Spotify (NYSE:SPOT) is expanding distribution of The Michelle Obama Podcast to new platforms following the conclusion of its first season. That means people still listening to podcasts through Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) native podcast player or a host of other podcast players will soon see the "Spotify Exclusive" show up in new chart rankings.
"Millions of listeners across the globe have already embraced The Michelle Obama Podcast and we look forward to growing that audience as we build anticipation for future Higher Ground series," Spotify Chief Content and Advertising Business Officer Dawn Ostroff said in a press release.
Spotify's looking for a Breaking Bad moment.
What does Walter White have to do with it?
Breaking Bad received strong positive reviews for its first three seasons, but it snuck mostly under the radar of most American TV viewers in the late 2000s. It wasn't until the first three seasons popped up on Netflix that the series started growing its audience. By the end of the series run, it was one of the most watched shows on cable TV.
That's what happens when you take great content and combine it with broad distribution.
Spotify certainly has broad distribution already. It counts about 300 million monthly active users on its platform. But those users come primarily for music. Spotify still represents a tiny fraction of podcast listening. Podcast hosting company Libsyn says about 60% of its distribution is through Apple's podcast listening apps.
Among those listening to podcasts on Spotify, however, The Michelle Obama Podcast has been incredibly popular. It's currently ranked as the No. 4 podcast on Spotify for listeners in the United States. And the podcast has consistently ranked high on the chart since its debut in July.
Expanding the popular podcast to other platforms with much bigger listenership than Spotify could increase awareness for the podcast and Spotify as a podcast listening platform. When people are looking for season two, maybe they'll adopt podcasts on Spotify. It worked for Breaking Bad.
Podcasts are just getting started on Spotify
21% of Spotify's users listened to podcasts in the second quarter. That's up from 14% at the end of the third quarter last year, the first time the company released the metric. Still, there's a lot of room left to grow its listenership.
To be sure, Spotify is trying lots of strategies and spending a lot of money on podcast content and technology. It bought the exclusive rights to The Joe Rogan Experience, the most popular podcast across multiple platforms and now the most popular on Spotify. It has an exclusive deal with the Obamas' Higher Ground production company. And it has numerous other deals with celebrities and media companies with valuable intellectual property. Beyond the content, Spotify's investing in technology. From creation software, to hosting, to ad tech, Spotify has solutions for nearly every piece of the podcast industry.
And Spotify has good reasons for pushing listeners toward podcasts. It doesn't have to pay royalties to music publishers, it can effectively monetize listenership, and it's seen improved engagement across all listening from users who listen to podcasts. That last piece is currently the biggest driver to its bottom line, but the other two pieces could become considerable sources of profit in the future if it continues to grow podcast listening on the platform.
Investors shouldn't view giving up its exclusivity on The Michelle Obama Podcast as a sign of failure and an effort to get the most ad revenue it can from other platforms. Just the opposite. It's a piece of content strong enough to attract new users to Spotify's platform to listen to podcasts.