Spotify adds video learning courses in latest experiment

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Spotify’s UK users are getting access to a fourth category of content to sit alongside its existing library of songs, podcasts and audiobooks: online courses. The company is today launching a new experiment that’ll see video-based lessons from BBC Maestro, Skillshare, Thinkific, and PlayVirtuoso made available via Spotify’s apps on mobile and desktop. The experiment is running in just the UK, and there are currently no guarantees that it’ll get a wider more permanent launch.

Online courses, particularly video-based ones, might feel like an odd fit for a service best known as a source of music and other audio content like podcasts and audiobooks. But product director Mohit Jitani tells me that people are already coming to Spotify for education thanks to some podcasts, so it makes sense to experiment with offering more educational content.

“One of the most interesting things and trends that we started noticing was more and more people were starting to come to Spotify with some intent of learning,” Jitani says. “And we thought, how can we take this core insight and build something on top of it?” In a press release, Spotify says that around half of its Premium subscribers have engaged with education or self-help themed podcasts.

Courses are accessible on both mobile and desktop.
Image: Spotify

Spotify’s pitch to course providers is not just that it can help them reach a much wider audience, but also that it can more directly target potential customers based on their existing listening habits. “It becomes much, much easier for us to find the right people for this course and just provide a much more efficient kind of distribution,” Jitani says. 

The streaming service is offering courses within four categories: make music, get creative, learn business, and healthy life. In Spotify’s mobile apps, courses are accessible from a new pill-shaped icon on the top of the home screen, as well as via the service’s search and browse interfaces. I asked why the company has decided to build them into the same app that’s already overflowing with music, podcasts, and audiobooks, and Jitani told me that it’s partly to do with convenience (users don’t have to download another app and switch between them) and also so that people can be reminded to complete their courses when they open the main Spotify app.

With the experiment, Spotify is offering courses via a freemium model, similar to the one it used when it first launched audiobooks. Free and premium Spotify subscribers alike are able to access at least two video lessons per course for free, but will have to pay a fee to access the full course. Courses consist of a series of videos (which Jitani points out can be listened to with the screen off for an audio-only experience), and there might also be supplementary materials like PDFs.

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Although users will need to pay to access a full course, they can’t do this in-app thanks to Apple and Google’s transaction fees (or, at least, Spotify’s reluctance to pay said fees). On Android, purchases work via email; you tap a button in-app to buy a course and Spotify responds by sending you an email with a purchase link. On iOS Apple’s anti-steering rules (now outlawed in the EU) mean Spotify can’t guide you to a purchase link, instead you just have to know to go to Spotify’s web interface and purchase access to courses from there. On the web, courses are available via the URL 

Spotify is taking a commission on courses sold through its platform, but Jitani declined to comment on the percentage it’s charging course providers. When it comes to moderation, courses will have to abide by Spotify’s platform policies, and the service will offer a reporting mechanism if a user comes across content in a course that they feel breaks the streaming service’s rules.

Although the course content is just a test for now, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll get a wider release, it’s interesting to speculate how learning could play into Spotify’s rumored “Supremium” subscription tier. Reports suggest that the company is planning on bundling access to lossless-quality streaming (a feature it announced way back in 2021 and is yet to actually release) along with additional features like more hours of audiobook listening, advanced mixing tools, and more track filtering options. It’s easy to imagine how access to online courses could one day be offered as an extra sweetener to get people to upgrade as well.

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