Last summer, Spotify acquired podcast search platform Podz for about $49.4 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, spurring the streamer’s massive investment in podcasts. Spotify is now testing a feature that uses the startup’s technology to help users discover new podcasts, the company confirmed.
Podz originally tried to solve the problem of finding podcasts with what it called “First Audio News Feed”. That is, it provided users with 60-second audio clips from various shows that you could scroll through in a vertical feed, 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 create their own clips for their feed. Instead, it uses a machine learning model trained on nearly 100,000 hours of audio to automatically select which clips to show.
At the time, Spotify touted the acquisition as a way to create and scale a better and more personalized podcast search within its app. With this test, we can see for the first time what such a function might look like.
Product Designer and Early Technician Chris Messina Tweeted about the test and posted a video of the feature, which was first spotted on the Twitter account. @sleepwellcapYou can see the new experience in action here.
— Chris Messina (@chrismessina) March 26, 2022
A dedicated Podcast button will take you to a 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 in the clip highlighted as they are spoken. There is a play button for listening to shows and a “+” button for adding podcasts to the saved list.
Since this is just a test, it’s worth noting that this feature is subject to change before the public launch. This feature can also be used to help Spotify understand how users would use such an option, which can be used to inform the development of future products. In other words, there is no guarantee that you will see the same vertical audio clip feed in your Spotify app anytime soon.
Spotify has confirmed that it has tested the Podz technology on this experience, but will not fix a launch date or plans. (Because Podz is powered by machine learning, Spotify may want to collect more data before launch to improve the service.)
“At Spotify, we regularly run multiple tests to improve our user experience,” a spokesperson said. “Some of these tests ultimately pave the way for our comprehensive user experience, while others only serve as important lessons. We don’t have any other news to report at this time.”
Podz was one of several startups that came up with new ways to help people find more podcasts – a search problem that’s hard to solve because many podcasts are over 30 minutes long, making it hard to find a good one. Show idea. Get content or host identity quickly and easily.
Podz’s solution was to rely on machine learning technology, but other startups had other ideas. For example, Moonbeam, a new startup by Kayak co-founder Paul English, relies on human editorial curation combined with machine learning techniques for its TikTok-inspired app. The vertical feed format has also been used in podcast-related apps such as Racket, which provides 99-second audio clips that are more like audio stories than shows, and with audio snippets from Facebook.