Spotify Makes Moves With New Multimedia Podcast Format

After Apple bought a podcast search engine and Pandora wanted to make a “podcast Genome Project”, it is now Spotify’s turn to make a move in the podcasting space. Yesterday they announced “Spotlight” which adds visuals to podcasts.

From a Spotify press release:

Today, Spotify launches its new multimedia format, Spotlight, which introduces visual layers to complement the listening experience for podcasts, audiobooks, news, and other audio content.

A few questions spring to mind:

  1. The strength of podcasts is that they occupy those moments when your eyes are busy. Why add visuals to a medium that is usually playing from a phone in your pocket? I can totally understand the use case for adding more images (true crime podcasts could add maps and photos) but I want them as rich show notes that I can look at after I’ve finished listening.

  2. How many visuals to you need to add to audio before you’ve just made a video? I was trolling when I tweeted yesterday “As Slate pivots to audio, Spotify pivots to video”, but it is becoming a cliché to “pivot to video”. In the worst case, this is just another video product (and Spotify doesn’t have a great history with video) or in the best case, I’m thinking of it as almost a ‘simplification’ of video where users treat it like a new video product where you don’t have to watch the video. If you are sitting on a bus and want to watch it then great, if you’re driving then you can just listen to the audio.

  3. Does it work offline?

  4. Since it is an additive experience, I would love to see Spotify open this format up to all podcast creators not just select parters. Potentially they could add some Spotify-specific tags in the RSS spec as RadioPublic did.