Behind the Scenes of Podcast Curation with Spotify Podcast Editorial
Discover how the Spotify team selects podcasts they feature and what creators can do to be considered.
Out of all the podcasts in all the world, why do certain ones surface when you search for podcasts on Spotify? How do those featured podcasts land that prime real estate, and what can creators do to get their podcasts there? If you have your own podcast, we’re guessing these are burning questions.
The process is not arbitrary. In fact, a lot of thought goes into it by the Spotify Podcast Editorial team. They are the arbiters of the curated podcasts you see on Spotify, and the ones spending most of their time listening to and programming podcasts on the app.
We went straight to the source to ask how a creator can get the Spotify Podcast Editorial team’s attention. Brianne O’Brien, Deontay Morris, and Isabella Way are here to demystify the curatorial process. They let us in on their curation goals and deciding factors, plus offer tips to inspire your own podcast strategy.
The 101 on Spotify Curated Podcasts
There is a lot of value for creators included in the editorial-curated podcast homepage, the New Releases page, community destinations, and podcast playlists—primarily the opportunity to capture a lot more fans.
A team of podcast curation experts, including programmers and editors, develop the curated pages and select the shows and episodes that go in them. The team breaks down Spotify’s massive podcast catalog into manageable pieces based on the audience, community, or genre they align with.
The Podcast homepage is the first page users see when they click “Podcasts” on the home screen of the Spotify app. So, it's important for users who are browsing for new shows to listen to. This page shows Editor’s Picks of the best episodes of the moment and top trending categories.
Community destinations bring together shows and episodes that correspond with major themes and audiences. Some of those include The Roster for sports and gaming podcasts, theLINER for music podcasts, The Dinner Table for podcasts about Black culture and stories, and PRESENTE for podcasts about the Latinx community.
Way, who is the Podcast Programming Lead, manages utility destinations pages with the programming operations team. These promote and support podcast discovery, and include Podcast New Releases, Only on Spotify, Listen If You Watch, and Creator Space. In contrast to our community destinations, which speak to users’ identities and evergreen interests like true crime, music and astrology, our utility destinations help users stay up to date on the newest podcast releases, Spotify exclusives, video podcasts, current conversations about TV/film and more.
The purpose of the Podcast Editorial Team’s Curation
It can be overwhelming for listeners to sift through the millions of podcasts on Spotify. This is the predicament that the community destinations, collections, and playlists solve and why there is an entire team dedicated to the cause. First and foremost, curated podcasts are about discovery and connecting listeners with podcasts they’ll love.
“Our goal is to find the best podcasts across all genres and formats and for all identities. We want to help listeners navigate the world through learning, connection, and community, and we do that through various curations with different audience segments in mind,” says O’Brien, the Podcast Editorial Lead.
These curated resources are as much for new podcast listeners as they are for fanatics with insatiable podcast appetites. “We know that even though podcasts aren’t new to us, there are still quite a few folks who are looking for their first or second podcast to love. So we try to leverage significant cultural moments and social conversations to bring as many people into the podcast funnel as possible,” says Morris, the Podcast Editorial Community Lead.
Morris touts the impact that podcasts can have on people’s lives and how the playlists make those galvanizing stories more accessible. “Listeners have improved their mental health, become better parents, become better citizens, and bought a house, to name a few things, because of podcasts they heard. We emphasize these unique and awesome stories that move countless people to action. And our curation strategy keeps this aspect front and center so that the Spotify app always has the human touch to keep our listeners engaged and coming back,” he says.
How the selection process works
As you can imagine, the podcast editorial team consists of voracious podcast consumers. “Listening and learning are constants in our line of work,” O’Brien says. The team has different sources and methods for finding podcasts to consider, including creator pitches, email newsletters about podcasting, social media, networks and studios they follow, recommendations from their Content Partnerships team, word of mouth, and searching around the Spotify app itself.
Morris says the driving mission when doing their research is to listen to a wide range of shows and to uplift marginalized creators. He estimates that “each editor spends about 20 hours a week listening to podcasts. Over the course of a year, that’s almost one thousand hours of podcast listening time!”
O’Brien says that while their curation criteria aren’t cut and dry, in general, they are looking for “creators and storytelling that have the ability to move listeners in both big ways and small.” But they do have some specific qualities they seek in the podcasts they choose to feature. Not all will apply to every podcast, depending on the genre or audience, but these are some of the factors that the editorial team considers. Podcasters: take note.
- Hook us and give us a reason to keeping listening
- Both educate and entertain us (e.g., narrative, investigative journalism, etc.)
- Authenticity and inclusivity
- Enlightens or challenges us through compelling conversation
- Consistent across theme and production value
- Packed with twists and unexpected surprises (e.g., true crime, documentary)
- Personality driven and/or have incredible host chemistry (e.g., interview-driven shows)
- Well-researched and include a range of voices (e.g., news & politics, science, history)
- Delivers a frictionless listening experience
- Experimental in format (e.g., fiction, music, comedy)
The team also takes into account audio quality, but that shouldn’t deter creators who don’t have the most advanced or sophisticated setups. As Way says, “it doesn’t have to be a full professional studio, but the production value should not detract from the listening.”
How creators can get noticed by the Spotify Podcast Editorial Team
Beyond producing content that aligns with the editorial team’s criteria, there are some extra steps creators can take to make an impression.
Besides storytelling skills and creating quality, compelling content, Morris says that marketing and promotion will give creators an extra advantage. “Social media is a great way to get your word out, not only to us, but to the world, by mentioning @SpotifyPodcasts on Twitter, Instagram, and @Spotify on TikTok.”
He also recommends making sure the way you title your episodes is consistent and spending time on your episode descriptions. Pitch the most important and interesting parts of your show in a succinct way that will capture listeners’ interests.
Lastly, creators have the opportunity to pitch their podcasts directly to the editorial team for consideration using our submission form. This is an amazing way for creators to get in front of Spotify Podcast Editorial and potentially join the amazing shows featured on curated playlists.
Creators are always being considered
If your podcast hasn’t been featured on a curated community destination or playlist yet, that doesn’t mean there won’t be many more opportunities. Way says, “A lot of our curation is thematic, so if your podcast is not a current fit for something at this time, it may fit in a later collection or curation.”
The Spotify Podcast Editorial team is always revisiting podcasts, both old and new. They know more than anyone that creators just starting out will develop their skills, find their audience, and define their niche more and more as they go on.
“We meticulously keep track of every podcast we hear and check out. Podcasters are humans that grow and perfect their craft over time, so we definitely revisit shows all the time,” says Morris.
Guest-curated podcast playlists offer another entry point to being featured within Spotify’s podcast spaces. These guests, identified by the Spotify Podcast Editorial team, bring in more diverse tastes and recommendations from trusted entertainers, influencers, activists, and other movers and shakers. So, when listeners see a playlist from someone they’re a fan of or admire, they can check out what podcasts those people are into.
Morris says that guest curations are an important part of amplifying podcast creators. These respected figures can reach the same communities and audiences that creators want to attract.
In 2021, there were over 50 guest curations, and there are plans for even more in 2022. Some of Morris’ personal favorite guest-curated playlists include those by Teenager Therapy, Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr., and Stacey Abrams.
Draw inspiration from featured creators
Creators are fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing source of inspiration on Spotify: other talented creators. All they have to do is look at the creators featured in community destinations and the newly launched Creator Space, a hub specially-designed for this purpose. The Creator Space features curated shows and episodes that fall into three different, regularly updated categories: Indie Podcast Picks, How to Podcast, and Featured Video Podcasts.
Use these spaces to envision where your podcast could fit, and work towards that goal of one day being featured yourself. The Podcast Editorial team is always listening and paying attention.