Spotify’s ambitions from expanding from primarily a music platform to leveraging podcast and audiobooks are well known. Music royalties are expensive, so it makes sense for Spotify to focus on getting listeners to spend more time listening to content that isn’t as costly to the company. As Spotify seeks to become a destination for all audio content, I spent time using it as my primary podcast player to see how it stacks up compared to apps like Overcast, Pocket Casts, Castro, and Player FM.
One app to rule your ears
I’ve had a Spotify account for years, but I primarily use Apple Music for all of my music. As part of this experiment, I cleaned up my Spotify to match my Apple Music library. I was going all in for this experiment.
There’s an argument to be made for creating a great app experience in terms of unifying everything inside a single app vs. separating them. For example, do you want your music mixed in with podcasts? Is it easier to find new shows? Apple used to have an iPod app on the iPhone where it had all your music and videos, but they eventually separated it.
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think I can sum it up to this: it’s tough to make a great music and podcast app as an all-in-one app, but if you can pull it off, it’ll be amazing. Unfortunately, after spending time with Spotify, I can say that they haven’t — not for how I use podcasts and music, anyways. So, if you’re looking for the TL;DR of this article, Spotify is an excellent option if you listen to a few podcasts in your free time, but you primarily listen to music. However, if you’re like me, and you spend more time listening to podcasts than you do any other kind of audio content, a dedicated app will better serve you.
The Home tab
When you first launch the Home tab in the morning, you’ll see a “Good Morning” section with recent shows that have new episodes along with playlist recommendations. Then, as you scroll, you’ll have a mix of shows you might like, playlists with new songs, your recently played items, your Made for your section, and more.
I wish Spotify focused more on promoting entire albums from a music perspective, but that’s not their approach. From a podcast perspective, it’s simply not how I consume my shows. I want to know what’s new and not what Spotify chooses to tell me is new.
Spotify’s library section has seen some new upgrades recently to help make things easier to find. I wish they’d break out their tabs like this: Home, Music, and Podcasts. The company should move the search option to the top right of the Home tab and remove it from the main navigation.
Inside the Library tab, you see a new episodes filter. Tapping it on shows a stream of the latest episodes starting with today. There’s no way to sort this, unfortunately. So, if you want to group by show or reverse the order, you’re out of luck.
If you tap on Podcasts & Shows, you’ll see a list of your followed shows, and then you can sort by recently updated, recently played, recently added, alphabetical, or by the creator. Tapping on a show shows you all episodes in this list instead of your unplayed ones. If you only listen to a few shows or aren’t concerned with what episodes you’ve heard to vs. not, you’ll be fine here, but if you’re like me and listen to 30+ shows and your organization in a dedicated app is highly filtered, you’ll end up incredibly confused.
I know it’s easy to say that Spotify should give you the customization like an Overcast or Pocket Casts, but that’s the recommendation. In addition, Spotify needs to take a hard look at how its interface scales as you subscribe to more shows.
Private feeds, paid podcasts, and more
Spotify can’t add custom RSS feeds, so if you get ad-free shows via a Patreon subscription, you’ll be out of luck. However, they offer integration with paid podcasts through its new Spotify Open Access Platform (OAP). For example, If you subscribe to Dithering.fm, you can see the interface. The idea is that instead of adding your custom feed, Spotify can talk to third-party companies to add that show to your library. It works well, but I’d personally love to see the ability to add an RSS feed.
Like Apple, Spotify also gives creators the ability to offer subscriptions for additional content, ad-free episodes, etc.
Wrap up on Spotify Podcasts experiment
A lot of people in the podcast ecosystem initially brushed off Spotify’s interest in podcasting. I admit I don’t particularly appreciate showing locked up in Spotify’s app, but they make their exclusive shows available to free users.
Truthfully, I love that Spotify is bringing attention to podcasts and making it easier for people to listen. The podcast experience in the Spotify app needs a little bit of work, though. It’s built for people who listen to a handful of shows, so as people begin to consume more and more content, it’s going to struggle to scale as a good experience.
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