I’m Worried About Spotify’s Latest Move To Lock Me In

Spotify has made some interesting moves this week, advancing its move into the podcasting space while doing its best to quietly lock listeners and creators into its proprietary island of audio

First up is an announcement for listeners. Spotify’s latest exclusive show is the classic ‘two men sitting around a table and talking about things in America.’ That the two hosts are Bruce Springsteen and Barak Obama is what will catch the eye of many. 

What caught my eye was the ‘exclusive’ tag. If you want to listen to this serialised audio show, you have to go into Spotify’s own app player. There’s no option to bring this into the open world of podcasting because it’s locked behind an app-wall, although not yet behind a paywall. 

This might not be a Spotify exclusive for ever; the previous audio show from the Obama’s production company Higher Ground gained a podcast release as a Spotify Original (as in it was available for any podcast player to pick up) a few weeks after the first season was finished. But once more here’s Spotify locking up ‘podcasting’ away from the community.

Which leads me to another of Spotify’s announcement this week; the launch of interactive tools that podcast creators can use to create feature such as Q&A spots and listener podcasts. Naturally these are available through Anchor – the podcast creation platform that Spotify paid $140 million for in 2019. This means Spotify endears itself to creators, presumably in exchange for capturing their traffic data and pulling more shows into the company’s orbit.

I should be happy about all of this. Podcasting is still in a growth phase, and this all helps. Big name shows increase the visibility of the space, which brings in more listeners, which brings in more searches for other shows. I should love the idea of more interactive options for creators that are easy to implement that create conversations between host and listener.

Spotify is not alone in trying to create an innovative and profitable space. Any good business is going to want some defensible areas, But when I see product offerings being driven by for-profit companies that seek to ring-fence any contributions I worry.

I don’t want the direction of podcasting to be primarily defined by a company’s responsibility to its shareholders.