YouTube better watch out. Spotify on Tuesday announced the introduction of “video podcasts” on the music-streaming service — so that instead of just hearing beloved personalities talk about preferred topics, fans can also see their faces and observe their behavior and surroundings.
The so-called “vodcasts,” available to Spotify free and premium users alike, will offer visual material from podcasts including The Morning Toast, Fantasy Footballers, The Rooster Teeth Podcast, and Book of Basketball 2.0.
“We know that many listeners also enjoy watching their favorite podcasts,” Lauren Jarvis, Head of Content Partnerships at Spotify, tells Rolling Stone. “This new feature brings an audio and visual experience to fans, deepening how they connect with their favorite podcasters on Spotify.”
For now, only select podcasters will be able to upload video podcasts, but every one of Spotify’s 250 million worldwide users will be able to access that content. Videos will start automatically when a user presses play on an approved podcast. And ignoring the video won’t stop the conversation. Multi-tasking users will be able to toggle between apps and lock their phones without interrupting the audio stream, which will continue in the background regardless.
For years now, podcasters have released their official audio to podcast-specific platforms like the Google and Apple podcast apps for android and iOS users, respectively, and then gone to video-hosting behemoth YouTube with a visual component that served as bonus content. So, YouTube got a huge corner of the market without even having to try. (Since people already associated the user-friendly YouTube with easy-to-upload videos, of course that would be the first place they’d think to turn to.)
Spotify became an aggregate of select podcasts — ones already available via the likes of Google and Apple — in 2015. But they didn’t open the concept up to all their users until the fall of 2018, and according to Epic Studios, podcast listening on Spotify then grew by 175% by the end of the year. Spotify now says their podcast audience has nearly doubled since the start of 2019.
According to Edison Research’s recent study, podcast listening in America is at an all-time high, with 37% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 listening to a podcast every month — up from 24% in 2017. Why wouldn’t Spotify try to corner the market? If all podcast-related content was available in one place, Spotify could become the most popular hub for an ever-growing form of entertainment. And that could result in more Spotify subscribers overall.
Video plays from music-tech companies seem to be all the rage right now: Spotify’s new feature comes just six days after Facebook announced a function that will allow artists to upload music videos directly to the social media platform.