White Noise Podcasts are Pushing Spotify to Make Changes; New Updates for Podcasters

The world of podcasting has undergone a sonic revolution in recent years, with millions of listeners tuning in to a cacophony of content spanning every conceivable topic. Yet, amid this diverse auditory landscape, an unexpected phenomenon has emerged, one that's been quietly reshaping the podcasting industry: white noise podcasts.

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Illustration: L. T.

These seemingly unassuming audio offerings, which often feature the soothing hum of ambient sounds, have garnered an unexpectedly dedicated following. However, their popularity is not without consequences, particularly for Spotify, one of the world’s leading streaming platforms. 

In response to the surge in white noise podcast consumption, Spotify is gearing up for a significant overhaul aimed at podcasters, introducing a suite of updates that promise to revolutionize the way creators engage with their audience. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the intriguing world of white noise podcasts, explore the challenges they pose for Spotify, and dissect the forthcoming updates that promise to redefine the podcasting experience for creators and listeners alike. 

The state of Spotify for Podcasters 2023   

Since Spotify acquired Anchor in 2019, it’s made it pretty clear that its mission is to become the #1 platform for podcasts. Not only that, but they want to revolutionize the space and dictate new trends and standards. 

This is the data they shared in June regarding their success: 

  • Spotify is now the most-used audio podcast platform in most corners of the world and is also the No. 1 podcast publisher in the U.S.; 
  • There are now more than 100 million Podcast listeners on Spotify (10x growth); 
  • Since Spotify entered the space, over half a billion people have listened to a podcast on Spotify; 
  • Consumption has grown more than 1,400%; 
  • Podcast content has increased from 200,000 titles to over 5 million shows on Spotify; 
  • 165 of Spotify’s Original and Licensed shows hit #1 on our charts across 99 markets in 2022; 
  • Podcast ad revenue experienced high double-digit growth from 2021 to 2022. 

In other words, it seems that everything’s going well for them. Apart from one thing, that is. 

Apparently, white noise podcasts are giving Spotify a headache. 

Why are white noise podcasts a problem?   

According to Bloomberg, white noise podcasts are a problem for Spotify because they inadvertently gained a significant amount of attention and consumption on the platform, driven by Spotify’s own algorithmic promotion of “talk” content over music. 

This situation created challenges and potential financial implications for Spotify in several ways: 

  1. Revenue Loss for Music: Spotify primarily generates revenue from music streaming. The more time users spend on non-music content like white noise podcasts, the less time they spend listening to music. This reduces the royalties paid out to music artists and record labels, which has been a concern for major music companies like Universal Music Group and Warner Music. 
  2. Monetization of White Noise Podcasts: Spotify allows podcasters to earn money through advertising placed within their shows. White noise podcasters were making a significant amount of money, up to $18,000 a month, through advertisements inserted by Spotify. This means Spotify had to share a portion of its revenue with these podcasters, diverting funds away from music-related payouts. 
  3. Algorithmic Promotion: Spotify’s algorithmic recommendation system was inadvertently pushing users towards white noise and ambient podcasts. This might have been due to user engagement patterns, but it had the unintended consequence of diverting users away from music content, which is Spotify’s core offering. 
  4. Financial Considerations: According to an internal document viewed by Bloomberg, Spotify contemplated removing white noise podcasts from the talk content feed and discouraging future uploads in favor of more economically viable programming. Doing so was estimated to boost Spotify’s annual gross profit by €35 million ($38 million). However, this proposal didn’t come to fruition, and white noise podcasts continue to be available on the platform. 
  5. User Experience Issues: There have been reports of white noise podcast episodes “vanishing” from user accounts, causing disruptions for both listeners and podcast creators. This further complicated Spotify’s management of this content. 

New updates for Spotify Podcasts   

Spotify is introducing a series of updates designed to empower podcasters and improve their experience on the platform. These updates are geared towards giving creators more control over their podcast pages and providing them with deeper insights into their audience. 

Here’s a breakdown of the key updates: 

  1. Customizable Podcast Pages: Podcasters will have more options to customize their show pages on Spotify. They can highlight specific episodes, cross-promote other podcasts, and display promotional banners for their paid content. This customization allows creators to have a greater influence on how they present their content to listeners. 
  2. Enhanced Analytics: Spotify for Podcasters is getting more detailed analytics. Creators will have access to trending data on individual episodes, allowing them to gauge which content is resonating most with their audience. They will also be able to see the specific sources of impressions, helping them understand where their listeners are coming from. 
  3. Promotion Tools: Spotify is introducing several tools to help podcasters promote their work more effectively. Creators can link to their social media handles, highlight a particular episode as the “best place to start,” and pin other Spotify content (such as playlists or audiobooks) to showcase more of their work. This is especially beneficial for podcasters with paid subscriptions, as they can use promotional banners to raise awareness of their premium offerings. 
  4. Homepage Redesign Control: Podcasters will have more control over how they appear on Spotify’s homepage, which is undergoing a redesign. Instead of relying on Spotify’s machine learning tools to select preview audio, creators can now choose their own preview audio, giving them more influence over how their podcast is presented to potential listeners. 
  5. Impressions Analytics: Creators will gain access to detailed impressions analytics. They can track the total number of impressions for their shows and episodes over a 30-day period. This data will include information about where these impressions originated, whether from Spotify’s recommendations, user searches, top charts, editorial picks, saved episodes, or user-created playlists. 
  6. Monetization Analytics: In the future, Spotify plans to introduce monetization analytics for creators who monetize their podcasts through automated ads, ambassador ads, and podcast subscriptions. These analytics will help creators assess the performance of their monetization campaigns. 

Spotify has not provided a specific timeline for the rollout of these changes, as they are gradually implementing them. These updates reflect Spotify’s commitment to supporting podcast creators, offering more tools for customization, promotion, and audience insights. It also highlights Spotify’s desire to position itself as a serious platform for podcasters, emphasizing its role in the podcasting ecosystem alongside other major players like Apple Podcasts. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.