If there are two words that have defined Spotify over the last year, they are "Discover Weekly."
The playlist, which is updated once a week with songs Spotify's algorithms predict you'll like based on your listening habits, is widely loved. It even makes people look forward to Mondays, which is quite an achievement in its own right.
Now Spotify is hoping to take what it's learned from Discovery Weekly's success and apply it to more than just music.
If you open Spotify's mobile app and look hard enough, you'll find video clips from the likes of ESPN, Comedy Central, the BBC, and The Daily Show. The streaming music giant flipped the switch on video, which can be found under "Shows" in the app's "Browse" menu, earlier this month after announcing the addition way back in May 2015.
Countless audio podcasts from Nerdist, HowStuffWorks.com, Reply All, and others are also now being funneled into Spotify alongside the latest Drake and Adele singles.
It may seem odd to think about watching a Key and Peele comedy sketch or a TED talk in Spotify, and the Swedish startup knows the experience could be jarring for some. That's why it's introducing its 75 million users to video and podcasts in the same way it did Discover Weekly: by individually customizing the experience for each user.
"We're a daily companion for music fans," Spotify's vice president of product, Shiva Rajaraman, told Tech Insider in a recent interview. "That shift has not changed. That said, music fans increasingly want more than just audio in various moments. We're following that need. We're not too sure yet exactly what that means."
Over the last eight months between when Spotify announced that video and podcasts were coming to its app during a flashy New York media event, Rajaraman said the team has been "cautiously" testing how the content worked in the app and quietly surveying users.
"The big part of our testing over the last several months was about trying to get a sense of, 'Will this alienate people?'" said Rajaraman, who helped YouTube launch its music streaming service before joining Spotify in August 2014. "We've been testing this very carefully."
Podcasts make sense for Spotify to support — they typically play in the background like music and are popular among commuters. Video, on the other hand, is more of a leap.
Rajaraman gave a couple of reasons why Spotify chose to do video: internet connectivity and LTE speeds have improved significantly in most of the developed world over the last few years, and the company's "sweet spot" demographic of 18-24-year-olds is used to consuming multiple kinds of media in the same app (as evidenced by Facebook's text, photo, and now video-rich News Feed.)
"We felt that if we didn't do this, start exploring
video, that our audience could potentially leave us because they
can get that format elsewhere," Rajaraman
For Spotify's users to embrace video and podcasts like it hopes they will, execution is key. That's why it's working with each content creator in the app directly to customize how everything from Jimmy Fallon clips to Swedish radio is tailored.
"What we believe that is special about us is that the playlist is primary in Spotify," Rajaraman explained. "Our users appreciate effectively a curated session, not necessarily a bunch of one-off wonders. So a lot of what we're doing with video is to work with partners who can curate different sets of videos for different contexts."
To start, those curated sessions look like a "Laugh on Your Lunch Break" playlist with funny video clips, tech podcasts for commuters, and different weekly series like "Science Friday." Spotify is experimenting with delivering non-music content based on user behavior in different regions too. For instance, full Adult Swim shows can be watched in Europe. In the United States, you'll find an abundance of short late-night talk show clips.
Like it does with the music you listen to, Spotify will build a taste profile for every user who watches video or listens to podcasts. If you stay away from anything that's not music-related in the app, you'll see less video/podcast suggestions than someone who shows interest.
"Unlike for music where we've already had years of listening history for some people, in this case we have to start to push it out to them and see what sticks," Rajaraman explained. "And things that don't stick we'll obviously not keep pushing."
The breadth of video and podcasts Spotify offers right now is by no means all-encompassing. If you're a serious podcast listener, it's likely that at least one of your favorite shows isn't available in Spotify yet. But Rajaraman said the company isn't as concerned about converting existing podcast fans as it is introducing good shows to an audience that may have never listened to them before.
"Generally we've found that people come to us to be entertained, and that entertainment can come in different forms," he said. "And we haven't seen aversion to that."