Spotify Launches Visual-Podcast Strategy in Bid to Expand Beyond Music

Spotify is jumping deeper into the world of podcasting: The company has unveiled Spotlight, a new initiative to bring visually-enhanced audio programming about news, politics, sports and entertainment to the service.

Spotify has pacts for the audio content with partners including BuzzFeed News, Cheddar, Crooked Media, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter, Gimlet Media, Genius, the Minefield Girl, Refinery29 and LeBron James’ Uninterrupted. In addition, Spotlight will feature content from some of Spotify’s own original series such as “RISE,” “Secret Genius,” “Spotify Singles” and the new “Viva Latino” podcast.

Spotlight, announced in a blog post Thursday, is the first big move under Courtney Holt, VP and head of Spotify Studios and Video, the former head of Disney’s Maker Studios who joined the music streamer last fall.

The Spotlight podcasts and audiobooks will include “visual layers” — with photos, video and text — to enhance the listening experience within each episode, the company said. Initially, Spotlight will available only in the U.S.

“We are excited to launch Spotlight, a new format that merges great storytelling, news, information and opinion with visual elements all delivered in playlist form across a number of content categories,” Holt said in a statement.

As Spotify gears up to launch an IPO — expected sometime in the first quarter of 2018 — it’s not clear how much Spotlight will move the needle, really, in terms of attracting new subscribers or generating additional revenue out of the gate.

Holt’s attempt to build bridge into podcasting comes after Spotify tried to make a run at original video content — but that never gained traction, and the company has mothballed that effort (for now).

Tom Calderdone, the ex-VH1 president who had been Spotify’s global head of content partnerships and led the video programming strategy, left the company last summer. Meanwhile, chief content officer Stefan Blom also exited earlier this month.

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