Spotify launches curated podcast playlists to make the platform more customized.

Spotify’s officially trying to solve the podcast discovery problem while also trying to help podcasters reach new audiences. The company announced today that it’s rolling out three human-curated podcast playlists in six countries: the US, Germany, Sweden, the UK, Mexico, and Brazil. The three weekly playlists are called Best Podcasts of the Week, Brain Snacks, and Crime Scene. They’ll each be localized to the countries and will be populated by curators in each location. Spotify hired podcast curators around the world specifically for this feature.

The playlists are meant to get people who already listen to podcasts to “build a habit around listening on Spotify,” says Courtney Holt, VP, Global Head of Studios & Video. The audio platform first tested podcast playlists last year and spent the time since observing how people use them. Holt says Spotify is also looking for these playlists to engage people who have never listened to a podcast and to help people searching for something new.

Of course, the playlist rollout comes at a fraught time for the world, and one in which podcasters are watching to see if disappearing commute times affect how often people listen to their shows. Holt says Spotify has seen habits change, like people listening to shows at different times of day, but he says the company expects behavior to return to usual as the pandemic eases up.

“I think that a lot of people are changing behaviors for a limited time, but we also have signals — we look at our platform globally — and we’re seeing different datasets in different markets who are in different stages of pandemic response,” he says. The playlist rollout would have happened with or without the pandemic, he says, so the company is keeping with its podcast plans.

Spotify’s curation efforts might make some in the broader industry nervous. Apple, the original and biggest name in podcast platforms, features editorial lists, not playlists that cycle through every recommended episode. The industry largely respects that team’s opinions, mostly because Apple isn’t making its own podcast content. Spotify, however, is. It owns Gimlet Media, Parcast, Anchor, and its own Spotify Studios, all of which are designed to produce different podcasts. People in the industry might worry that Spotify will use its playlists to amplify its own voices. Holt says people shouldn’t worry.

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