In the Spotlight: Spotify’s new multimedia podcast strategy explained

19 Jan 2018

Spotify mobile app. Image: Hemin Xylan/Shutterstock

Spotify is aiming to offer news and political coverage as part of its new ‘Spotlight’ initiative.

Earlier in January, reports of Spotify beginning its journey towards an IPO surfaced, and this latest initiative from the company will shake up the streaming landscape in a major way.

The new multimedia format is called ‘Spotlight’ and it aims to provide visual layers to enhance the listening experience for podcasts, audiobooks and current affairs, among others.

Major media names

Spotify is partnering with eight companies to make Spotlight a reality, from podcast network Gimlet Media and Refinery29 to BuzzFeed News.

The new content will only be available in the US at first, with plans to expand further down the road a strong likelihood.

The company is aiming to leverage news and current affairs programming (among other categories) in order to boost profitability by competing with radio stations ahead of going public.

The listening experience will be augmented as opposed to seeing a major interface change on the Spotify app itself. If a visual podcast has a video component, it will pop up on the left side, according to The Verge.

Brand new format

Courtney Holt, head of studios and video at Spotify, described Spotlight as “a new format that merges great storytelling, news, information and opinion with visual elements, all delivered in playlist form across a number of content categories”.

Holt also emphasised the importance of playlists, a USP that Spotify is pushing hard: “Playlists play an important role in the daily lives of our users, bringing them closer together to the creators they love.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Holt said Spotify is trying to “build something new”.

Editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, Ben Smith, compared the partnership to the heyday of MTV News in the 1980s and 1990s, and spoke of his excitement at the new project: “We’re incredibly excited to bring together our award-winning audio team, world-class journalism, and Spotify’s massive, dynamic platform to get listeners up to speed every morning.

“I can’t wait to see this project get off the ground next week and grow along with the future of news.”

Co-founder and president of Gimlet Media, Matt Lieber, said: “Everything at Gimlet begins with audio; and with Spotlight, through new visual expressions of shows, we hope to reach new listeners in fresh and original ways.”

Spotify mobile app. Image: Hemin Xylan/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects