🗯️ A Text Discussion” About Spotify and Podcasting

June 19, 2020 🗯️

Below is the back and forth between me and my cousin yesterday discussing Spotify and it’s role/dominance of podcasting vs the open RSS standard. I always have fun arguing with him so hopefully that comes across.

There are probably better arguments that could be made by better people than me who are more knowledgeable of podcasting and the open web, but oh well.

This is unedited so please forgive me for typos. Bold and footnotes added after the fact for fun.

Me:

https://song.link/https://music.apple.com/us/album/devastator/1500491999

Assuming you already know, but 🤷‍♂️

J:

What is that website?

The guest is the best

Me:

The guest is the best, but this is new… and it’s song.link. I have a button on my phone that turns Apple Music links into song.link’s so anyone can open in their default service.

i.e. those who support the Spotify overlords who are trying to kill podcasting in the open web.

J:

Spotify is King

All Hail Spotify

You see it went up like 15% in the market today after the Kim K news?

Me:

Yeah because they are evil and hate the open web.

J:

welcome to America baby

Capitalism

Me:

Podcast = RSS. No RSS = 🖕

J:

this is just the evolution of podcasting

Premium podcasting

You could make that argument for original tv with antennas

Then cable came around w premium stuff1

Me:

Premium/Paid podcasting can be done without proprietary platforms.

J:

yes but ppl and companies want to make money

And they can just license out ppl to make podcasts for higher quality with more interesting ppl than the average podcaster

And technically Spotify podcasts are still free with ads, no?

Me:

But you have to listen IN Spotify2

J:

Spotify is a distributor. What else do you expect them to do?

Netflix doesn’t just let everything on their library exist on other platforms.

Otherwise the switching cost is zero

They need things that make Spotify unique in order to increase the switching cost3

Me:

No they need things to offset the cost of music because it’s not a cash cow.

J:

Spotify is making bank on ads and premium subscriptions

They’ve finally started turning a profit

Me:

Finally - keyword

J:

yeah. So how do they sustain increased revenues? They make their product more sticky and harder to leave by offering exclusive content

Me:

And then CPMs for the actual podcasters go down and Spotify becomes the gatekeeper for podcasts so you are beholden to their rules and their desires. Which also results in the ability of discovery and chances of success for new podcasters finishing greatly.

diminishing*

J:

I’m very okay with Spotify being the gatekeeper of premium podcasts. The barrier to entry is too low and the ecosystem is over saturated. It’s like YouTube.

Hail Spotify!

Me:

No. They will become YouTube in the sense that creators will be beholden to their algorithm to even get noticed and have lower CPMs than they do today.

And their app for podcasts is probably the worst thing ever.

J:

I’m not familiar w YouTube’s app for podcasts

Me:

Spotifys*

J:

I’m okay with your above explanation

I think their algorithm works

I don’t have a better way to go about finding content

And I don’t want to put In the work. I want shit curated for me4

I’m hoping Spotify makes adjustments to the design of the podcast section of their app

Me:

Cause it’s trash.

J:

Yeah i wouldn’t say it’s trash. I think it’s done what it needs to do but podcasts are becoming more premium and front and center. It used to be a niche audience or there would be one or two that caught main stream attention.5 I think Apple and Spotify are realizing that their apps are the future of all listening experiences and has potential to replace radio altogether

Me:

I fine with Apple because (at the moment) they support an open ecosystem. (Open does not mean free). There are hundreds of paid podcasts through Patreon, Substack, and other services that can be listened to in any app EXCEPT Spotify. And if your podcast is on Spotify, they have the right to alter and insert anything they want into it.

J:

Yeah that doesn’t bother me at all

Me:

And this is why people suck6

J:

What do you expect them to do? They’re a publicly held company.7

Me:

They can have exclusive podcasts to subscribers and still be open.

J:

It makes sense to me from a business stand point and a consumer standpoint8

Me:

They can have exclusive podcasts to subscribers and still be open.9

J:

Maybe less so from a creator standpoint but creators can take their business elsewhere or get a pay check from Spotify

I guess I don’t know enough about how podcasts work

Because I’m not sure what your argument is anymore

Idk whT it means to be open”

Me:

I’ll leave you alone and let you kneel to your Spotify overlords. Love you. 😘

J:

Me:

Me, a bit later:

Dithering and Open Versus Free | Stratechery

If you are actually interested. Stratechery is a great blog that I pay for, I believe this is outside the paywall. It’s one guy who is my favorite writer when it comes to the intersection of business/strategy/technology

J, even later:

Great thanks

I read it

He sounds like a guy who has had success in the Wild West of podcasting and is afraid of the winds of change

Me:

So he only recently (45 days max) started turning his blog into a podcast (it’s just him reading his blog posts) and has held this same position for years. With that said, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I believe in the open web.

J:

i love the open web10

And it will still exist

Just not on Spotify

Me:

You can’t have a website without google now. You can’t do video without YouTube. You can’t have a native app without abiding Apples rules. And I love Apple. (Yes I know Android is a thing). This is what Spotify wants and it’s a bad thing for the ecosystem in general for creators and consumers. You can still love them and I’ll still love you.

J:

STOP LOVING ME IMMEDIATELY

Me:

YouTube became a thing because bandwidth and storage was so expensive at the time. If we had open directories for video like we do for podcasts today the world would be better. 100%. YouTube’s algorithm is no bueno. Listen to NY Times Rabbit Hole podcast series.

J:

I did listen to it

It’s hard to agree that it’s no bueno when it’s extremely successful at predicting what you want to watch even when you don’t realize you want to watch it

Me:

Hard disagree. The attention grabbing nature of all social media is no bueno.

J:

That’s the world tho. Everything is competing with everything for consumer attention

Me:

And the world is 2020 is superb.11

J:

There are pros and cons for sure

Me:

Nobody takes responsibility for shit. And when that’s the case, having one entity control anything is more con than pro.

J:

I’d like to see news organizations broken up. My issue w this topic is that news organizations are competing for our time and are using click bait and attention grabber omg tactics. The news, even npr at times, never feels neutral.

I think Spotify is taking responsibility.12 They’re owning the content on their platform. Far less opportunity for people to spread hate speech and lies when they facilitate as moderators.

Also again, they’re a capitalistic company

People will still make podcasts off of Spotify

And some will get press

But why would Spotify not make original content exclusive to Spotify users off any public RSS feed? It’s a no brainer to me that they’d do this.

Me:

Private RSS. Best of both worlds. Open but paid.

J:

It’s too easy to be a creator these days, the market is over saturated. Which is why it’s up to distributors (YouTube and Spotify) to distribute content in an easy to consume fashion.

Yeah I just don’t get your passion for rss

It prob comes from a lack of knowledge on my end

But I don’t have any issue w Spotify closing this off from what I understand of it all

Me:

To the first one, every app, including Apple and Google do a great job of curating and are all open.

J:

Google and Apple’s entire business model isn’t based on monetizing audio experiences.

Me:

Yes. But Pocket Casts, Overcast, Castro and many others are superior experiences to Spotify and rely on open standards.

J:

Superior experiences”

Me:

In terms of podcasting. Yes. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be talking away from the quotes…

The Next Day

J:

Opinion - Is It Finally Hammer Time for Apple and It’s App Store

Me:

Haven’t read Swishers piece yet but I’ve been following the back and forth. It’s why I said You can’t have a native app without abiding Apples rules. And I love Apple. (Yes I know Android is a thing).” Yesterday when discussing Spotify’s control over the ecosystem for podcasting.13

J:

I know Kevin!!!

That’s why I sent it

Me:

😘

I apologize. I like to argue. But love you.

J:

I love you too [redacted name]14

Me:

I like Swisher a lot though. She’s great.

J:

I mean cousin kevin*

Me:

🖕

J:

Lol irl


  1. Didn’t get to it here, but this isn’t a great metaphor from J. TV still required owning a channel, which is must more difficult than spinning up a website and RSS feed, even in the early days of the web/RSS/podcasting.

  2. As you will see throughout the conversation, I never really gave an explanation of why I prefer listening to podcasts in Overcast. I don’t think that is necessary for the bones of the argument, but may have helped in the long run.

  3. This is definitely a better metaphor than the cable TV one, but video has never really been an open web thing, since YouTube was pretty early to absorb the costs of storing video on the web.

  4. Lazy bastard.

  5. Starting to feel very much of the Serial invented podasting,” Conan invented podcasting,” etc. etc. etc. 🙄

  6. mostly meant in jest

  7. I was referring to the people that flock to Spotify for podcasts, not Spotify themselves.

  8. No, not from the consumer standpoint. At all.

  9. Yes, I did just copy and paste and send the same thing back to him.

  10. Eh, doesn’t really seem like it, J.

  11. 🛎️

  12. Too early to say, we will see…

  13. 🛎️ - Seeing Apple and Hey is a prime example of what Spotify can and will do when they have enough market dominance.

  14. This was an inside joke and jab at me, redacted name to hide personal information.


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