Winners and losers
Spotify (34%) and Apple (21%) together control most of the music and podcast streaming market. Marketing dollars aside, the reasons for their dominance include ease of use, value for money, and, of course, content choices. After all, these behemoths have amassed what must be the largest audio content libraries in history.
But the two platforms (and Amazon, a third incumbent), still have some blind spots and pain points that can be exploited by the countless alternative audio apps and platforms.
And while it’s going to be difficult to beat these apps in music, the rising popularity of podcasts presents a unique opportunity for apps vying for market share.
The Discovery, search, and sharing challenges
With tens of millions of podcast episodes available, listeners are reporting that it is increasingly difficult to find the diamonds in the rough. According to a recent Audioburst survey, 60% of listeners say great content is difficult to find.
And according to other surveys, word of mouth is still the main way listeners come across good podcasts.
Spotify, Apple, and Amazon are all trying to address the discovery challenge by making podcast suggestions to listeners based on their listening history.
But it’s highly inaccurate, mostly because you don’t know what you don’t know.
And the price you pay for poor recommendations is pretty high – If you spend 15 minutes on a podcast and then figure out it’s just not for you, that time is lost forever.
Users also lack a way to search for podcasts. The search functionality only picks up on basic podcast-level or episode-level description and metadata.
Last, social sharing of audio, especially of specific “audio moments,” is extremely limited.
And so, while the big platforms struggle to figure out discovery, search, and sharing, the challengers can catch up by adopting technologies that do just that. Solving these pain points means keeping users engaged longer and exposing content to new listeners (and then, in turn, engaging those users longer).
Here are the three killer features, all possible today through advanced AI-based solutions, that can help audio apps beat the incumbents:
1. In-pod search
Apps should try to become the go-to source for audio answers about any subject by allowing users to search for specific moments from any podcast (or song).
If a true crime fan searches for “Madeleine McCann” on Spotify today, only podcast series or entire episodes dedicated to the disappearance of the British girl (and tagged as such) will appear.
But an app trying to give Spotify a run for its money could enable a granular search through any podcast episode mentioning McCann at any point. This would allow the listener to tap and listen to the exact part of the conversation mentioning McCann, even if it’s in the context of a larger discussion about British-Portuguese relations.
2. Audio Feeds
The incumbents don’t allow scrolling, skimming, and “tasting” audio. Segmenting entire podcasts into short clips, which we call “bursts,” and allowing them to be grouped in different ways, could allow for exciting types of discovery modes.
- Exploration Mode: A highlight reel with various podcast episode highlights, curated from new sources, would allow users to discover great content from new shows.
- For You: A TikTok-like personalized feed of podcast bursts about pre-defined topics of interest, allowing listeners to fill a few minutes with byte-sized content so they can catch up on topics they care about. Potentially, this could even be a mix of podcast bursts with music, mixed together based on an existing listening profile.
3. Social Sharing of bursts
When it comes to growth hacks, content-based products tend to market themselves.
And indeed, there’s a clear correlation between Spotify’s initial organic explosion and the ability to share on Facebook.
But how often do your friends share audio content on social media today? There’s a reason for that, and it’s this – even if they did share a 45-minute clip, who would listen to something that long? Probably not.
That may be why Spotify acquired Podz, a startup that followed our lead and ventured into curating short-form audio content.
By segmenting audio to bursts and allowing/encouraging listeners to share short-form content on social media, the audio challengers could create buzz and virality, quickly reaching new customers and catching up with the giants.
Open playing field
While the incumbents do have deep pockets and are indeed doubling down on podcast content and tech, we’re nowhere near the peak of the talk audio revolution and consumer needs are not yet met.
This means that whoever gets podcast search, discovery, and sharing right, can still gain significant market share and, eventually, even the upper hand.