For Spotify to succeed as a podcast app, it needs to clearly separate podcasts from music, help users discover podcasts better, and allow creators to monetize (Ashley Carman/The Verge)

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Spotify announced today that the company plans to spend up to $500 million on podcast-related acquisitions. The first purchases in that journey are Gimlet Media, which makes Reply All and other popular shows, and Anchor, which allows anyone to easily create their own podcasts. This is huge news for the growing podcast industry, as it’s already expected to generate nearly $700 million in revenue by 2020.

Spotify made its name as a music app, but now CEO Daniel Ek says the company is interested in not only being a listening platform for any podcast, but also creating its own exclusive releases. Suffice it to say, Spotify wants to be a big player in the podcast space and is heavily investing to fill that role. Before it’s a podcast behemoth, though, the company needs to work on its signature app. Here’s what Spotify needs to do before it can be the greatest place to listen to and possibly create podcasts.

Clearer separation of podcasts and music

First and most obviously, Spotify needs to rearrange its app, particularly on mobile platforms. The podcast tab in search is clunky on the homepage and difficult to navigate. Accessing your podcasts isn’t simple, either, as you have to navigate to your library and go from there. The evolving homepage sometimes shows podcasts up top, but other times it doesn’t. Generally, Spotify needs to get better at separating the two entities and making podcasts easy to find.

Add charts, reviews, and ratings

Spotify offers top charts for music, but has limited charts for podcasts. The team builds an annual best-of list and also has a “what’s trending” and “top podcasts” chart. It sorts podcasts into categories like “Stories” and “News & Politics,” but those appear to be independently curated.

It might want to follow Apple’s example — iTunes and Apple Podcasts have led the way with curation and charts. The company has top charts on the episode and series level for every show category, as well as overall charts for top podcasts. The company also allows people to rate shows and leave reviews. These are helpful for evaluating shows and also might contribute to how the company creates the chart rankings.

Personalized playlists are a must

Spotify is known for its work on Discover Weekly, which made personalized music discovery as simple as a weekly playlist. Hopefully, the company will do the same for podcasts, which could solve users’ discovery problems. Most people hear about shows through friends, but the industry, and maybe listeners, would appreciate another way.

The NPR One app is already playing in this arena. The app makes personalized playlists based on a user’s listening habits. Personally, I’m not fond of this app, but I imagine many people would take advantage of a similar Spotify feature, especially if they’re bored with their current slate of shows.

Creators should be able to monetize

Ahead of its acquisition, Anchor announced a sponsorship feature that allows any podcaster to request a sponsorship. Hopefully, Spotify will take advantage of this model, which allows creators to profit off their work while Anchor takes a 30 percent cut. This type of feature will be important for independent creators who want to make money from their work. Typically, creators have to either partner with a larger podcast network to get ads, or put in more work on their end to get in front of potential sponsors’ eyes. This makes it seamless and puts every aspect of podcast creation in one app.

There aren’t any private feeds

Adding the option of a private feed could benefit both listeners and creators. The feeds are convenient for anyone who subscribes to individual creators through services like Patreon. Companies sometimes want to release internal shows, too. Spotify doesn’t offer the ability to access these feeds right now. Apple, on the other hand, allows users to add podcasts via an RSS link, which Patreon users can share on an individual basis. Again, this is a way to make podcasting lucrative for creators while also making it a destination for individual listeners.

Consider adding Anchor’s unique features, like call-ins and creation

Anchor introduced multiple unique features that aren’t in traditional podcast apps and give listeners a place to interact with their favorite hosts. Creators can field calls from their listeners, add people into conversations, and share transcribed video of their show on social.

None of these alone are industry-breaking, but taken together, they demonstrate just how much Anchor was ahead of others in giving creators a place to make their show and chat with their audience. Spotify could become that place, too.

This post was originally published here
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