Nice podcasts, I’ll take them! Why Spotify’s acquisition of Gimlet Media might be a bad thing for consumers.
I love Spotify. Whenever I write about music, I often mention Spotify. I’ve been a premium subscriber since 2010-and-something, and it’s some of my most well-spent money. If I had bought all the music I’ve listened to and discovered on Spotify, I would have been broke years ago.
One of the nicest things about Spotify is that they are still a dime a dozen in many ways. There is a myriad of similar music streaming services available. They all offer similar features and comparable back catalogues at pretty much the same price. This means that it’s not a huge undertaking to jump ship to another music streaming service if I wanted to do that.
Lately, however, Spotify has begun looking at ways to differentiate themselves from all those other services. This is a natural effect of the current music streaming service homogeneity. Also, in 2018, Spotify became a publicly traded company, and now it’s all about the Benjamins, baby! To attract more paying customers, Spotify somehow has to stand out from the rest of the streaming service crowd.
Exclusivity is King.
One sure-fire way to stand out is to provide exclusive content. Tidal, in particular, is well-known for this. Owned by some of the big names in the music industry, they have released several albums as time limited exclusives. But exclusive album releases, even if they are time limited, are ridiculously expensive. There is, however, another amazingly popular audio format that can be made exclusive for a fraction of the cost: Podcasts.
Crimetown is a podcast that investigates the culture of crime. Professionally produced, it’s a fascinating and intriguing listen, and I highly recommend season 1. Season 2, however, I can’t tell you much about. I only listened to the first episode because the rest of season 2 is only available exclusively on Spotify.
Now Spotify has upped the ante by acquiring Gimlet Media Inc., creator of Crimetown, and other high quality podcasts. Neither the press release about the acquisition, nor the accompanying blog post by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek mentions anything about more Gimlet content being made available exclusively to Spotify users after the acquisition.
But considering that Gimlet is already creating exclusive content for Spotify, I think it’s safe to say that the writing is on the (pay)wall.
Vote With Your Ears.
In the not-so-distant future, more exclusive content from Gimlet will be made available for Spotify users only. Either already popular podcasts, like Reply All, or some new, high profile, heavily marketed podcast.
For me, the solution to this problem is simple: I won’t listen to exclusive podcasts on Spotify. Sure, Reply All is a great show, and I’ll miss it if goes Spotify exclusive. But there are so many other great podcasts available. And those I can listen to without being locked in to a particular service, or having to use a particular podcast player, or pay a premium fee. Sure, I’ll have to sit through some (often) cringe worthy ads, but that’s absolutely worth it.