Spotify is Bringing Display Ads to Podcasts

Posted on January 6, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Spotify with 19 Comments

In a dubious move, Spotify today issued a “call to action” for podcasters to create interactive displays ads that will appear over ad reads.

“What’s the next great frontier in audio?” Spotify asks rhetorically. “We believe it’s interactivity.”

What Spotify is talking about is “bringing interactivity to the audio ad experience” using a system called call-to-action (CTA) cards that will appear over the Now Playing experience while an audio ad is playing. The idea is that finding links for the products and services that are advertised during podcasts is too difficult, and that this will drive engagement with sponsors.

That makes some sense, I guess. But most people probably skip over podcast ads without thinking much about it. But even for those people who may be interested in the ads, this sounds a bit invasive.

“CTA cards will appear in the app as soon as a podcast ad begins playing, and [they] will resurface later on while you’re exploring the Spotify app, making it easier to check out the brand, product, or service you heard about while listening,” the firm explains. “CTA cards will make it easier for you to directly discover the products and services you’re interested in without having a hard-to-remember promo code or vanity URL.”

You know what would be even more effective? Not letting users skip over ads. Something I suspect that Spotify will never enable since users can enjoy podcasts anywhere for free.

CTA cards will be available in select Spotify Original and Spotify Exclusive podcasts in the U.S. beginning today.

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Comments (19)

19 responses to “Spotify is Bringing Display Ads to Podcasts”

  1. mattbg

    I guess they can do what they want, but are people really looking at the app when they are listening to podcasts?

    This was what Show Notes were created for, no?

    • wright_is

      Exactly, I put my phone in my pocket, slip on my earbuds and tap the bud to start playback. I never look at the screen.

      The same in the car, I leave the phone in my pocket and press the play button on the head unit and it automatically starts playing.

  2. j5

    This year I've dropped Spotify for music and the couple of podcasts and gone back to Pandora for music and PocketCasts for podcasts. I forgot how great Pandora was at selecting music for you when streaming your stations. And I find myself just listening to music rather than listening to one song and jumping back into the app to find another or scrolling through looking for artists and songs to add to playlists, it's nice, freeing. And PockCasts, come on, is the best podcast app. I can't remember where I read this Twitter or an article but they're supposed to be bringing folders, yes! I paid for the full version of PocketCasts years ago before they were bought out, it was so worth it.

  3. scovious

    First exclusive podcasts, and now amping up the advertising in them? Time to uninstall Spotify, and welcome back Pocket Casts!

  4. matt11to5

    The corporatization of podcasts is the worst. I hate how many podcasts are only available in a specific app and soon will have unskippable ads.

    • sekim

      Exactly. Making shows exclusive to one app is hostile to your listening audience. I reward such behavior by unsubscribing.

  5. SvenJ

    “What’s the next great frontier in audio?” Ad-dio

  6. cayo

    My problem with Spotify (and their competition), as a paying customer, is this.

    Why, when opening the app, can't I see my music and JUST my music? I don't care about podcasts, so why are you shoving "Daily dad jokes" in my face? I also absolutely don't care about the "Hot hits" and "Hip-Hop central". I don't want to see those faces and don't really care to know what today's teenagers listen.

    And don't even get me started on the "Made for you..." lists offered to me by Spotify. Please, please understand that your "AI" is useless for me. There is absolutely no way you can guess what I want to listen based on my recently played list.

    How about allowing me to change the settings so that don't see the podcasts and your failed attempts to teach me what I should listen? Show me just my music and the search option when I open the app. All I want from you is to give me a chance to get rid of your "Artificial Stupidity". Am I, as a paying customer, asking too much?

    • sekim

      I agree with you about podcasts. I use Pocketcast for podcasts. I am not going to change to using Spotify for my podcasts. Buying podcast networks and making them Spotify-exclusive didn't change how I listen to podcasts, it just means that I no longer subscribe to Gimlet shows.

      I pay too much to Spotify as it it for my family plan, and their service is getting worse as they keep trying to promote podcasts that I never will listen to there, while making it harder to listen to the music that I'm paying to listen to.

    • mattbg

      Like a lot of modern services, they're not fully-supported by paying customers and need to find other ways to generate revenue.

      I think all of these services are to some extent bound by revenue-sharing deals with record labels - that's the main reason these all-in music services even exist - and so one way they can increase their share of the revenue is to get you to spend more of your time listening to things that generate them more profit while not pushing you so far away from what you like that you leave the service. So, they pay next to nothing for podcasts, for example, and they may be paid extra to promote or get the stream counts up on certain artists... and that's what you get.

      It's sort of like the whole "radio plays" game from the old days merged with a service that makes you feel like you're entitled to own the experience by being a paying customer. It's replaced paying for music for many people. Unfortunately it hasn't fully replaced the thing that actually does let you own the experience, which is buying music and listening to it on your own terms.

      It's a common theme with these services - "I'm paying them!" - but you're not paying them enough to be profitable, and they think you'll leave if they ask you to do so, or they think other people will leave if they start creating multiple tiers of freedom.

      • Stabitha.Christie

        "Like a lot of modern services, they're not fully-supported by paying customers and need to find other ways to generate revenue."

        One of those was is also suing to pay lower statutory rates to artists. They aren't trying to pay the recored labels less, just the actual artists. Which seems kinda of self defeating as artists create 100% of the value and if they can't make enough move to produce their work than Spotify literally has no product to sell. Spotify is a dirtbag company and anyone that actually likes music should drop them and move to something less sleazy.

        • mattbg

          I don't dispute what you're saying - music streaming services are essentially beholden to the labels - but there are other ways to use Spotify for convenience while still supporting labels. You can still buy the albums of the artists you want to support and then amplify your support with streams. I still buy digital albums for that purpose.

          Smaller artists must really suffer, though. Big artists with heavy label backing can make up for the low streaming rates with volume, branding, and concert revenues, but small artists without much of a name that would normally have sold CDs direct to buyers can't make up for that with streams to people who have given up on buying CDs.

          It seems like "merch" has become a go-to method to make more money for many... which seems like an environmental disaster to me, but because Millennials are into it apparently it's fine.

          • Stabitha.Christie

            The labels are fine. t least the big ones are. They were early investors in Spotify and negotiated a larger payment for themselves and and a lower payment for artists. What I’m talking about is the songwriting payment. That is legally set. If I write a song I get the same payment no matter if my version is played or someone covers it. It doesn’t matter if that happens on a CD, stream, cassette .. whatever I get a percentage as the song writer. Spotify, Amazon abs others are suing the government to get the government to lower that rate. So it will harm artists across the board no matter how the song is sold.

    • mebby

      I have similar frustrations with Spotify and most streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+, etc.) where I want my favorites and what I am watching now front and center. Why do they need to keep serving me new songs/artists/shows/movies. I will search stuff out when I am done watching what is in my favorites/watch list/in the middle of watching. They dont' need to sell me on new content. I am already paying them! And one of the reasons I am paying them to is to have seamless access to the content I am consuming or what I flag for later. As you noted, "show me just my music"/content...

  7. Cdorf

    PocketCasts for the win

  8. will

    So they will ignore the HiFi audio they talked about a year ago, and said would come by end of the year, and will now talk about ads in podcasts. Nice.

  9. Chris_Kez

    Yes, the next great frontier in audio is enhanced advertising, lol!

    As @mattbg notes, the show notes within most podcasts can accommodate links to sponsored products, ads, etc., for folks that are interested.

    I guess this could help some people, but I'm kind of reflexively grossed out when companies try to pitch something that is really good for them as something that is good for users. I should also say that I'm not a Spotify user, and I don't like their entire push to create exclusive podcasts, to monetize podcasts, and to build their own giant ad marketplace on top of what has been a free and open ecosystem.

    • Stabitha.Christie

      Right? Like my issue with podcasts has been that they don't help me spend my money ... finally my money saving crisis has been solved... thanks Spotify!

  10. kjb434

    I've said over and over again that Spotify is a horrible podcast platform.

    RSS is an open source protocol. Podcast 2.0 database has over 4 million podcasts (more than Apple and Spotify). Get a free Podcast 2.0 app and subscribe to your favorites with no charge.