- Spotify rolled out its first-ever branded original podcast series with New Amsterdam Vodka as a launch sponsor, according to Adweek. "Ebb & Flow" is a five-episode series hosted by Jasmine Solano, a music influencer, DJ and New Amsterdam Vodka ambassador.
- The podcast will include conversations between Solano and hip-hop and R&B artists, including GASHI, Bryce Vine, Saweetie, J.I.D. and Skizzy Mars, who will discuss their experiences in the music industry. The podcast is part of the vodka marketer's "Pour Your Soul Out" campaign and includes drink recipes at the end of each episode.
- The debut of "Ebb & Flow" comes as Spotify is facing some challenges with other aspects of its advertising business. The platform reported that 2 million users of its ad-supported service were using ad blockers on in March, per Digital Music News. Spotify is reportedly suspending users who are found to be using ad blockers and will ban some entirely over the practice.
Spotify's first branded podcast series signals that the music streaming platform is thinking about new ways to monetize its service beyond traditional in-stream and video advertising. This might be essential as Spotify must generate more ad revenue following an IPO earlier this year and also appears to be grappling with a large amount of ad blockers on its platform that might hinder performance.
Branded content would help Spotify get around ad blockers and might deliver the type of rich content marketing that consumers are frequently favoring over traditional ads. Podcasts are a growing segment well-suited to the streaming audio space, and Spotify has an impressive reach with 180 million monthly active users across its ad-supported and subscription models.
Marketers are already seeing the potential that podcasts offer in reaching on-the-go consumers, who often listen to series on their mobile devices. Podcast ad revenue is projected to reach $659 million by 2020, a 110% increase from 2017, according to research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC. The arts and entertainment category, where "Ebb & Flow" would fall, was among the top revenue-generating podcast genres in the report.
A number of major brands have added podcasts to their digital marketing media plays as well. American Express, for example, said it would run ads on more than 20 podcasts to support a brand platform it launched in April that highlights how people balance their work and personal lives. Other marketers are forging into their own shows. McDonald's earlier this year partnered with the publisher Gizmodo on a three-episode series called "The Sauce," which examined the craze behind the fast-food chain's Szechuan dipping sauce that was re-released after being featured on "Rick and Morty."
Spotify reported losses in July for its second quarter as a publicly-traded company, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, the platform's subscriptions were up 10% following a semiannual promotion that includes a bundled package with Hulu. Spotify said it expects its premium subscribers to reach somewhere between 85 million to 88 million and its monthly active users to reach between 188 million to 193 million by the close of the current quarter in September.