Spotify is looking for podcasts with “a loyal audience that follows them”, says top content exec

Company confirms intention to cut underperforming shows in order to reinvest in new content

Spotify’s top priority in identifying podcasts to acquire or partner with is “a loyal audience”, according to one of the company’s top executives.

In addition to looking for shows which will appeal to advertisers, the company is primarily seeking podcasts which come with a built-in fanbase, chief content and advertising business officer Dawn Ostroff told Variety in a recent interview.

“We are looking for creators with unique voice, something advertisers would want to be part of, but most important have a loyal audience that follows them,” she said. “These podcasters create community around the podcast, sometime around the guests. People know what to expect, and they keep coming back.”

As part of Spotify’s spate of podcast-related acquisitions, the platform has invested into several big name celebrities for exclusive show deals, including Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast, which premiered in August this year and has since taken the number one spot on several global charts, as well as Kim Kardashian’s true crime show The System and scripted podcast Case 63 with actors Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac. 

“We know we have to make some big swings — and look for podcasts that feel like a big event, not just another podcast that’s out there,” said Ostroff.

In the UK, exclusive or original podcasts made up half of Spotify's top ten for 2022. Ostroff said that Spotify will continue to invest in more exclusive podcast licensing deals of this level, but noted that the number of high-profile podcasts which remain open for acquisition is diminishing.

Spotify received backlash earlier this year for axing a slate of 11 original shows from its podcast studios Parcast and Gimlet Media, reportedly due to low audience engagement, which resulted in the layoffs of 38 staff members according to the employees’ unions. According to a statement by both unions, Spotify’s decision to make the original shows exclusive to the platform directly resulted in the low listenership numbers. 

Ostroff said that Spotify will continue to make similar cuts on “a regular basis” if shows are underperforming, so that the platform is able to reinvest into new content and that cancelling the 11 shows was just a practice it had not done before.

“Obviously podcasting for us is still a new business,” she said.