What Spotify for Podcasters Could Tell Us About the Future of Podcast Data

Image courtesy of Spotify

Image courtesy of Spotify

Last week, Spotify took its Spotify for Podcasters dashboard out of beta, giving podcast creators a deeper understanding of who is listening to their show. The insights provided have the opportunity to change how podcasters understand their audience, create and distribute their content, and monetize their podcast.

While still a distant second place behind Apple, Spotify has solidified itself as a real destination for podcast listeners in the past year. Some splashy acquisitions earlier in 2019 distracted from an update to their mobile UX, which placed podcast content equal to music — a change that seemed to emphasize the company’s focus.

With the launch of Spotify for Podcasters, the streaming service may have made their most interesting move yet.

Diving Into Spotify’s Data

Upon logging into the Spotify for Podcasters dashboard a few days ago, I was taken aback by the amount of data that was provided. For years, podcasters have operated with a limited view of their audience. Who is really listening? Because of Apple’s tight grip on listener data, audience insights have remained largely anecdotal, especially for those who have been unable to foster and interact with their community of listeners.

Spotify is clearly making a statement, as podcasters now have more visibility into their audience demographics and behavior than ever before, albeit only as it relates to Spotify users. The dashboard offers four major metrics, including Starts, Streams, Listeners, and Followers. Additionally, podcasters can see breakdowns of age, gender, country, and even the top artists their audience listens to.

Image courtesy of Spotify

Image courtesy of Spotify

I spent a good deal of time looking over the data — some of it reaffirming my assumptions while other metrics raised my eyebrows. I couldn’t help but feel like I was looking directly at our audience for the first time. But that’s where it starts to get tricky.

Like most podcasters, Spotify is not my largest source of downloads or streams, although there has been a slow increase in their slice of the pie over the past six months. Does what Spotify tells me about my listeners on their platform give me a true picture of my overall audience? The answer is probably both yes and no. But more importantly, their willingness to offer these insights increases the chances that others will follow suit.

So What Comes Next?

At last week’s Podcast Movement 2019 conference in Orlando, I had the opportunity to speak with a few of the developers of Spotify for Podcasters and ask some questions about the future of the platform. The conversation ranged from the idea of applying their music curation algorithms to podcasts to the possibility of breaking down the wall between music and podcast content, serving both in equal measure, in one location.

Although there are no clear answers right now, one thing seems certain: Spotify is committed to challenging the norms of the industry. While it’s difficult to imagine that their willingness to open the vault on listener data will have any effect in swaying Apple to do the same in the near future, it certainly raises some questions on what would happen if they did.

Imagine if podcasters could give a true picture of their demographic breakdown to potential advertisers. Imagine if brands could connect the dots between their customer base and the audience of their podcast. These are the kinds of insights that traditional media has never been able to provide with as much accuracy, and would truly elevate podcasts as a premier medium. If you knew all of this information about your listeners, how would it change the way you create and market your show?

We’re not quite there yet, but we’re closer than we were a week ago. And that’s exciting news for all podcasters — no matter what the goals of your show are.