Amazon’s podcast play, explained

Amazon’s acquisition of Wondery will help it build a moat around Audible and Amazon Music.

A picture taken on February 8, 2019 in Paris shows a smartphone and its earphones as an audio podcast is being played. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Last summer, Spotify had a very noteworthy job posting on its website: “Head of Audio Books.”

It was a logical step for the streaming giant, which has aggressively expanded from music to podcasts.

Amazon — which owns the current audiobook leader, Audible — must have taken notice, and its $300m deal for podcast studio Wondery (“Dr. Death,” “Dirty John”) is likely in response to the rising Spotify threat.

Amazon is building a moat for Audible and Amazon Music

According to leading podcast analyst Nick Quah, Amazon made 2 notable additions in the fall designed to keep users on its platform:

  • Podcast distribution: It now hosts third-party podcasts so that users don’t have to jump to another app for podcast playing.
  • Original content: A slate of exclusive “podcasts” were created, allowing Amazon to differentiate its audio offerings.

While Wondery content will initially appear on Amazon Music, the deal can clearly help Audible down the line, too.

Podcast listeners are projected to hit 2B by 2025…

… up from 800m in 2019, per data firm Omdia.

Amazon’s move is the latest in a space that has seen a frenzy of activity:

  • Spotify scooped up talent like Joe Rogan, The Ringer, and Gimlet Media as well as tech for production (Anchor) and ads (Megaphone)
  • The New York Times acquired Serial Production, an audio production company
  • Sirius XM (which owns Pandora) acquired podcast player Stitcher and hosting service Simplecast
  • Apple acquired Scout FM, which uses AI to curate custom podcast playlists

The land grab is so crazy that The Hustle is mulling a new job posting: Head of WTF is Going On in Podcasts.

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