The Swedish audio streaming company Spotify is investing heavily in creating and acquiring new podcast content as it aims to gain an edge over rivals by creating ‘content so good that you switch over,’ according to its chief content officer.

Spotify is growing its podcast library at a precipitous rate. Through a combination of original productions, exclusive releases, and product updates that encourage creators by making it easier to upload new content. The company now boasts 450,000 podcast titles, up from 185,000 in February of this year. A less selective hosting policy has likely contributed to that increase.

In terms of acquisitions, the company said earlier this year that it planned to spend between $400m and $500m on podcast-related investments.

Strategically, the company needs to move beyond music. With 232m active users, around half of which are fee-paying subscribers, Spotify believes that a rich podcast library can both attract new listeners and increase the amount of time listeners spend on the platform.

As audio playing devices have become ubiquitous at work, at home, and on the move, the company has its eyes set on providing the soundtrack to all of those scenarios, whether with music or words.

“The amount of content that we can make is endless,” says chief content officer Dawn Ostroff in an interview with the LA Times. “Seeing how many of the existing talent in the Hollywood community and the news community are interested in migrating toward this new medium, it really makes it a lot easier.”

But scale does not necessarily create big hits, it only increases the likelihood of finding one. In the coming year, Ostroff says, the plan is to put out “hundreds and hundreds” of new original podcast series. It is targeting international markets, too, with original content for Germany, Brazil, Mexico and its native Sweden.

Revenue outside the US and UK saw 31.2% growth year-on-year in Q2 2019, accounting for 51.8% of the total.

Creating more means understanding more. At SxSW this year, Ostroff hinted at the personalisation play that would begin to influence Spotify’s podcasting strategy in a similar way Netflix develops new programming off the back of user data.

In comments reported by WARC Ostroff noted the brand’s ambition to differentiate through curation “The way in which we create the playlists is what makes our user experience so unique. And so that's another plan for podcasting.”

Strong original content gives it a leg up over the first-mover in the market, Apple. Years before the iPhone became its flagship, the iPod pioneer introduced podcasts in 2005 and has retained a leading position in the market with a 55% share (as of 2017), according to Bloomberg. While Apple is not yet competing in the original podcast space, it holds more than 750,000 titles, far more than Spotify. If the Swedish company’s bets pay off, however, it will be a triumph of quality built on quantity.

Sourced from LA Times, Bloomberg, WARC