from the hopefully-not dept
If you follow this kind of news at all, you probably have heard that Spotify has recently purchased two podcasting companies: Gimlet Media and Anchor. Gimlet makes a ton of high quality, highly produced podcasts (it’s like the HBO of podcasting), while Anchor is a combination of a podcasting advertising network and a set of tools to let anyone create their own podcasts easily (it’s like the SqaureSpace of podcasts). On the one hand, it’s good to see podcasts getting some attention and interest, and Spotify is clearly one of the largest services for listening to audio files — though much more so on the music side.
My concern, however, is about the potential walling off of the podcast world. The whole concept of podcasts from the early days was the idea that anyone could create them and anyone could access them. That’s been changing a bit of late. There have been a growing number of exclusive and walled off podcasts, including on Spotify (but also on Stitcher with its Stitcher Premium and Slate with its Slate Plus program — and likely others as well).
And obviously, it’s nice to see experimentation around business models regarding podcasts, but as some are already pointing out, this could be another nail in the coffin for the idea of an open web.
And as Facebook did earlier with text, Spotify will take all the good bits of open web podcasting (e.g. A great directory based on RSS, no tracking, etc) and add ?exclusive content? that?s is walled off.
— Carlos Moffat (@carlosmoffat) February 7, 2019
In an interview about the Gimlet deal, Gimlet’s co-founders insisted that they didn’t think it was going to lead to this sort of fragmentation for existing podcasts, but future podcasts might be a different story.
Alex Blumberg: Yeah, I mean, well, Spotify said themselves this morning on the earning call that they have no intention of taking the shows that are out there that Gimlet produces and putting them behind a paywall. So those will continue to be freely distributed.
Matt Lieber: Or make an exclusivity to Spotify, the existing shows.
Alex Blumberg: Yeah. Yes. The existing shows will not be made exclusive to Spotify. They will continue … you?ll continue to get them where you get them now. And yeah, going forward, I think it?s going to be a mix. This is a new world, and we?re trying to figure out how it works. And so it?ll be a mix of exclusive things that we make exclusively for Spotify, like we?re doing right now with Mogul or things that are windowed or things that are a mix of the two. I think there?s gonna be a lot of experimentation.
Frankly, the idea of windowed podcasts doesn’t bother me that much — releasing versions a bit earlier to subscribers seems like a reasonable business model for some kinds of content. But creating full exclusives, building a fragmented world of podcasting with walled gardens sounds like a disaster for the medium. There are already people complaining about all the walled gardens in video entertainment content. We don’t need to add to that with podcasts, when the podcast world has already shown that an open, standards-based system built on RSS works just fine.