Spotify versus Apple Podcasts: The podcast analytics race has begun
Photo: chris robert
First announced at Podcast Movement in August 2023, Spotify is now rolling out new features and analytics tools to aid podcast discovery. While Apple Podcast’s recent updates target a specific type of creator — creators with subscriptions (and therefore, established audiences) — Spotify is casting a wider creator net and focusing on empowering lesser-known creators to customise their pages.
Empowering creator customisation
In the hyper-competitive entertainment landscape, all podcast platforms must do more to improve podcast discoverability, but Spotify even more so. This is because while Apple Podcasts hosts podcasts only, Spotify is now home to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. A key element for the company is ensuring creators know how their content is discovered and the impression their show makes on new ears.
Spotify podcasters can now customise their show pages to include links to their social pages as well as recommendations for episodes of their show and other podcasts they are listening to. Highlighting a “best place to start” episode allows creators to put their best foot forward for new listeners who could be completely new to podcasts. Allowing a creator to pick their top shows encourages cross-promotion and adds a human element to curation. Podcasters can feature shows they interview on or ones they reference to minimise listeners’ need to search. Moreover, podcasters can create playlists of favourite songs and podcast episodes to maximise their audience reach and form deeper bonds with listeners.
This creator customisation also translates to Spotify’s home page. As part of its redesign, podcast and audiobook clips immediately start playing as listeners scroll through their feeds. While Spotify initially relied on machine learning to generate these clips, creators can now select what is played in the preview, giving creators control over another first impression of their show. By comparison, Apple Podcasts pages lack this level of customisation. This makes Spotify's podcaster pages potentially a more powerful discovery tool.
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Introducing (incomplete) impressions
As Spotify oversaturates with podcasts, now hosting over five million audio podcasts and 100,000 video podcasts, it is crucial for creators to understand how listeners are discovering their shows within the platform. Spotify is introducing impression analytics to show creators those parts of the platform bringing them the most eyes – Spotify Home, Search, or Library — but not necessarily ears. An Impression occurs when a user is shown the podcast but does not tell you whether they actually click through to listen to it. Much like a podcast download, impressions are an inconclusive metric. For example, while many users could have seen a podcast on the home page, perhaps more users tuned in after specifically searching for it.For this metric to be more useful, Spotify should have a conversion rate from each place of discovery.
Moreover, analytics are only useful insofar as they are actionable. For instance, a podcaster could have more impressions from Home and less from Search, illustrating more general reach rather than users actively trying to find their show. A user could be searching for the podcast based on word-of-mouth recommendation, already committing to listening to it without ever looking at a creators’ description or artwork. Impression analytics cannot track word-of-mouth suggestions or discovery on other platforms like TikTok which could have led a user to search for the show on Spotify. Ultimately, Spotify’s Impression tool is a positive step forward for podcast analytics but it is just the start of what creators need to improve their discoverability.
The competition for creators
While Apple Podcasts is prioritising podcasters with established audiences and subscriptions — including major publishers like its partnership with The Economist and Bloomberg — Spotify is targeting the long-tail of podcast creators. Creators do not necessarily have to pick between them, as podcasters can publish their shows on all major platforms simultaneously. Creators could start prioritising publishing their subscription content on Apple Podcasts rather than Spotify, or vice versa, depending on their earnings and audience engagement. If a long-tail podcaster on Spotify becomes successful enough to begin charging a subscription they might decide to do so on Apple Podcasts, such that Apple becomes the place podcasters go after ‘graduating’ from Spotify. Thus, podcasting platforms are competing for creators just as much as they compete for listeners, with each helping drive the other — analytics are becoming an ever-more-important part of that puzzle.