Spotify’s video podcasts bring hosts — and advertisers — closer to fans

Spotify announced today that it would start offering its podcast listeners something new: The ability to watch their favorite podcasters while they listen to them. According to the company, this allows fans to “get to know their favorite podcast hosts even better, and creators can more deeply connect with their audiences.”

While hardly the first streaming music service to offer video (Apple Music and Tidal both have extensive video collections), you can bet that Spotify’s video strategy is less about creating a multimedia experience, and more about creating a monetized experience.

See, Spotify has already made it crystal clear that podcasts are a huge, untapped resource when it comes to advertising. “There’s been no unified business here, everyone is out selling their podcasts individually,” Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content officer, told a reporter recently, “we don’t even have a unified metric system.”

Spotify is already in the midst of bringing an audio-centric ad platform to market, designed expressly to overcome that lack of sales unification in podcasts. But why stop there?

If audio ads are a good thing — and judging from both Spotify’s and Pandora’s attempts to build interactive voice ads, we assume they’re a very good thing — then surely video ads are even better.

Combined with in-app offers, which Ostroff said would be the next step, brands will have ample opportunity to get the exposure they so desperately crave.

This leads us to the Spotify video podcast experience. You can’t have video ads without, well, video, and selling video ads within podcast content has got to be a much easier lift business-wise than trying to monetize music videos.

Curiously, the initial batch of podcasts that Spotify is targeting for video are all already available on YouTube. These include The Morning Toast, The Misfits Podcast, Fantasy Footballers, Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay, and others. Does this mean that these successful podcasters will soon see revenue stream from both YouTube and Spotify? For the immediate future, yes.

But looking farther ahead, we can already see what’s coming down the pike. Earlier this year, Spotify announced its blockbuster acquisition of the Joe Rogan Experience, one of the top podcasts in terms of audience. Rogan’s podcast — which will effectively cease being a true podcast when it becomes a Spotify exclusive later this year — is also available in video form, and those videos will become “in-app vodcasts,” according to the company.

Though Spotify didn’t specify the terms of its deal with Rogan, it would be surprising if Rogan’s videos remained on YouTube after this year. If all goes well, Rogan won’t be the last podcaster to be offered a new deal, which will likely sweeten the pot considerably over the income these hosts currently generate from YouTube and their own sponsorships.

It’s bizarre to watch Spotify podcasts creep ever closer to YouTube’s bread and butter, but in a tech-driven world that thrives on so-called disruption, it’s hardly a surprise.

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