Spotify is testing video podcasts with two YouTube stars

Spotify is now testing video podcasts in its app, starting with two YouTube stars: Zane Hijazi and Heath Hussar, hosts of Zane and Heath: Unfiltered. The global test, which allows the creators to upload their recorded video footage to the app, will show up for 50 percent of the show’s Spotify podcast listeners, a source close to Spotify tells The Verge, and videos will only be coming to three recent episodes, numbers 28 through 30. The test doesn’t visually indicate which episodes have videos to accompany them; listeners will only know once they tap to press play and they see the video footage at the bottom of their screen. They can tap it to make it full screen.

Although this is just an initial test, the source says the feature will likely come to more podcasts in the future — and “fast.” It’ll be particularly helpful for programs from The Ringer, a network Spotify acquired earlier this year, because the team already uploads shows like The Rewatchables to YouTube.

Videos will sync with the audio feed and keep playing even if listeners lock their phones, and ad spots will still play but with the video showing up as a single, static shot. These videos will also only be uploaded in the language podcasters record, so Spotify won’t be translating them for a global audience. The feature is available on the desktop and mobile Spotify apps.

A Spotify spokesperson said in a comment to The Verge: At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests in an effort to improve our user experience. Some of those tests end up paving the way for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning. We don’t have any further news to share at this time.”

The fact that Spotify is starting its test with two YouTube stars seems like a direct shot at the Google-owned company. Some podcasters post their show’s video recordings on YouTube because they benefit from YouTube’s recommendation algorithm whenever they cut their show up into searchable clips. The source close to Spotify didn’t immediately know if videos posted to Spotify would show up in Google search or elsewhere on the web.

Spotify has been trying for years to make video on its platform an appealing option. It features looping videos with a tool called Canvas, and it’s experimented with special video content and music videos for big-name releases.

Whether people will want to watch videos on Spotify is tough to say. People who watch podcasts on YouTube might only be doing so because they found a show through clips, and Spotify would need to populate these shows into Google search to benefit from that traffic. People who simply enjoy watching podcasts instead of listening to them might be interested in what Spotify’s building, especially if they can lock their phone and keep the audio playing.

The test hints at bigger ambitions for the audio company. It’s already building a studio location in Los Angeles that will not only facilitate podcast recordings but also video. The company clearly wants to be a place for all content, in whatever form people want to consume.

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