Spotify launches ‘Spotlight,’ a new podcast format with visual elements

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Spotify has been working on building out its podcast business, and now offers a large catalog of shows (including our own Original Content, which you should definitely check out). Today, it’s debuting a new “multimedia format” that adds visual elements to podcasts (as well as audiobooks, news bites, and other audio, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just call all that ‘podcasts’).

The launch of Spotlight is going to feature stuff from Gimlet Media, Crooked Media, Cheddar, BuzzFeed News and others, and will also include original series created by Spotify itself, like RISE, Secret Genius and its Spotify Singles session series with various artists.

Spotify’s original content hasn’t had a spectacular start out of the gate (Singles being the one exception) but this new format could be a way to help give it a boost. It could also help Spotify differentiate its podcast offering, among legacy leaders like Apple Podcasts, which still dominates in terms of overall market share.

Spotlight will offer up content in playlist format, which visual elements available on devices using the Spotify app. It’s a bit like the rich media MP3 podcasts that some creators take to the time to build, which have dynamically changing album artwork, as well as embedded links, chapter markers and more. These aren’t supported by every podcast player, however, so it’s rare that podcast producers will take the time to build them in. Spotify’s Spotlights will include photos, videos, and text in addition to audio, and is rolling out to U.S. users first.

This is not to be confused with ‘Spotlight,’ the Spotify feature of the same name that launched in 2013, which also used playlists but was a very different kind of thing aimed at music and artist commentary.

Spotify’s experiments with podcasts are interesting, but uptake and adoption will be the true test. Here’s hoping they can make a real go of it, because the podcast format could do with some innovative new twists to help it reach a broader audience.

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