will complement and accelerate Spotify’s focused efforts to drive discovery, deliver listeners the right content at the right time, and accelerate growth of the category worldwide.”

According to TechCrunch, Podz’s machine learning model was trained on more than 100,000 hours of audio and considered input from journalists and audio editors. Back in February, the outlet reported that Podz had raised $2.5 million in pre-seed funding. Besides receiving investments from venture capital firms like M13 and Canaan Partners, it also had backers like Katie Couric and Paris Hilton. (For reference, both Couric and Hilton have podcasts).

Spotify did not specify how much it had paid to acquire Podz.

The acquisition is the latest move in the battle to monetize podcasting. In April, Spotify announced its paid subscriptions platform, which allows creators to offer subscriptions to their shows. Interestingly, Spotify said that it would not charge podcasters to use the platform for the first two years and would only expect them to assume the payment transaction fees. In 2023, though, Spotify will begin to charge a 5% fee to use the platform.

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This stands in contrast to Apple, which will take 30% of subscription fees for podcasts during the first year and 15% in the following years. Apple launched in-app podcast subscriptions this month.

Spotify is integrating Podz’s technology into its platform and said users can expect to see elements of it before the end of the year.

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DISCUSSION

By
emba4

theyll struggle as i dont like podcasts, they need to get their shit together and launch a lossless option, i pay for spotify for music not talkshows. ive been waiting since about 2016 when the first hifi “beta” was supposedly run and watching as pretty much every streaming platform launched a lossless option before them.

id always stuck with them as in the past they generally had the widest collection and their algos had become rather good at showing me new music and such, plus i had literally hundreds of playlists made over the course of a near 9 year sub, porting them and training a new algo seemed a hassle

but as i started to design my new headphones i figured it was time to actually think about giving other services a go and i recently found a service that ports my playlists from spotify to other services, theres a small charge but i dont mind paying it

so ive taken some free trials on other services and if spotify havent managed to finally release their lossless option before the trials run out in 2 more months then ill likely be switching to deezer, it has almost all the tracks my spotify playlists have and it even seems to do a decent job with suggestions in flow

still i think itll be the longest sub ive had to a service so not a bad run really, however it seems were moving in different directions, while im upgrading my audio gear theyre more interested in becoming talk radio but i guess low quality talkshows are much cheaper bandwidth, storage and licencing cost wise and its not really seemingly a major interest for a lot of other platforms so i guess there is a place for it in the world, its just not my place