Spotify acquired podcast discovery platform Podz last summer for about $49.4 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, to help accelerate the streamer’s significant investments in podcasts. Now Spotify is testing a feature that leverages the startup’s technology to help users find new podcasts they might like, the company has confirmed.
Podz originally tried to solve the podcast discovery problem with something he called the “first audio newsfeed”. Simply put, it presented users with 60-second audio clips from various shows that you would scroll through in a vertical stream, similar to the format popularized by social apps like TikTok. What made the company’s technology interesting was that it didn’t rely on podcast creators to produce their own clips for its feed. Instead, it used a machine learning model that had been trained on some 100,000 hours of audio to help automatically select which clips to showcase.
At the time, Spotify touted the acquisition as a way to build and scale a better, more personalized podcast discovery experience on its app. With this test, we have a first glimpse of what such a feature could look like.
Product designer and technology early adopter Chris Messina tweeted about the test and posted a video of the feature, which was first discovered by the Twitter account @SleepwellCap. Here you can see the new experience in action.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) March 26, 2022
A dedicated “Podcasts” button takes you into the vertical feed, where you’ll see the show’s cover art while the audio clip is playing. The clip is also transcribed as you listen with the words of the clips highlighted as they are spoken. There’s a play button to continue listening to the show and a “+” button to add the podcast to your saved list.
Since this is only a test, it should be noted that functionality may change before a public launch. The feature can also simply be used to help Spotify understand how users would engage with such an option, which could then be used to inform future product developments. In other words, there’s no guarantee that you’ll soon see the same vertical stream of audio clips in your own Spotify app.
Spotify confirmed its testing of Podz’s technology through the experiment, but wouldn’t commit to a launch date or plans.
“At Spotify, we regularly run a number of tests with the aim of improving our user experience,” a spokesperson said. “Some of these tests end up paving the way for our broader user experience and some just serve as important learning. We have no further news to share at this time.”
Podz had been one of many startups creating new ways to help people find more podcasts they might like – a discovery challenge that was difficult to overcome because many podcasts are longer than 30 minutes, which makes it hard to get a good feel for a show. content or the personality of the hosts in a simple and fast way.
Podz’s solution was to rely on machine learning technology, but other startups pursued different ideas. For example, Moonbeam, a new startup from Kayak co-founder Paul English, relies on human editorial curation mixed with machine learning techniques for its TikTok-inspired app. The vertical stream format has also been used in podcast-adjacent apps, like Racket, which offers 99-second audio clips that look more like audio stories than shows, and with Facebook’s Soundbites.