Spotify thinks its algorithm can find your next favorite podcastNovember 19, 2019
Spotify is taking its first step toward personalizing podcast recommendations with the official launch of its Your Daily Podcast playlist, which will offer listeners an automated list of podcasts they may want to check out every day. The playlist has been in testing, and the company says it’s seen positive results, which pushed it to roll out the feature to all users in the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The playlist, which I’ve randomly had in testing for at least a month now, mixes podcasts that people already follow along with Spotify’s own recommendations. The team primarily considers listening history and what shows people follow to make its suggestions. The playlist will feature trailers, long podcast episodes, and smaller news bites, says Emily Rawitsch, director of product design, and the team isn’t committing to any set format or specific ratio of long episodes to short or new shows to favorites. Rawitsch also says there’s no “preferential” treatment for certain shows over others or Spotify shows versus other networks. Listeners might be shown an episode in a series they already listen to; a show about a similar topic to something they already like; a popular show in a genre they like; or a show with a host they already enjoy.
That said, Rawitsch wouldn’t offer any granular insight into how the algorithm will work in the future or how it’ll determine what content might be interesting to listeners. Unlike music, podcasts have certain features that might make them harder to qualify, like hosts’ voices, for instance, but she wouldn’t elaborate on how the company assesses these traits. It’s unclear if the team is planning to transcribe shows behind the scenes, for example, to better help the algorithm understand what people are talking about on shows or how the team tags shows around genre.
A spokeswoman on my call with Rawitsch said Spotify would focus for now on listening behavior and history more than anything else with the goal of “expanding further” with the recommendations.
Generally, this playlist represents what many have expected ever since Spotify got into podcasting: a better recommendation system. What’s less clear is whether people need or want a podcast recommendation playlist, especially if it spans hours. Even for long commutes, an hours-long playlist that refreshes every day might qualify as content overload. Podcast discovery has been an arduous process, however, with shows mostly relying on cross-promotion and platform curators to get their show in front of listeners, so this playlist could at least be the beginning of a better discovery process.