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Spotify’s latest experiment is designed to boost podcast discovery

Spotify is no stranger to podcasting. In fact, the company has been investing heavily in the medium for a while, and now owns some impressive podcasting assets. But new podcasts, much like music or indeed any other form of audio content, can be difficult to discover. To tackle this, Spotify is conducting another one of its famous experiments, by creating human-curated podcast playlists.

The new feature is available to just 5% of subscribers in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina, according to The Verge. Five podcasts playlists will start showing up on Tuesday, June 4. They’ll cover comedy, true crime, “geek culture,” “walking (motivational),” and “relaxing (mindfulness).”

Spotify has a deep collection of podcasts on tap, but finding them is currently a bit hit-or-miss. You can search for a podcast that you already know, or you can browse the entire catalog by genre, but the kind of personalized recommendations that Spotify is known for (e.g., Discover Weekly) hasn’t been adapted to podcasts as a format … yet. The curated podcast playlists are a way for the company to gather an initial batch of data from listeners: What do they like? What do the subscribe to after you offer them something new?

“This test aims to make it easier for users to discover new podcasts while giving creators another mechanism to connect with new fans,” Spotify told Engadget. It’s also very much part of Spotify’s continued efforts to understand its listeners’ preferences. In May 2019, the company revealed that it was going to distribute a gadget called Car Thing to a small number of users. Car Thing — and a possible follow-up device known as Home Thing — are designed to give Spotify even deeper insights around what people want to listen to during specific times of day, and while driving.

Car Thing is intended to be primarily voice-controlled, which makes sense from a hands-free point of view, but it may enable Spotify to deepen two more podcast-related experiments: Interactive voice ads, and voice messages that connect podcast listeners with podcast creators.

If Spotify’s podcast playlists prove a popular way for people to discover new shows, it may not be long before people are assembling their own podcast playlists — perhaps as a social activity via yet another of the company’s experiments: Social Listening.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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