Are Podcasts and Music A Perfect Match?

By Rob Greenlee

The match between podcasts and music has been around since the early days of podcasting at small places like Apple iTunes and Microsoft Zune, the two major distribution platforms for podcasting in its embryonic stage of the mediums development. I worked on the Zune Music and Podcasts team from 2007 till 2014 and saw first-hand the synergies between the two mediums. Then when Apple launched the app store for the iPhone, the craze around apps drove music, video, radio and podcasts into separate apps on mobile. The other historical reference here is the many decades long experience that broadcast radio listeners have had around music, news and talk programming being right next to each other in millions of cars on the radio dial.

“This movement towards separating music from podcasts built for years as each medium felt like they needed to have a unique experience for each area without really thinking about the successful history of music and spoken word riding on the same platform or experience.”

I have been puzzled by the growing separation for years now and saw it happen at Microsoft when Zune was folded into Xbox brand and service. They separated music out from podcasts area because everyone else was doing it, not because it was really better for users to keep them combined like in iTunes and Zune. Over 3 years ago, I pitched the then GM for Xbox Music and told him that users wanted podcasts in the Xbox music app. I never even got a response or a reply.

Competitors in online music services like Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, Xbox Music, Deezer, Google Play Music and the new Apple Music streaming music service have and will spent many years battling with music labels and royalties rates making most of those companies teeter on the edge of insolvency.

The market for online radio streaming services like iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Live365 is crowded and some have been struggling with the same type financial issues as the streaming music services. TuneIn and Live365 are making it, but I am sure it is not easy in such a competitive market. The other major players in the market for online audio are offering 360 degree services for content providers at all levels from hosting, live streaming, recording, aggregator and podcasting to the growing on demand audio like AudioBoom, Spreaker and BlogTalkRadio.

Another level of services is just plain content aggregator’s like Stitcher, iTunes, Overcast, BeyondPod and the online radio streaming services Then another level of platform is the basic hosting platforms and streaming platforms like SoundCloud, Libsyn, Blubrry, BuzzSprout and PodBean.

The answer now is that online streaming music services are finally coming around to adding on demand spoken word audio and podcasts to their services? This is now a significant trend line with Google Play and Spotify adding Podcasts.

The question is how will podcasts be integrated into streaming music services and I think the answer is simple. Music and podcasts are like tracks or episodes the only big difference is duration and frequency of plays. Some podcasts are the same duration as music, but most are much longer. You will just create your own personalized playlists or more lean-back radio-like experience in app like Spreaker Podcast Radio. These services offer music and podcast episodes from the artists/podcaster of listeners choosing.

“Personalization is the key to making this all work as we are living in an on demand and take charge of your media culture now. Listeners need to be given more control, but yet enable the platform to help present programs that based on your interests, social graph and history to deliver those options.”

We are living in an exciting and scary time as our devices are going to be taking over more control of our day to day lives and podcasting will be impacted by it in very natural interfaces with yours and recommended content via voice and gesture. The future is interesting and will be full of surprises in our car, homes and devices.

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