With 70 million subscribers and a broader base of active users at least twice that amount, Spotify has always had a big opportunity to expand its massive music menu to other kinds of content. But the streaming service has notched a mixed track record on that front in recent years as executives charged with seizing that opportunity have come and gone with limited success.
But with CEO Daniel Ek keen on his company realizing its full potential, he brought in Courtney Holt, previously executive VP of media and strategy at Disney, last September to take another crack at it. After quickly canceling Spotify’s existing slate of original short-form video series, he announced last week the introduction of a new content format, known as Spotlight, that interweaves short-form audio podcasts with visual elements.
“We are going to experiment with new forms of storytelling and this is our first step towards doing that,” said Holt, vice president and head of Spotify Studios and Video, in an interview with Variety. “It leverages the existing user experience and our technology to bring in incredible new voices.”
Those voices will be supplied by content partners including BuzzFeed, Cheddar, Gimlet Media and Lenny Letter. The unique mix of sight and sound is tailored to what Holt calls offering “glance-able” moments, intended to be digested either entirely through the ears like the average Spotify experience or with an eye on the mobile screen.
Spotlight, which will make its debut on Spotify next month, will be seeded into areas of the streaming service where content is already resonating, including popular playlists like RapCaviar and newer initiatives like Secret Genius and Rise, where the format is already available to view. The dual audio/video mode is a testament to Holt’s belief that new content he produces must be grounded in the reality of how users currently use Spotify, rather than demanding new consumption habits.
“A giant slate of video is not what people are expecting on the platform,” said Holt, whose resume is filled with stops at both record labels and digital-media ventures. “It’s not where we’ve seen interest and intent.”
The pivot away from video is a break from the work of previous Spotify content teams, which assembled series including “Traffic Jams” that might have been equally viable on any number of streaming hubs from YouTube to Instagram. It’s also something a departure from rival services like Apple Music and YouTube Red, which commingle music and more traditional video content formats.
That said, Holt isn’t swearing off original video entirely for the future, though it’s not something he’s currently developing.
While Spotlight is not the only content Holt is working on, it’s a first step in a new direction. Where future initiatives may head is clouded by some degree of uncertainty in the absence of his boss, Stephan Blom, the chief content officer who stepped down earlier this month. Spotify declined comment on whether his post will be filled but the upside is clear: Getting the content strategy right would not only increase engagement with existing subscribers, but in success, drive new revenues and maybe even prompt users to embrace a new definition of Spotify that isn’t strictly limited to its vast song library.