The Podcast wars! Spotify taking on Apple & co

Stumbled across an article about podcast usage and thought it might be interesting to discuss 1) where we get our podcasts from and 2) what type of content we are consuming.

In January 2019, according to that hosting data, Apple Podcasts accounted for 45 percent of all podcast episodes streamed or downloaded in Germany. Spotify was well behind at 20 percent. But by December? The score was a lot closer: Apple 36 percent, Spotify 34 percent. Nearly all of that movement came in the second half of 2019; from July to December, the percentage point gap between the two went from 25 to 27 to 15 to 11 to 7 to 2.

Personally I don’t use any of those platforms to listen to podcasts and instead use an app (Pocket Casts - though I don’t even know exactly where it sources its content from).

However I do sub to spotify, so could see myself migrating podcast listening there at some stage if I find my current pods on that platform. Though to be honest my nerd brain kinda likes to keep music, book & podcast -platforms seperate, so I’m not really that eager to “cross the streams”.

The following paragraph was quite interesting regarding the overall market. I wasn’t aware that Apple still has such a big marketshare in the US. Though judging by how many Qt3ers seem to have apple TV it shouldn’t really have surprised me. Living in Germany myself, anecdotally I can confirm that 75% market share of android sounds very plausible (though in my estimation it might even be higher).

It should be noted that Germany is a core market for Europe-born Spotify in a way it’s not for Apple. Apple Music, for instance, has more subscribers in the U.S. than Spotify, but it’s well behind in the rest of the world. As of 2017, Spotify had nearly three times as many paying subscribers in Germany as Apple Music did. About three-quarters of German smartphones run Android, not iOS; it’s more like 50/50 in the U.S.

Spotify listeners don’t seem to be nearly as into news podcasts as Apple listeners are.


  1. News: 23.35%
  2. Society & culture: 15.67%
  3. Comedy: 13.39%
  4. Business: 12.04%
  5. Sports: 7.45%


  1. Comedy: 23.51%
  2. Sports: 15.55%
  3. Business: 10.44%
  4. Society & culture: 10.13%
  5. News: 8.36%

So is spotify pulling in new pod listeners or are existing pod listeners migrating to its platform? - I’d hazard a guess that it is introducing podcasts to its customer base that is conditioned to switch on Spotify for entertainment purposes (ie music) and thus skews towards entertainment content and less on news?

I generally listen to podcasts that generally cover movie/tv with some informative stuff sprinkled in. Wouldn’t classify any of it as actual “news/current events”.

So what platform are you using? Do you listen to news content on it?

Spotify will have the advantage of being able to tell advertisers whether you heard their add or not.

It’s like adware, for your podcast!

Likewise. I wouldn’t dream of listening to podcasts on Spotify, despite being a subscriber. The interface is set up all wrong and I have to press about five buttons even to see a list of episodes. The one time I might use it would be to cast to a Spotify Connect device if I were trying to play a podcast publicly.

At the risk of sounding unhinged, I’ll say I hate that Spotify is getting into podcasting because they are the biggest potential threat to podcasts being based on RSS accessible by anyone. Apple’s dominance is totally benign because they’re just an open directory; they don’t even host the files and no podcast client has to use a special API or report analytics or get permission to serve podcast feeds.

Spotify is the only one who can make “Netflix for podcasts” work because they can offer podcasts for free in addition to all the music you get for $10/mo that people have demonstrated they’ll pay. That’s a way better deal than Luminary’s failed attempt to gain share with $7/mo only for access to a handful of big podcast names.

So far we haven’t seen a ton of Spotify exclusives, but we will.

I listen to podcasts using Overcast, which has about 1% podcast client share and has been making its app more private when everyone else is pushing for less.

It’s not unhinged at all. It’s a very real threat. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say Apple’s dominance is totally benign though. Having an entire industry tied to the whims of one distribution platform is never good.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for over 15 years, back when I had to manually move the files to a cheap media player: I have no idea where they’re hosted, and I’m never going to care. It’s their right to be invisible to me.

Well, you will do if you can’t access them any more because they’re only on proprietary platforms. It doesn’t even require the likes of Spotify to buy up exclusives. All it needs is for the advertising money to move to platforms which can provide analytics.

Maybe it’s the type of content that I listen to, but it’s more likely that any of them gets bored and moves on, or that I want something else on the same topic. I was worried when Apple showed up, but it turned out they’re never going to be popular enough to bother overmonetizing, and there’s always someone else with a cheap mike and stuff to say.
Now get off my lawn.

The problem is a lot of these spotify podcasts are going exclusively on spotify, which means you can’t listen to them on any podcast player. On my phone I find that Podcast Addict has the best UI for me to manage and track my podcasts, but I can’t use those for any spotify exclusive podcasts.

Many podcasts are going to Spotify in addition to the traditional RSS distribution methods, but Spotify is actively paying Podcasters to be spotify exclusive, and that’s the danger.

I understand, I’ve been worried about such things in the past, but it turned out not be worthy of the worry. It sucks if something you like turns more annoying to consume, but, for me, there’s no lack of other podcasts to replace it easily. Your mileage may vary, of course.
If it’s worthwhile of monopolizing, it will happen anyway, whether it’s Spotify or someone else. I just don’t see how, as it’s very cheap these days for someone to put audio online.

For me, not so much. I have more podcast subs than I can listen to, sure, but there are many in there that are irreplaceable (insofar as any entertainment is irreplaceable). Podcasts aren’t remotely fungible for me.

Also, it’s not necessarily about monopolising. It’s about moving from a hard-to-monetise open platform to easier-to-monetise closed ones.

I also suspect we’ll see a similar pattern to what happened with print media advertising - first the print revenue dried up, with a good chunk going to digital where the metrics were better. Then people started looking at the metrics, and realised they shouldn’t be paying so much for digital advertising. Then the digital revenues dried up.

Spotify bought Gimlet, one of the big podcast creators, but so far I don’t think much of their content (maybe some of the new stuff) is exclusive.

That said, Spotify did bring back my favorite video games podcast, The Besties, as an exclusive. So they got me there, as much as I hate to say it. However, that podcast had gone defunct for awhile, or switched to annual episodes. So it basically wouldn’t exist if Spotify hadn’t paid to make it happen. I don’t know quite how I feel about that, but I sure hope Spotify’s model continues to be the weird exception and doesn’t become the rule.

Industry concerns aside, I would love to simplify my life by chucking Pocket Casts and listening to everything through Spotify which I subscribe to anyway.

The problem is their interface for podcasts is dogshit. Just embarrassing. Without even a barebones episode manager, I can’t do it.

Given Marcos habit of selling off apps, I wonder if Spotify or someone would ever offer him enough money to sell Overcast. Which, given his thoughts on open podcasting, would be fun to hear him spin.

So, TWIT talked about this, and Leo’s argument is that Spotify would weaponize metrics, and advertisers would flock to them because they would have that information, unlike regular podcasts. Leo felt that it would impact people who did podcasting as a hobby, nor the bigger podcast groups, but that like blogs, anyone in the middle would probably lose out.

I am not sure if that will happen, but he made an interesting argument that metrics is what caused the web to be shit, with all the tracking going on, and that was the road that Spotify was going down with their service as well.

I can’t imagine why Spotify would make any offer on Overcast. Their money is better spent doing exactly what they’re doing, exclusives, and growing the rest of their business so they just become the default choice for more and more people for podcasts.

True, it was more the “or somebody” I was thinking of. Everyone has a price.

If Spotify improves their podcast UI, I’ll move my listening over to it. Right now, it’s not useful enough to switch away from my current podcatcher (Grover)…but honestly, podcatcher software is largely a moribund area of development. Pretty much everyone’s solution sucks donkey balls. If Spotify thinks they can do better, more power to em.

Even if it means a new generation of adware and tracking?

Well, I don’t WANT tracking and adware, but in the age of google I think I’ve lost that battle already so if spotify tracks my podcasts too (& I get a convenient access & interface there) thats just the way it is…