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New Features & Tech for Podcast Listeners | Top Podcast Trends of 2020 & What’s Next for 2021?

This article, “New Features and Tech for Podcast Listeners”, is part of a series created from the Ossa Lounge LIVE show at Podcast Movement Virtual on October 20, 2020, “Rogan, Rona, and ROI: 2020 Podcast Trends & What’s Next for 2021?”

The podcast boom of 2020 continues to bring about a wide range of new features, services and integrations designed for podcast listeners. At every key touchpoint of the podcast industry — from podcast creators to streaming platforms — there has been a new level of emphasis placed on engaging and nurturing a loyal audience. The attention that is being devoted to developing new features and technology for podcast listeners is well-deserved — because without the listeners, there is no podcast industry. Below, we cover some of the key categories of new features and technology being developed to enhance the experience of podcast listeners.


Video Podcasts 

podcast listeners

Podcasts like “Higher Learning with Van Lathan & Rachel Lindsay” are available on Spotify in both audio & video format.

Spotify’s bullish growth strategy has included the implementation of many new features designed to increase engagement — such as the addition of video onto their podcast streaming platform. 

In July 2020, Spotify unveiled its integration of video podcasts — a new feature that allows select creators to bring both audio and video content to Spotify. As a content medium, video has proven its value and staying power time and time again. Thus, enabling podcasters to post both the audio and the video recording of their podcast on the Spotify platform was a strategic move that delivered value to creators and consumers alike. 

For podcast fans, this integration offers the convenience of having both audio and video available for streaming in one place. It also gives podcast listeners a customized experience based on personal preference — an option to consume either the audio or the video version of a podcast (or both). 

For creators, Spotify’s integration of video podcasts onto their streaming platform is a new tool for community building. By allowing creators to share their video content in-house, podcast hosts are able to expand their presence on Spotify. This cultivates more meaningful face-to-face connections with their existing podcast listeners while providing a new medium for expanding their audience and total engagement. 


Personalization for Podcast Listeners

podcast listeners

Spotify 2020 Wrapped features personalized data for podcast listeners. (Image Credit: TechCrunch)

Podcast listeners are the inspiration for a large portion of the new technologies introduced to the industry in 2020. One of Spotify’s key advantages in their meteoric rise as a podcast streaming platform has been their commitment to developing features that appeal to the human psychology behind podcast listeners and creators.

Humans like to feel “seen”, especially in the places where they spend a lot of time. Spotify’s initiative to celebrate the listening habits of the users on their platform with 2020 Wrapped was a brilliant strategy because it ultimately inspired Spotify users to share their own data on social media (and lest we forget, this also serves as free marketing and PR for Spotify).

By packaging personalized streaming data into an easily-shareable social media story format for every user with 2020 Wrapped, Spotify gave their podcast listeners the stats and assets they wanted so badly without ever having realized it before.

Spotify continues to implement personalized technologies that underscore the importance Spotify places on catering to their podcast listeners. In 2020, Spotify added a feature to their platform that algorithmically generates podcast playlists based on the listener’s streaming behavior

They also launched their own advertising tool called “Streaming Ad Insertion”. The tool is applied when a Spotify user streams a podcast. Streaming Ad Insertion references the listener’s user data to strategically select and insert targeted ads into the show.


Interactive Features

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Spotify added a “Polls” feature in 2020 to increase listener engagement (Image Credit: Spotify Newsroom)

Spotify ability to dream up new features that appeal to the human psychology of podcast listeners was further underscored by their launch of Polls . Spotify added polls to their podcast platform in September 2020 as a way to make the podcast listening experience more interactive and engaging — because everyone loves to share their opinion.

A common source of frustration for podcast listeners thus far has been the listener’s inability to be part of the conversation as their own thoughts and opinions arise while listening to the show. The Polls tool responds to this pain point by giving Spotify users a new way to engage with the podcasts they love and the audience who loves it.

The Polls feature enables the listener to answer questions posed by the podcast hosts throughout the show. Each time a user responds to a poll question, they can view how their answer stacks up with the rest of the listener base in real time.


Curated Podcast Playlists 

podcast listeners

Spotify added a new curated podcast playlists feature in 2020. (Image Credit: Spotify Newsroom)


In April 2020, Spotify implemented curated podcast playlists. These are a similar concept to the curated music playlists that Spotify has offered on their platform for years as a way to help their listeners discover new content. 

The launch required Spotify to enlist the help of their global team of playlist editors, who listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts for the project. Then, the team was in charge of grouping the best episodes into topical, streamable playlists. Their three flagship playlists were Best Podcasts of the Week, Crime Scene, and Brain Snacks.

The curated playlists provide added value to podcast listeners by creating an easy way for the listener to discover new content based on their interests and listening habits.


Projections for 2021

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Improving the podcast listening experience on smart speakers would be key to increasing podcast listenership in 2021

New technologies that improve the experience of podcast listeners offer promising returns for podcasters, streaming platforms and advertisers. This is why we predict that in 2021, the industry will continue to see the rise of new technologies designed for podcast listeners as it continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Podcast industry leaders like Spotify have clearly identified that developing new technologies and features that reduce friction in audio consumption is paramount to the acceleration of listener growth. Spotify may have launched many new features designed to enhance the podcast listener experience in 2020, but there are still countless new opportunities in development, or yet to be discovered.

For example, it’s likely that in 2021 we will begin to see more attention directed toward enhancing the podcast listener experience on smart speakers. As an audio-based popular consumer product, it is notable that smart speakers have largely failed thus far to build a powerful connection with the podcast listener market.

Podcast listeners are 33% more likely to own a smart speaker than the average consumer — but less than 1% of podcast listening occurs on smart speakers because of their limited functionality. In 2021, we expect that smart speaker manufacturers will zero in on integrating new features — like voice-command tools, search functions, and the ability to shop directly from audio ads — that would improve the podcast listener’s experience.

There is no doubt that Spotify will continue to implement features designed to enhance the podcast listener experience and engage their users. What is yet to be seen in 2021 is if other podcast streaming platforms will follow suit in positioning podcast listeners at the heart of their growth strategy.

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