Spotify Unveils Snapchat-like Feature, Podcasts with Obama and Springsteen, More

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

jukin media

Spotify is now matching your music taste to podcasts. The new predictive algorithm is one of a host of new products the Swedish company announced Monday.

It also unveiled a new premium service called HiFi with improved sound and a Snapchat-like feature for artists to share video clips.

The moves are part of Spotify's ongoing effort to expand beyond music and become the primary platform for all audio creators and consumers.

The company has been on an acquisition spree over the past several years, which has included podcast content studios The Ringer, Parcast and Gimlet and podcast creation services like Anchor and Megaphone.

And it's about to release more original podcasts as it expands partnerships, including "Batman Unburied," created with Warner Bros. and DC; a new project from Ava Duvernay and a program featuring Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen.

"The creative economy is exploding," said chief executive officer Daniel Ek. "So far, that explosion has been largely taking shape across video, with companies of all sizes focused there, and new ones entering the market all the time…(But) rather than focusing where everyone else is, we decided to go all-in on audio."

Monday raised the stakes on that bet. Here's a rundown of some of the more notable announcements:

New Products

Stream On: The power of HiFi - Billie Eilish & Finneas

New Subscription Tier: Spotify HiFi will provide subscribers a more refined, "high-end" audio experience. The new tier will roll out in select markets later this year, and will ostensibly compete with other premium streaming services like Tidal and Amazon Music HD.

Spotify Clips: Building on the company's incremental incorporation of video onto its platform, Spotify announced the launch of "Clips," a new feature for artists to share short videos. Described by Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff as a way to "give many of our most popular artists a new way to connect with their fans," Spotify Clips looks similar to the Stories feature that Snap pioneered and which subsequently became a staple of Instagram.

New Artist Marketing Tools: Over 1 million artists use Spotify's suite of artist marketing and data analytics tools each month, said Head of Marketplace Charlie Hellman. "Spotify for Artists" will be made available in 25 additional languages. Among those tools is Canvas, which allows artists to upload visual material to complement their music. Described by music star Halsey as the modern form of album art, Canvas will now be available to all artists following a limited run. Marquee, another artist tool that allows musicians and their teams to sponsor music recommendations, will also be expanding later this year.

More Personalized Playlists: Spotify's chief R&D officer Gustav Söderström underscored the abundance of content on the platform by noting that if someone wanted to listen to the over-50,000 hours of music and podcasts uploaded to Spotify every single day, it would take them over five years. To help users navigate this ocean and discover new music, the company has invested into algorithms that use a combination of machine learning and human curation to build playlists. More of these are coming, with Söderström highlighting that soon the platform's "Daily Mix" franchise, which offers playlists tied to topics like specific genres and decades, will be updated daily.

Podcasting Plans

Renegades: Born in the USA | A Spotify Original Podcast | From Higher Ground

WordPress Partnership: Podcast creators using Spotify's Anchor platform will now be able to "quickly and easily turn written content directly into podcasts," said Sara Lerner, Spotify's head of strategy for podcast formats. "We think this is going to empower a whole new group of creators, people who have historically been more focused on the written word."

Interactive Podcasts: Podcasters will be able to incorporate polls and Q&As in real time to interact with their listeners.

New Podcast Content: Spotify announced a variety of new podcast series, including "Renegades: Born in the USA" hosted by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, "Batman Unburied" in partnership with Warner Bros. and DC, and a new project from Ava Duvernay.

Podcast Discovery: Spotify will soon be unleashing its recommendation algorithms to power podcast discovery. This will include using predictive algorithms to recommend podcasts based on users' musical tastes and allowing users to search for podcasts by theme and topic, based on a machine-learning analysis of episode content.

Growing Podcast Monetization: Spotify's big bet on podcasts comes with an expectation that the still small podcasting market will grow. Ostroff pointed out that although the terrestrial and satellite radio market is about $30 billion, it remains plagued by limited data for advertisers to target listeners with precision. That murky data has carried over into podcasts but, she said, Spotify has been able to change the game here by switching the mode of podcast access from downloads to streaming. To build on that and help marketers reach podcast listeners with targeted ads, Spotify will be launching Spotify Audience Network, a new marketplace for advertisers to buy ads on podcasts. The company also announced that Ad Studio, another channel for marketers, will begin being beta-tested for podcasts. Finally, the company is going to begin testing letting podcasters charge for paid subscriptions.

Expansion Plans

Eighty-five new markets, 36 new languages: Already available in 93 markets, where it reaches 345 million users and hosts content from over 8 million creators, Spotify will be expanding over the next few days into new markets across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. This, Ek said, will make Spotify accessible to over 1 billion new potential customers. The company will also nearly double the number of languages in which it's available, to over 60.

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How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms
Evan Xie

If you can believe it, it’s been more than a decade since rapper Macklemore extolled the virtues of thrift shopping in a viral music video. But while scouring the ranks of vintage clothing stores looking for the ultimate come-up may have waned in popularity since 2012, the online version of this activity is apparently thriving.

According to a new trend story from CNBC, interest in “reselling” platforms like Etsy-owned Depop and Poshmark has exploded in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In an article that spends a frankly surprising amount of time focused on sellers receiving death threats before concluding that they’re “not the norm,” the network cites the usual belt-tightening ecommerce suspects – housebound individuals doing more of their shopping online coupled with inflation woes and recession fears – as the causes behind the uptick.

As for data, there’s a survey from Depop themselves, finding that 53% of respondents in the UK are more inclined to shop secondhand as living costs continue to rise. Additional research from Advance Market Analytics confirms the trend, citing not just increased demand for cheap clothes but the pressing need for a sustainable alternative to recycling clothing materials at its core.

The major popularity of “thrift haul” videos across social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok has also boosted the visibility of vintage clothes shopping and hunting for buried treasures. Teenage TikToker Jacklyn Wells scores millions of views on her thrift haul videos, only to get routinely mass-accused of greed for ratching up the Depop resell prices for her coolest finds and discoveries. Nonetheless, viral clips like Wells’ have helped to embed secondhand shopping apps more generally within online fashion culture. Fashion and beauty magazine Hunger now features a regular list of the hottest items on the re-sale market, with a focus on how to use them to recreate hot runway looks.

As with a lot of consumer and technology trends, the sudden surge of interest in second-hand clothing retailers was only partly organic. According to The Drum, ecommerce apps Vinted, eBay, and Depop have collectively spent around $120 million on advertising throughout the last few years, promoting the recent vintage shopping boom and helping to normalize second-hand shopping. This includes conventional advertising, of course, but also deals with online influencers to post content like “thrift haul” videos, along with shoutouts for where to track down the best finds.

Reselling platforms have naturally responded to the increase in visibility with new features (as well as a predictable hike in transaction fees). Poshmark recently introduced livestreamed “Posh Shows” during which sellers can host auctions or provide deeper insight into their inventory. Depop, meanwhile, has introduced a “Make Offer” option to fully integrate the bartering and negotiation process into the app, rather than forcing buyers and sellers to text or Direct Message one another elsewhere. (The platform formerly had a comments section on product pages, but shut this option down after finding that it led to arguments, and wasn’t particularly helpful in making purchase decisions.)

Now that it’s clear there’s money to be made in online thrift stores, larger and more established brands and retailers are also pushing their way into the space. H&M and Target have both partnered with online thrift store ThredUp on featured collections of previously-worn clothing. A new “curated” resale collection from Tommy Hilfiger – featuring minorly damaged items that were returned to its retail stores – was developed and promoted through a partnership with Depop, which has also teamed with Kellogg’s on a line of Pop-Tarts-inspired wear. J.Crew is even bringing back its classic ‘80s Rollneck Sweater in a nod to the renewed interest in all things vintage.

Still, with any surge of popularity and visibility, there must also come an accompanying backlash. In a sharp editorial this week for Arizona University’s Daily Wildcat, thrift shopping enthusiast Luke Lawson makes the case that sites like Depop are “gentrifying fashion,” stripping communities of local thrift stores that provide a valuable public service, particularly for members of low-income communities. As well, UK tabloids are routinely filled with secondhand shopping horror stories these days, another evidence point as to their increased visibility among British consumers specifically, not to mention the general dangers of buying personal items from strangers you met over the internet.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Numbers don’t lie, but often they don’t tell the whole story. If you look at the facts and figures alone, launching a startup seems like a daunting enterprise. It seems like a miracle anyone makes it out the other side.

  • 90% of startups around the world fail.
  • On average, it takes startups 2-3 years to turn a profit. (Venture funded startups take far longer.)
  • Post-seed round, fewer than 10% of startups go on to successfully raise a Series A investment.
  • Less than 1% of startups go public.
  • A startup only has a .00006% chance of becoming a unicorn.


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From The Vault: VC Legend Bill Gurley On Startups, Venture Capital and Scaling

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Bill Gurley in a blue suit
Bill Gurley

This interview was originally published on December of 2020, and was recorded at the inaugural dot.LA Summit held October 27th & 28th.

One of my longtime favorite episodes of Office Hours was a few years ago when famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley and I talked about marketplace-based companies, how work-from-home will continue to accelerate business opportunities and his thoughts on big tech and antitrust.

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