Spotify opens its podcast catalog to third-party apps, but not for streaming

Spotify is opening its podcast catalog to third-party apps. The company this week launched a new version of its Podcast APIs that makes it possible for third-party apps to connect to Spotify in order to manage a user’s podcast library, search its podcast catalog and fetch detailed information and podcast shows and episodes, the company says.

The launch is significant as it taps into the wider developer community to help Spotify grow its podcast user base. More importantly, it offers access to Spotify’s exclusive shows outside of Spotify’s own app for the first time.

Spotify, like many streaming providers, has begun to use the term “podcast” loosely. To Spotify, the name simply means an audio program, presented in an episodic format. But originally, the word was meant to refer to audio episodes made available over the web using the open format RSS.

Apple’s own Podcasts app, despite its majority market share, never changed what a podcast was by putting select shows behind some sort of paywall, membership or paid subscription.

But Spotify (and other newcomers like Luminary), have done exactly this. In Spotify’s case, it acquired technology startups designed to help people create and manage their podcasts, as well as a number of podcast networks — including The Ringer, Gimlet and Parcast — which put out some of the industry’s top shows. The investments in the podcast-streaming side of Spotify’s business helped boost podcast listening on its service by 200% last year, and have paved the way for the company to generate additional revenue through better-targeted ads. 

Today, many of Spotify’s 700,000-some podcasts are exclusive to its service. That means if you want to listen to them, you have to join Spotify.

Unfortunately for podcast listeners, it also means you had to use the Spotify app to stream these shows, instead of your otherwise preferred third-party podcast app like Overcast, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Castro or the many others that fill the app stores.

Spotify’s new podcast APIs don’t change this, sadly.

Instead, the new API is focused on podcast discovery, search and managing shows — not on streaming Spotify’s podcasts, exclusives or originals through a third-party app experience.

Spotify anticipates the new features available now will be useful to apps that import shows to a user’s Spotify library, or for integrations with calendar apps, or social podcasting experiences to help Spotify users share what they’re listening to with their friends.

“Launching this podcast API is very meaningful for Spotify right now as we continue to delve deeper into creating value in new ways for listeners with podcasting,” the company wrote in its announcement. “We are excited to unleash the creative power of the developer community and allow the expansion of Spotify into areas we’ve yet to explore,” it said.

Prior to the launch of its new podcast API, Spotify worked with a select group of partners who were building out their external integrations in order to gain feedback. Spotify made some revisions to the design of the API and improved the developer onboarding experience as a result. However, the company says it plans to continue to work closely on the project over the next six months to refine it further as it’s more broadly available.

Further down the road, it expects to highlight new apps on its developer website.