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Spotify’s next big bet is online video courses – this company is truly lost

Published Mar 25th, 2024 10:54AM EDT

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I use Spotify for the same thing that everyone else uses it: to listen to audio. It started as a music streaming app, which made a heck of a lot of sense. Then, podcasts made their way onto the platform. That also made sense. Then, audiobooks popped up. That also made sense. It felt like Spotify hit the trifecta of audio in one app. So, what’s next? Apparently… online courses?

In a blog post, the company announced it is now testing online courses for Spotify users in the United Kingdom. The company has partnered with a number of online education companies like BBC Maestro, PLAYvirtuoso, Skillshare, and Thinkific to offer their content directly through Spotify.

To start, the test will feature courses focused on four topics: making music, getting creative, learning business, and healthy living.

U.K. users will now find video courses for purchase alongside their favorite music, podcasts, and audiobooks. The content for courses on Spotify covers a variety of topics categorized into four main themes: make music, get creative, learn business, and healthy living, giving listeners an abundance of options to expand their knowledge. 

Babar Zafar, VP of Product Development at Spotify, said in a statement “Testing video courses in the U.K. allows us to explore an exciting opportunity to better serve the needs of our users who have an active interest in learning.”

Many of our users engage with podcasts and audiobooks on a daily basis for their learning needs, and we believe this highly engaged community will be interested in accessing and purchasing quality content from video course creators. At Spotify, we’re constantly striving to create new offerings for our creators and users, and having built best-in-class personalized music and podcast offerings, we look forward to exploring the potential of video-based learning on Spotify.

If you’re a user in the UK and want to give an online course a try, follow the steps below. Spotify says that U.K. Free users and Premium subscribers “will be able to trial at least two lessons per course for free before making the decision to purchase additional lessons, which they can do on a dedicated web page.” It sounds like you won’t be able to make a purchase directly in the app — the App Store tax strikes the user experience again.

  • On the mobile app, U.K. users will find course videos in the home and browse tabs.
  • Once clicked through, users can explore available courses across the four categories before purchasing them on desktop. Once purchased, the courses will be available on mobile and desktop. 
  • On desktop:
  • Users can select courses they’re interested in, and upon purchase, start learning and watching on the mobile app or desktop.

Spotify says that online courses make sense on their platform due to how much its listeners tune in to educational-based podcasts and audiobooks. The company says “Half of Spotify Premium subscribers have engaged in education or self-help-themed podcasts.”

Even if that’s the case, I can’t see this experiment working out for Spotify. I’m not saying that video doesn’t make sense on the platform at all — the company recently launched music videos after over a decade of being in the music business. Despite being incredibly late to the game, it makes a heck of a lot of sense that the world’s most popular music streaming service would have music videos for its users to watch.

However, even if users are listening to education podcasts and audiobooks, I can’t see someone wanting to pull up an online course on the app. And it’s not as if the company hasn’t already learned this lesson. Spotify has also really wanted to make its app a contender against YouTube as the place to watch video versions of podcasts — something that has really not taken off. Apple tried the same thing with its Podcasts app, but people still go to YouTube to watch podcasts.

Experiments like this are fine — it’s good to experiment to see what works! However, I don’t see this turning into anything more than that. It’s also indicative of a Spotify that seems keen on turning itself into something more like YouTube or TikTok. Its redesign of the app last year was certainly indicative of that and that really hasn’t had the effect the company most likely wanted.

The company seems a bit lost, honestly. It wants video to work so much that it’s losing focus on what people actually come to Spotify for: audio. They have music. They have podcasts. They have audiobooks. Focus on that. Make it great. Make it so great that it becomes the de-facto place to come to for all three of those sources of entertainment.

Maybe Spotify can take the learn business course and figure that out.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.