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How Spotify Is Making Podcasts Hot Again: Term Sheet

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

Music-streaming service Spotify went public via a direct listing in April 2018. Today, the company has a market value of about $21 billion, and analysts estimate that the company will reach $7 billion in sales for 2019. 

In a new feature, Fortune’s Andrew Nusca gives us a look at Spotify’s inner-workings to determine what it would take for the company to hold its position at the top in the face of increasing competition from tech giants like Apple and Amazon.

The story delves into Spotify’s business model, international expansion efforts, and artist payouts. But the one topic I found particularly interesting is around Spotify’s podcast acquisition spree. 

You might remember the music-streaming giant acquired Gimlet Media for $230 million, Anchor for more than $100 million, and Parcast for $56 million in hopes of creating a podcast behemoth. Gimlet focuses on producing high-quality narrative podcasts while Anchor helps with distribution and monetization. Parcast is a scripted-entertainment podcast studio. 

The story notes:

Despite its booming popularity, however, podcasting is still a much smaller business than music. In addition, the music executive adds, podcast economics aren’t the same as those for music. The royalty pool is different, and the audience itself is different. “Being really great at podcasting does not solve all the issues with respect to [Spotify’s] position in the music business,” the executive says. “It’s an interesting opportunity; I understand why they’re going after it. But it’s not a game-changer. The jury’s out.”

It’s true that podcasting is still a much smaller business than music, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Look to China: The podcast industry in China is 23x larger than that of the U.S., estimated to be worth an eye-popping $7.3+ billion. The U.S. podcasting market is still in its infancy because content creators are using basic monetization techniques, while Chinese podcasters are experimenting with gamification, coupons, and limited-time memberships. 

Oh, and it’s worth noting that China-based Tencent Music is one of Spotify’s largest shareholders. In its filing to go public, the Sweden-based streaming service wrote, “Spotify believes the Tencent Transactions allow Spotify to invest in the long term potential of the music market in China and, in turn, TME to invest in the long term potential of the music market outside of China.” Make of that what you will, but all I’m saying is that I can see a world where Spotify’s podcasting business surpasses its music arm.

At the time of Spotify’s acquisitions, I wrote that these deals were a no-brainer. Why? Because of influence and engagement. “People who consume podcasts on Spotify are consuming more of Spotify — including music,” head of Spotify Studios Courtney Holt said at CES in January. “So we found that in increasing our catalog and spending more time to make the user experience better, it wasn’t taking away from music, it was enhancing the overall time spent on the platform.” 

The bottom line: When users come to Spotify to listen to their favorite Gimlet podcast, they will inevitably spend more time engaging with the Spotify platform. Additionally, Spotify will focus on curation and hyper-personalization with its podcast arm, just like how it’s done with its music offering.

“Podcasts have been around for years, but they’re still nascent in other ways—the business has been incredibly fragmented,” Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content officer, said to Nusca. “It’s an opportunity for Spotify to build and unify the industry at a time when we’re seeing listenership explode.”

Read the full story here.

PEOPLE MOVES: Nadiem Makarim, the CEO of Gojek, Indonesia’s biggest startup, is resigning from the company he co-founded to join Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s cabinet. 

Gojek Group President Andre Soelistyo and co-founder Kevin Aluwi will replace Nadiem as co-CEOs of the startup, which was most recently valued at $10 billion, making it one of Southeast Asia’s most valuable unicorns and the first Indonesian company to reach $10 billion in valuation. It also became the country’s first unicorn when it passed the $1 billion mark in 2016. Read more.

THE FUTURE 50: Fortune just released its third annual Future 50 list. It is not based on measures of past performance, but rather attempts to measure commitment to the future. Half of it is based on the market’s assessment of a company’s potential beyond the existing stream of profits; the other half reflects a sophisticated assessment, using natural language processing among other tools of strategy, technology, people and structure. 

The top 10 include: Workday, Square, ServiceNow, Contemporary Amperex Technology, Spotify, Atlassian, Xiaomi, Ctrip.com, Salesforce, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Browse the full list here.

MOST POWERFUL WOMEN: I’m in Washington D.C. forFortune’s annual Most Powerful Women Summit. I’ll be moderating a panel on the private markets’ gold rush with Lydia Jett (SoftBank Vision Fund), Hilarie Koplow-McAdams (NEA), Patricia Nakache (Trinity Ventures) and Heather Smith Thorne (TPG Growth). You can see the full agenda here, and watch the livestream here. And of course, I’ll also be tweeting, so you can follow along here.

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