Spotify buys two podcast companies, and plans to spend even more

Spotify has acquired podcasting startup Gimlet Media for around $230 million and has also snapped up Anchor, a startup that makes it easier for people to record and distribute their own podcasts, according to Recode. These purchases make Spotify the second-biggest podcasting platform behind Apple, according to a blog post by CEO Daniel Ek, announcing the acquisitions. These purchases are apparently just the beginning, as the company has outlined its plans to spend $500 million on podcasting investments.

Gimlet, based in Brooklyn, is the company behind popular shows such as Reply All. It has also ventured into TV production: Its scripted podcast Homecoming was picked up by Amazon and turned into a series starring Julia Roberts. Other shows by Gimlet Media include business series StartUp, true crime series Crimetown, and narrative drama The Horror of Dolores Roach.

It’s the first time that Spotify has acquired a content company. Spotify has been trying to enter the video business, but it had also been signaling that it wanted to expand into podcasting. In early 2018, Spotify launched a new section that combines visual elements with podcasts, which includes content from Gimlet Media. The service also started to allow users to add their shows to the podcast section (here’s how to do so).

Spotify’s 200 million users rely on the music streaming service for their daily dose of audio content, so adding podcasts to its offerings will not change it much from the user’s perspective. Compared to the tightly controlled music business, the podcast industry is still small and young, with no dominant labels.

Podcasting’s ad model generated $315 million in revenue in 2017, which is a fraction of the $11.9 billion that digital video ads earned that year. However, the podcasting industry is growing rapidly, which makes it an attractive form of content for platforms and publishers looking for new revenue streams. Ek sees podcasting as a way to increase the value of audio as a revenue generator, pointing out what he sees as an arbitrary discrepancy between audio and video content:

Video is about a trillion dollar market. And the music and radio industry is worth around a hundred billion dollars. I always come back to the same question: Are our eyes really worth 10 times more than our ears? I firmly believe this is not the case. – Daniel Ek

It’s worth noting that these acquisitions will place Spotify firmly into the podcast industry — and into deeper competition with Apple, a major podcast distributor that does not spend much effort on creating podcast content.

Offering podcasts will keep users on Spotify, rather than having them move to other apps to access such content. Spotify will also be able to bring in additional users and ad revenue while giving it a bigger opportunity to create original content.

Updated on February 6, 2019: Added details of the two podcast acquisitions and quotes from Daniel Ek around the company’s future plans.

Product Review

SVS's stunning Prime speakers go wireless with (mostly) brilliant results

The latest offering from SVS is a wireless way to enjoy the company’s incredible sound. While they do come with a few caveats, those looking for gorgeous sound in a stunning package will want to give them a long look.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.

E-Scooters - Pros, Cons, and where they're headed.

On today's podcast: Very few things in the world of tech have garnered such polarizing opinions, as the rise of E-Scooters. We'll discuss the pros, the cons, and what needs to happen going forward.

Spotify could terminate accounts of listeners using ad blockers

Bad news for those who block annoying ads on Spotify -- the company has updated its Terms of Service to explicitly ban ad blockers. Consequences for users found circumventing the rules include suspending or terminating your account.

Uber’s bikesharing service is eating into its regular business

A bikesharing service acquired by Uber nearly a year ago is causing riders to take fewer car journeys with the company. It is, however, part of the plan as Uber looks to offer an integrated mobility platform for cities.

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 

OnePlus breaks into the top five among U.S. smartphone companies

We've been impressed with the value offered by OnePlus phones for years, but in 2018 the Chinese manufacturer really stepped things up. After impressive sales, OnePlus broke into the top five U.S. smartphone companies in the high-end…
Smart Home

Review board says Dyson should cease unsubstantiated vacuum claims

The National Advertising Review Board recommended Dyson make three changes to claims about suction power, running time, and battery technology for its V8 cordless vacuums. Dyson agreed to the recommendations.

AT&T adds Minneapolis and Chicago to its mobile 5G road map for 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.

Allstate’s SquareTrade buys phone repair service iCracked

Allstate may be looking to diversify its service a little. The company announced that SquareTrade, a company Allstate owns, is buying iCracked, a popular phone repair service that currently operates in more than 60 cities.

T-Mobile says Sprint merger will boost 5G speeds by up to 6 times

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.

Sprint’s 5G rollout: Everything you need to know about it

Sprint is building its next-gen 5G network in preparation for a 2019 rollout, but it's taking a decidedly different approach than some of its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T. Here's everything you need to know.

Verizon wants you to lobby the government for 5G deployment

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.