Famous Last Words
In the last blog, I discussed how podcasts skilled the radio star and whilst I could see the way the wind was blowing, I wasn't necessarily prepared for how strongly it would blow in the days following writing the article.Because suddenly, Anchor (Spotify's own podcast app) announced that it would allow content creators to effective combine their spoken words with Spotify's streaming music.
On further inspection, it becomes clear that this isn't necessarily the game changer it initially appeared to be. The opportunity (in my view) would be to combine content with personalised streaming music; whereas the intention of this new service is to allow 'podcasters' (and I'd use that word carefully in this case) to 'play' and highlight their favourite music.
Don't get me wrong, this is an interesting and potentially innovative move - but frankly, at worst, allows for a frustrated radio presenter to share their poor taste in music (and I count myself in that camp!) whilst at best, it allows the next John Peel to highlight great music discoveries using their 'show'. But - unless I'm missing something - it will for all intents and purposes be a 'radio show'. And not a radio show broadcast on FM, safe from dodgy 3G connections or intermittent wi-fi - but expecting a lot of the user's hardware, they host's apps and programming and an assumption that there won't be too many areas of poor data quality when they are listening.
If this is an idea that 'floats your boat' then please do check it out - the Anchor app looks impressive and does away with thousands of pounds of studio equipment and an extensive record library. It also looks like having the potential to allow songs to be played in full on a music-lovers' podcast whilst offering a relatively decent deal to the music creator. And, like pure podcasting, it democratises content even further; this time in a more radio-style format.
And that... you might have thought... would be the end of this blog.
But then, Spotify announced something else. Initially available in the US, 'The Get Up' is Spotify's breakfast show and is much more in line with what I imagined Anchor's previous announcement to be. Three professional radio presenters, presenting a breakfast show, with a personalised music stream between their links.
My old radio head does question how much benefit the listener gets from the presenters genuinely enthusing or introducing a hitherto unknown piece of music to the listener - and that connection and passion paying off in terms of engagement and listener reach BUT in the UK already, the likes of Absolute Radio run multiple genres of radio stations (80s, 90s etc.) with one live breakfast show; the link ends, the presenter hits a button, and perfectly timed genre-specific songs play to each DAB stream, ending perfectly on time for the next bit of content from the presenter. So perhaps the lack of music connection isn't the be-all and end-all.
And whilst Anchor's announcement allows 'anyone' to be a DJ, Spotify's breakfast show brings in professional presenters; reducing the opportunity for my poorly-monikered 'democratisation' of media but delivering quality and talent that wouldn't be easily found in a busier audio jungle.
In the long term for streaming audio, this could be incredibly interesting and possibly exciting. Many Spotify users are already paying for their subscriptions so, like the BBC, there is a guaranteed income for the project. Equally, and especially as the concept grows across the pond and beyond, the opportunity for different breakfast shows could grow - initially by territory but perhaps in time by genre (and by genre, I might mean music style but also in presentation style... news-based, humour, showbiz etc.) - and elements of the 'show' could be picked by the listener; you want news at the beginning of the hour, great, you want the weather for your town, ok, you don't want to hear the results of the Grand Prix, no problem.
The success of both the Anchor and Spotify projects are both somewhat at the mercy of mobile data from what I can tell (so much podcast listening is done in the car as it stands) and will need some heavy promotion in a crowded media marketplace but this could be the start of something very exciting in the world of streaming audio. And with that comes opportunity.