Google Play to Include Podcasts

The announcement that Google will, in the following months, offer podcasts on Google Play Music, a native app on its mobile operating system, Android, is highly significant for the potential growth of podcast audiences. As my report notes, “Android users — whose numbers are far greater than iPhone owners (1 billion vs. 470 million152) — remain an untapped audience for whom podcast listening remains difficult. Apple device downloads of podcasts outpace Android downloads at a rate of 5.4 to 1.”153 By including podcasts in Google Play’s streaming service (which can reach iOS users as well), Google will not only tap into the underserved Android audience but also expose non-listeners to podcasts, potentially converting them into fans.154

As Re/Code’s Mark Bergen reports, Play Music will also curate podcast suggestions for listeners based on factors like “time of day” and “common activities and moods.”155 Should Google do this successfully, it will fill a hole currently plaguing the podcasting space: a technological solution to podcast discovery. For Google, podcasts add value to Play Music for their listeners, who have the option to subscribe to the service for an ad-free experience (although ads won’t be stripped from podcasts, as most ads are “baked-in” to podcast formats). In the words of Elias Roman, a product manager for Play Music, “Podcasts allow us to do everything for our users. It makes us a more complete concierge.” (It’s interesting to note that Pandora, which is now offering “Serial” to its listeners, plans to unroll a subscription service next year.156 Providing podcasts, it seems, is one way platforms seek to add value to listeners, incentivizing them to convert from free users to paying subscribers.)

This news, coupled with the inclusion and/or expansion of podcast content by other music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer, suggests that the podcasting space will soon open up across platforms, potentially placing Apple’s relative monopoly on the format at risk.

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