Spotify Focusing on Exclusives and Improved Discovery to Challenge Apple as Go-To Destination for Podcasts

In July 2017, reports surfaced that Spotify had set its sights on Apple Podcasts and was planning a strong push into the space with a vastly reimagined podcasts segment that would become the default podcast listening app for many users. Today, The Verge has detailed Spotify's ongoing plans to make the service a premium podcast destination.


To start, Spotify intends to fix podcast discovery and prioritize the user experience by tweaking the algorithm that it uses for its streaming music Discover Weekly playlist. According to Spotify head of studio and video Courntey Holt, the team that built the discovery engine for music "is now working on podcasts."

Spotify also plans to create new and exclusive podcasts for the service, so that users have to subscribe to watch all of the latest and most popular shows. Outside of exclusives, Spotify is also planning timed exclusives that will go to other platforms after a set window and other release schedules with "a lot of experimentation," according to Gimlet Media co-founder Alex Blumberg.

Gimlet Media is a content creation company that Spotify acquired for $300 million last month, and is the home to notable big-name podcasts like Homecoming and Reply All. At the same time, Spotify also purchased Anchor, a company that offers a podcasting solution on the opposite end of the spectrum: letting users record and create their own shows that can be easily shared online.

According to Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy, "We're going to place a bet on both ends of the spectrum," because at this time the company isn't sure if user-generated shows or high-end original podcasts will be more popular. For both aspects, McCarthy said that he plans to use his time as Netflix's CFO to help bolster Spotify podcasts.
That means building “super good, predictive algorithms, like we developed at Netflix” so Spotify knows what people like, he said, then using those algorithms to figure out what kind of shows to make next. McCarthy calls this scenario “my nirvana.”

McCarthy said that Spotify won’t be an “arbiter of taste,” like HBO, but instead, it will make its name optimizing content creation and greenlighting shows that are sure to succeed. “Over time, we have lots of exclusive content because we get super successful at predicting how much to spend and what to invest in because we’re able to extract insights and data we’ve accumulated about our users’ taste.”
At this point, it's unclear how Spotify plans to monetize each podcast, and how this will factor into listener privacy. Back in 2016, monetization and user data privacy was one of the big complaints lobbed at Apple during a meeting between Apple executives and podcast creators.

The podcasters voiced frustration at their lack of ability to make money through subscription downloads, mainly due to insufficient access to data about their listeners. Although being more lenient about data privacy has the chance to improve the service, Apple has yet to make such a move in sacrificing user privacy for performance improvements that might benefit both podcast creators and listeners, similar to the methodology behind Siri and all other Apple services.

iTunes Podcasts was rebranded to Apple Podcasts nearly two years ago, the same year that Apple announced an overhauled Podcasts app with a richer user experience and listener analytics for creators. Toward the end of 2017, Apple acquired the podcast search startup Pop Up Archive to help improve searching and discovery in Apple Podcasts.

As of June 2018 Apple Podcasts hosts more than 18.5 million episodes of podcasts across 555,000 different shows.

Visit The Verge to read the full report on Spotify's future with podcasts: Spotify's Grand Plan for Podcasts is Taking Shape.


This article, "Spotify Focusing on Exclusives and Improved Discovery to Challenge Apple as Go-To Destination for Podcasts" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Apple Music, Apple Books, Apple Podcasts, and iTunes Gain New ‘Best of 2018’ Sections

This week, Apple shared a new press release that highlighted the best music, movies, television shows, podcasts, and books of 2018. With the announcement, Apple has now rolled out new sections in each service that highlight these pieces of media under an all-new "Best of 2018" category.



You can check out all of the new Best of 2018 collections in the Browse tabs of Apple Music and Apple Podcasts, and the Book Store tab of Apple Books. On iTunes, the section can be found by scrolling down a bit, underneath the New and Noteworthy category.


Starting with Apple Music, the central Browse tab has a few new cards today that celebrate the Artist of the Year (Drake), Album of the Year (Kacey Musgraves' "Golden Hour"), Song of the Year (Cardi B's "I Like It"), and Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Juice WRLD). Apple also accumulates all of this into a centralized Best of 2018 hub that breaks down each artist and album with text by Apple Music's editors.


This area also includes the new Best of 2018 Playlist, which Apple explains was created by dozens of Apple Music editors from all over the world and includes 100 of the best tracks of the year, across genres. There are also Top 100 playlists for the United States and Global, a full list of the top 100 most-streamed albums of the year, a look back at 2018's Up Next artists, and a Beats 1 Radio year-in-review special.

On iTunes, Apple has a Best of 2018 list with all of the movies and TV shows that dominated the year. Films include Black Panther (Movie of the Year), Annihilation, Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Green Book, Hereditary, Incredibles 2, A Star is Born, and Won't You Be My Neighbor?


TV shows include Killing Eve, The Americans, Atlanta, Barry, The Expanse, The Good Fight, The Good Place, The Handmaid's Tale, Pose, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Over in Apple Books, Apple highlights An American Marriage, The Library Book, Educated, The Witch Elm, Light It Up, Too Wilde to Wed, When Life Gives You Lululemons, Spinning Silver, There There, and Harbor Me as the best reads of 2018.


The Audiobooks tab also has a Best of 2018 section, including An American Marriage, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Something in the Water, Long Road to Mercy, Becoming, Dare to Lead, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rebound, Calypso, and The Great Alone.

On the Browse tab of Apple Podcasts, a similar Best of 2018 collection can be found. For the best Podcasts of the year, Apple's Podcasts editors chose In the Dark, Caliphate, The Dream, Slow Burn, Dr. Death, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Bubble, Wolverine: The Long Night, 99% Invisible, Serial, Bundyville, This American Life, Revisionist History, and A Very Fatal Murder.

Apple also highlighted the Most Downloaded Shows of 2018 and Most Downloaded New Shows of 2018 in this section, including Podcasts like The Daily, Pod Save America, and Conspiracy Theories.

You can also check out the best iOS and macOS apps of the year, which we shared in a post last night. Some of the notable apps picked by Apple include Procreate Pocket, Gorogoa, Pixelmator Pro, and Alto's Odyssey.


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Pandora Announces Personalized Podcast Curation With the ‘Podcast Genome Project’

Following its acquisition by SiriusXM in September, Pandora today announced that it will begin offering specialized podcast curation under the Podcast Genome Project. Similar to its Music Genome Project, the PGP will launch in a public beta format and combine human curation with advanced machine learning to offer users specific podcast recommendations, "down to the episodic level."


Pandora says that the Podcast Genome Project will evaluate content based on more than 1,500 attributes like MPAA ratings, timely topics, production style, content type, host profile, and combine this with listener signals like thumb ratings, skips, and replays. Machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and collaborative filtering methods will also work in tandem with Pandora's in-house curation team to give each user unique podcast recommendations that evolve as their preferences change.
“It might feel like podcasts are ubiquitous, but, eighty-three percent of Americans aren’t yet listening to podcasts on a weekly basis, and a majority of them report that’s because they simply don’t know where to start,” said Roger Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, Pandora. “Making podcasts - both individual episodes and series - easy to discover and simple to experience is how we plan to greatly grow podcast listening while simultaneously creating new and more sustainable ways to monetize them.”
Pandora's podcast partners include PM, Gimlet, HeadGum, Libsyn, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, and Wondery. The company says that these partners and the amount of podcasts on the platform will continue to grow over time.

Besides podcast listening, Pandora offers online radio streaming to its users, and last year launched "Pandora Premium" as a competitor to Apple Music and Spotify. At $9.99 per month, subscribers can ditch ads, search for and play any song, create playlists, download music for offline listening, and receive unlimited skips and replays.

While Apple Podcasts has been the hub for many users to listen to their favorites shows, more of the company's competitors have begun supporting podcasts as interest in the format grows. In the summer of 2017, a report by Bloomberg claimed that Spotify was planning to "come after" Apple with a strong push into podcasts, and since then it has added NPR's catalog of podcasts and the BBC's shows into the music streaming app.

Those interested in Pandora's Podcast Genome Project can sign up for the beta here.


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Spotify Continues Strong Push Into Podcasts With Addition of BBC’s Podcast Library

Spotify today announced that listeners across the globe can now tune into the BBC's podcast catalog directly within the Spotify app, including "hundreds of programs across thousands of episodes." In the announcement, the company focuses on podcast listeners in the United Kingdom, but it appears that BBC podcasts on Spotify are also appearing for users in the United States and elsewhere outside of the U.K.

The BBC podcasts on Spotify include shows from iPlayer Radio and BBC Sounds, covering numerous genres, which listeners can find in the Browse tab on Spotify. Podcast categories include Comedy, News and Politics, Educational, Sport and Recreation, Lifestyle and Health, Business and Technology, and Kids and Family.


The company also recommended a few podcasts for users, including "Short Cuts," which centers on themes like "fear" and "magical realism" through the presentation of poetry, short stories, documentaries, and more. There's also "Desert Island Discs," in which host Kirsty Young asks guests to list the items they would take if they were stranded on an island.

Prior to BBC, Spotify in May added NPR's catalog of podcasts to its app. The streaming company has been making a stronger push into podcasts since July 2017, when a report from Bloomberg claimed that Spotify was "coming after" Apple Podcasts. The company started by commissioning original podcasts about music in early 2017, and has now shifted to partnering with existing podcast creators to bolster its catalog of shows.

With the addition of these content creators, Spotify's head of podcast partnerships for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, James Cator, says that users "can now be assured of finding the perfect podcast for every moment and mood on Spotify."
“The BBC is one of the largest content creators in the UK, and have worked with the biggest and best audio talent in the world,” explains James Cator, Spotify’s Head of Podcast Partnerships, EMEA. “To have a comprehensive audio catalogue in the UK, the BBC are essential, so adding the BBC to our rapidly-expanding catalogue of podcasts was a natural partnership.” To that end, Spotify has added podcasts from iPlayer Radio and BBC Sounds to the platform, making hundreds of BBC podcasts available to Spotify users in the UK from today.
Apple rebranded iTunes Podcasts to "Apple Podcasts" in April 2017, and then at WWDC 2017 announced an overhauled podcasts app for iOS 11 that introduced changes for both listeners and podcasters. In iOS 12 this year, Apple Podcasts isn't expected to see much of a change, with beta discoveries so far limited to the introduction of custom durations for the Forward and Back options in the app.

At the time of Bloomberg's article revealing Spotify's new podcast initiative, weekly podcast newsletter author Nick Quah wrote that Apple had the majority share of the podcast market at about 55 percent. Quah then pointed out that Spotify's large user base of free and paid users (now 180 million globally) presents it with "an opportunity to steal share from Apple."


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Apple Removes Five of Six Infowars Podcast Series From iTunes Directory

Apple has removed the entire libraries of five Infowars podcasts from the Apple Podcasts platform, Buzzfeed News reported on Sunday.

Among the podcasts removed from Apple's iTunes index are "War Room" and "The Alex Jones Show", hosted by the controversial U.S. radio host and conspiracy theory peddler.

Infowars host Alex Jones

A sixth show, "Real News With David Knight", was the only Infowars podcast to survive Apple's cull, although why that would be remains unclear.

Apple does not host the podcasts per se but is responsible for running the directory for users of its stock Podcasts app. In explaining its decision to remove the five shows, Apple provided Buzzfeed with the following statement:
"Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users," a company spokesperson said.

"Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions."
In terms of reach and discoverability, the removal of the shows is just the latest in a number of blows for Alex Jones' Infowars series. Last month, Facebook suspended the host's personal profile for 30 days for what it said was hate speech and bullying, while Spotify removed several episodes of Jones' shows last week for violating its hate content policy.

Infowars was founded by Jones in 1999 and the host has garnered a large following, promoting various conspiracy theories including that the September 11 attacks were staged by the U.S. government.

Recently, the show has been heavily criticized for promoting the theory that many gun massacres reported by the U.S. media are faked by left-wing forces in order to usher in more stringent gun control measures.

Jones is currently being sued in Texas by two parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, after the host claimed the massacre was one such hoax. The Connecticut attack, which took place in 2012, left 26 children and adults dead.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Apple Podcasts Tops 555,000 Different Active Shows

Apple's Podcasts service now hosts more than 18.5 million episodes across 555,000 different "active" shows, according to a report from TechCrunch.

The podcast stats, which appears to have been sent directly to TechCrunch by Apple, include other data as well. Apple's hosted podcasts come in more than 100 languages, from 155 countries.

The podcast total is up from 525,000 back in April, and a total of fifty billion episodes have been streamed or downloaded since Podcasts launched back in 2005 (when the service had a mere 3,000 shows).

Last year, some 13.7 billion episodes were consumed, up from 10 billion in 2016. The Stuff You Should Know podcast is the most consumed, passing 500 million downloads.

TechCrunch also reports that Apple will be tightening up the rules around what podcasts can access the Podcasts Analytics service it offers, mainly around things like including Cover Art on shows and adding metadata like publication date.

Yesterday, Apple announced that a Podcasts app would be added to the Apple Watch with watchOS 5, expanding the universe of Apple devices which can consume podcasts.


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Castro Podcasts Updates With Quicker AirPlay Controls, Cleaner Layout, Apple Watch App, and More

Podcast app "Castro" updated to version 3.0 this week, introducing a collection of notable additions like a rebuilt player engine, cleaner layout, Apple Watch app, and more.

Developer Supertop Software says that Castro 3 is "much faster" when users start streaming a podcast and the app's controls are more responsive thanks to a simpler layout on the player screen. Users can now star the current episode they're listening to from the player by double tapping the artwork, and in this screen there are also newly accessible AirPlay controls for streaming podcasts to other devices with fewer steps.


Additionally, Supertop has rolled out an Apple Watch app for podcast playback, letting users control their podcasts and choose new episodes from their queue to play.

Castro is a free app to download [Direct Link], and the app supports in-app purchases for Castro Plus at $8.99 per year or $2.99 per quarter. Castro Plus offers advanced features like mono-mix, chapter skipping and selection, trim silence and enhanced voices for an improved listening experience, and more.

Many users have grown frustrated with Apple's own dedicated Podcasts app, despite an update last year that Apple said was aimed at introducing a "richer" user experience. As more and more companies begin looking into the podcast market, Apple has been making moves that should beef up its own app, including the acquisition of podcast search startup Pop Up Archive last December.


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Apple Confirms HomePod’s Supported Audio Sources in Tech Specs

Apple today updated its HomePod tech specs page with a new Audio Sources section that lists all of the ways in which the speaker can stream audio, setting the record straight on some conflicting information.


Apple Music: HomePod users can ask Siri to play any of over 45 million songs available on Apple Music. A subscription is required.

iTunes Music: HomePod users can ask Siri to play any songs, albums, or audiobooks purchased from the iTunes Store.

iCloud Music Library: HomePod users can ask Siri to play any songs uploaded to a user's iCloud Music Library, including songs imported from other sources such as CDs, with an Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription.

Beats 1: HomePod users can ask Siri to play Apple's official radio station.

Podcasts: HomePod users can ask Siri to play any podcast episodes from the iTunes podcast directory.

AirPlay: HomePod users can use AirPlay to play other audio from an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Mac. AirPlay 2, coming later this year, is only required to stream audio from these sources to multiple HomePods.

Earlier this week, iMore's Serenity Caldwell put together a useful breakdown with more detailed information about how the HomePod works with Apple Music, iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, AirPlay, and more.

HomePod orders began last week ahead of the speaker's official launch on February 9 in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Related Roundup: HomePod

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Apple Launches New Podcast Analytics Beta for Podcasters

Apple in June promised to introduce new analytics features for podcasters, providing in-episode analytics options for tracking people listening, where in a podcast listeners stop and skip content, whether ads are skipped, and how long people generally listen for.

Starting today, Apple's podcast analytics feature is rolling out in a beta capacity, reports TechCrunch.


In recent years, podcasts have been growing in popularity, which is what led Apple to finally introduce dedicated analytics tools. Apple also redesigned the Podcasts app entirely in iOS 11, implementing a much improved end user experience with better linearity for podcast episodes.

Apple's new podcasts analytics feature uses anonymized data to make sure user privacy is preserved while also allowing developers access to data that will improve their podcast performance. Data is available from iOS 11 and iTunes 12.7 users.

Podcasters can access the new analytics options for free starting today in iTunes Connect.


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Apple Acquires Podcast Search Startup ‘Pop Up Archive’

Apple has acquired podcast search startup Pop Up Archive, according to Harvard University's Nieman Lab via AppleInsider.


Apple more or less confirmed the report by issuing its standard statement about acquisitions: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Pop Up Archive was an Oakland-based online platform focused on building tools to transcribe, organize, and search audio files, including a podcast search engine Audiosear.ch, according to the report.
Pop Up Archive was founded in 2012, and has since grown off an extended series of seed investments and grants from sources like Bloomberg Beta, 500 Startups, and the Knight Foundation, among others. The company also has a close relationship with PRX; in 2012, the two organizations partnered up to build PRX’s original web-based archive system.
Both the Pop Up Archive and Audiosear.ch websites state that operations shut down on November 28, 2017, presumably around the time Apple acquired the startup. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

While no other details about the acquisition were shared, it can be assumed that Pop Up Archive's search tools could be used to improve podcast search and discovery in Apple's official Podcasts app for iPhone and iPad.


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