Amazon Offers Expanded Music and Podcast Catalog Ad-Free

Amazon Music has taken a major leap forward, expanding its catalog from about 2 million to 100 million songs that will be made available ad-free to Prime members as part of their existing $139 annual membership fee. Starting this week, Prime members can “shuffle play any artist, album, or playlist, plus stream a selection of All-Access playlists on demand” as well as “access the largest catalog of ad-free top podcasts,” the online retail giant said. The move underscores a new battleground for membership-focused retailers, including Costco and Walmart, who see streaming as an opportunity to add value. Continue reading Amazon Offers Expanded Music and Podcast Catalog Ad-Free

Consumer Study Finds Bundling Is Key to Streaming Success

Winners in the current streaming wars will be companies that diversify beyond a single programming vertical, checking boxes that include movies, series, news, sports and video games, according to a new survey, “What Will They Pay For? The Mind of The Modern Subscriber,” from Consumer Insights, the research division of Publisher’s Clearing House. According to the report, the answer is movies and scripted TV (39 percent), trailed by sports (12 percent), followed closely by music and podcasts (11 percent). At 10 percent, “other” is a category to keep an eye on, the study’s authors advise. Continue reading Consumer Study Finds Bundling Is Key to Streaming Success

OpenAI Rolls Out Open-Source Speech Recognition System

OpenAI has released a new open source AI speech recognition model called Whisper that can recognize and translate audio at levels it says compare in accuracy and robustness to human abilities. Case uses include transcription of speeches, interviews, podcasts and conversations. “Moreover, it enables transcription in multiple languages, as well as translation from those languages into English,” says OpenAI, which is open-sourcing models and inference code on GitHub “to serve as a foundation for building useful applications and for further research on robust speech processing.” Continue reading OpenAI Rolls Out Open-Source Speech Recognition System

Spotify Rolls Out U.S. Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles

Spotify is expanding beyond music and podcasts by adding audiobooks. The company is starting out with just over 300,000 titles, available for purchase in the U.S. “This is just the beginning,” says Spotify, promising a geographic expansion. In June, the audio streamer completed its purchase of global audiobooks distributor Findaway, announced last year. The acquisition was designed to make it a major player on entry, competing with Amazon’s Audible, the nation’s biggest audiobook service. Unlike Audible, Spotify is individually pricing audiobook titles and offering them à la carte, not by subscription. Continue reading Spotify Rolls Out U.S. Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles

Zuckerberg Says New Meta VR Headset Launching in October

Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that Meta Platforms will in October debut the mixed reality headset the company has been developing under the codename Project Cambria. Appearing on Spotify’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast last week, Zuckerberg said the new headset will have outward facing cameras capable of porting the outside world into the VR experience. With improved facial tracking to transpose smiles and frowns and the ability to convey “actual eye contact” between avatars, Zuckerberg said the new device will enhance the experience of “social presence.” Continue reading Zuckerberg Says New Meta VR Headset Launching in October

Twitter Prioritizes Discovery in Its Podcast Tests with Spaces

Twitter is testing a heightened presence in podcasting, offering a redesigned Spaces tab that includes a podcast option in an announcement that hints at a collaboration with Vox Media. Couched as an investment in audio creators, Twitter says the redesign includes personalized hubs (which it’s calling “Stations”) that group audio content together by specific themes such as News, Music and Sports. Integrating podcasts into Spaces, Twitter’s designated area for audio, is “a simple and intuitive way that allows listeners to simply hit play and go” and compile personal collections of live and recorded Spaces audio discussions. Continue reading Twitter Prioritizes Discovery in Its Podcast Tests with Spaces

YouTube Adds Dedicated Podcast Homepage, New Content

YouTube has added a dedicated podcasts homepage for U.S. users. The page — featuring both audio-only and video-recorded studio shows — went live for some users last month. It appears to be part of a grander scheme by the Google subsidiary to take on pod plays by Apple and Spotify, which it is already outperforming. Both added video podcasts in recent years. Studies say most U.S. podcast listeners get content from YouTube. Last week, NPR announced it is bringing its podcast catalog to YouTube, which is monetizing the podcasting shows with ads inserted by Google and others.  Continue reading YouTube Adds Dedicated Podcast Homepage, New Content

Apple Pursues Podcasts as Subjects for Streaming TV Series

Apple is making a big push for original podcasts that have the potential to be turned into shows for Apple TV+. The company has signed a deal with Futuro, producer of the criminal-justice podcast “Suave,” and has already spent about $10 million on the push, led by Apple TV Studios. Apple recently announced original podcasts with companies including Pineapple Street Studios, Campside Media, Jigsaw Productions and At Will Media. Apple TV+ has already adapted existing podcasts including Wondery’s “The Shrink Next Door” (starring Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell) and “WeCrashed” (with Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway). Continue reading Apple Pursues Podcasts as Subjects for Streaming TV Series

Spotify Says One Billion MAUs by 2030 a Path to Profitability

Trying to assuage fears over what investors are concerned is a limited-growth market, audio streamer Spotify says it plans to hit one billion global monthly average users by 2030. Spotify closed Q1 with 422 million MAUs and 182 million paid subscribers, per Statista. At an Investor Day presentation in New York City this week, CEO Daniel Ek and chief freemium business officer Alex Norström showed slides indicating the company’s goal represents compounded annual growth rates of 26 percent for MAUs, paid subscribers and revenue (on a currency-adjusted basis). To get there, the executives emphasized emerging markets and podcasts. Continue reading Spotify Says One Billion MAUs by 2030 a Path to Profitability

Spotify Debuts Live Streaming In-App, Rebrands Greenroom

Spotify is integrating live audio capabilities from its Spotify Greenroom app into the flagship Spotify service and rebranding the feature as “Spotify Live.” The company says the change “reflects our belief in the future of live-audio creators and live experiences being provided to all 406 million Spotify listeners around the globe.” Spotify Live will continue to live as a standalone app, as well as providing live-stream functionality within Spotify for music and podcasts. Beginning this week, Spotify will enable in-app live streaming for its original programming while independent creators can stream live using the separate app. Continue reading Spotify Debuts Live Streaming In-App, Rebrands Greenroom

Spotify Puts Podz Acquisition to Test with Discovery Feature

Spotify is testing a feature that lets podcast discovery platform Podz help people find new podcasts they may like. Now, Spotify is taking the algo-driven audio newsfeed for which Podz became known and turning it into a more personalized discovery experience. The big idea here is to extrapolate. Podz provided machine-curated audio samples. As part of its Spotify integration it is targeting the next level: letting users tap to read an audio transcript, review show graphics or hear more of the podcast. Spotify acquired Podz last summer for approximately $49.4 million. Continue reading Spotify Puts Podz Acquisition to Test with Discovery Feature

National Advertisers Embrace Streaming Audio and Podcasts

The audience for streaming audio continues to grow, and advertisers are taking notice. A 2021 survey found that 68 percent of U.S. listeners listened to digital audio in the previous month, compared to 47 percent in 2014. While streaming audio advertising still lags behind traditional radio, changes in consumer privacy policies at Apple and the effect that’s had on social media platforms has prompted brands and small businesses to explore their options. Roughly $5.7 billion will be spent on U.S. digital audio ads in 2022, up 14 percent over 2021, according to Interpublic Group’s Magna media unit. Continue reading National Advertisers Embrace Streaming Audio and Podcasts

Spotify Acts on Boycott, Posts COVID Facts After Stock Falls

Spotify is taking steps to clarify its position regarding COVID-19 misinformation and stabilize its fluctuating stock price after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell yanked their music from the streaming service over objections to vaccine remarks on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. “These issues are incredibly complex,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said on Sunday, when the company published platform rules and announced the creation of a COVID-19 Hub to provide “easy access to data-driven facts” from “scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities” from around the world. Spotify will not be removing the offending content, Ek said. Continue reading Spotify Acts on Boycott, Posts COVID Facts After Stock Falls

CES: Spotify Call-to-Action Cards Make Audio Ads Clickable

Spotify is bringing interactivity to the audio ad experience for podcasts with “Call-to-Action Cards.” As part of Spotify’s streaming ad-insertion platform, the CTA cards will appear in the app as soon as a podcast ad begins playing, resurfacing when a listener is exploring the app, reminding them to check out the product or service and eliminating the need to remember a promo code or URL. Advertisers can customize the CTA cards with images, text and clickable buttons. The feature makes podcast ads visually interactive for the first time, transforming the experience into something listeners can see, “and, most importantly, click.” Continue reading CES: Spotify Call-to-Action Cards Make Audio Ads Clickable

CES: Panelists Chart the Growing Popularity of Social Audio

The voice could be described as the original mass media and, as social audio, it is now the latest trend. United Talent Agency executive director of audio Kristin Myers moderated a CES 2022 panel discussion on the topic with Clubhouse head of community and creators Stephanie Simon and Audio Collective co-founder Toni Thai Sterrett, who offered up the definition of social media as “live group audio.” “And the key is the sense of participation and interactivity,” she said. Simon added that, “we’re social media based on audio.” Continue reading CES: Panelists Chart the Growing Popularity of Social Audio