By Naman Misraraj | Staff Writer
In May of last year, streaming music company Spotify launched plans to integrate podcasts and streaming video into its streaming ecosystem. Seven months later, the company has launched the system and rolled it out to mobile users last Wednesday. The streaming video and podcast content is now centralized on the app’s main page in a section titled ‘Shows’.
With a massive music catalog available for free (with ads), it’s no surprise that Spotify is the go-to option for listening to music on a variety of platforms. This, combined with the fact that 1) streaming music is cheaper than buying albums, and 2) Spotify offers students a 50% discount on their premium subscription, makes Spotify an ideal pick for a student wanting to jam out on their way to class. Unfortunately, the new ‘Shows’ section doesn’t really provide any new incentive for someone who doesn’t already use the streaming music service.
Digging deeper into the video section reveals a slew of different content providers comparable to content that you’d find on YouTube. Videos are typically 4-5 minutes, and are from already popular YouTube brands like “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” “The Ellen Show,” and an assortment of videos from different shows on Comedy Central and Adult Swim, like “Key and Peele” and “Rick and Morty”. Other content providers include ABC, BBC, Vice, and ESPN, to name a few.
Perhaps most interesting of all this content is TED, which actually provides playlists of TED Talks on similar subjects. However, topics aren’t grouped in the standard categories like arts, entertainment, and technology. Rather, they’re in categories like ‘How We Love’, ‘Think Like a CEO’, ‘Spaced Out’, and ‘Bite Sized’ – a collection of short talks that are perfect to pair with a few minutes of break between study sessions. This categorization is ingenious, and helps viewers find talks that might have been seemingly out of the viewer’s area of interest. I watched a lot of videos from a collection entitled ‘Gray Area’, which focused on videos about moral and ethical issues. Videos inside talked about controversial issues including digital monitoring, genetic modification, and religion. All the talks were really interesting, and made me feel much more productive than I would have felt watching BuzzFeed videos in the same about of time.
The second part of ‘Shows’ is audio podcasts, however this left much to be desired. Popular podcasts include “The Nerdist Podcast”, “Welcome to Night Vale”, and “HowStuffWorks”. The app lists these, along with few other available podcasts, but doesn’t make much of an effort to help you find something interesting. In Spotify’s defense, this isn’t so much of a problem with the app as it is with podcasts in general. Podcasts are hard to find and hard to categorize, with each episode having the potential to be concerning something completely different than the last. There isn’t any single platform where podcasts are published, so frequent podcast listeners are likely better off with whatever app they currently have. While Spotify isn’t a bad place to start, its library contains only a fraction of what providers like iTunes and SoundCloud have.