Google Home, podcasts, and Luminary

Last week, I wrote about how Google is now indexing podcast episodes and the potential ramifications for how people might discover and listen to podcasts based on that update.  I then realized that you can also play podcasts directly through Google Home, though interestingly it will only play the “latest” episode of any given podcast as opposed to a specific episode that you might want to hear.

Additionally, as with Google web search, you can listen to some podcasts that are otherwise only available via standalone mobile applications. For example, if you want to hear The Adam Carolla Show via mobile app, you have to download the standalone app that showcases this and other podcasts that are part of his network (I also wrote more about Carolla a few weeks back if you’re interested). However, you can access it via Google Home, but again, you’ll just get the latest content that’s available from that feed. This makes for a somewhat awkward listening experience in that the Carolla show releases each episode in two-part chunks these days, so by its nature the “latest” episode will always be the second half of a given “show.”

In any event, this is clearly another way in which Google is competing, perhaps indirectly for the time being, with streaming services such as Spotify, which are looking to leverage the growing interest in podcasts as part of their audio content offerings. And new podcast app Luminary is looking to distinguish itself by offering premium podcast content behind a paywall.

Speaking of Luminary, it has been heavily advertising on major podcasts of late. Its business model is set up to offer a number of “free” or ad supported podcasts that you can find on other competing podcast platforms but then provide paywalled access to “premium” podcasts — such as some impressive-looking offerings such as by Trevor Noah and a Bill Simmons-fronted Rewatchables1999 spin-off.

That said, after checking out Luminary’s mobile app, I really wonder if a significant number of people will cough up $7.99 per month to access its premium offerings. There’s the continued splintering of media across the board coupled with a renewed emphasis on paid subscriptions to support content business models, for one, ranging from television to news websites and now to podcasts. I’m also not sure that its strategy of allowing people to access only one episode of premium podcasts for free (and not the “latest” episode but one single episode total) before hitting the paywall will be effective.

In any event, it’s exciting to see the explosion of interest and investment in podcast content and companies, and so we’ll be seeing a lot of experimentation with business models and strategy for years to come.

This post originally appeared in The Berlin Files e-mail newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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