This Week in Apps: App trends from 2019, Pinterest tops Snapchat, Disney+ hits No. 1 in Q4

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we dig into App Annie’s new “State of Mobile 2019” report and other app trends. We’re also seeing big gains for TikTok in 2019 and Disney+ in Q4. Both Apple and Google announced acquisitions this week that have implications for the mobile industry, as well.

NBCU’s streaming service Peacock launches April 15 for Comcast subscribers, everyone else on July 15

NBCUniversal officially unveiled its new streaming service Peacock today, announcing that the service will be available as part of a bundle for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers on April 15, before launching nationally on July 15.

The company had announced its plans to enter the streaming market a year ago, describing it as an ad-supported, subscription service that would also be available to pay-TV subscribers at no additional cost.

That’s more-or-less what the company detailed at an investor presentation today, where it said there will a free tier of Peacock that includes more than 7,500 hours of programming, including classic shows and the current seasons of freshman broadcast series.

But if you want to see the original programming that NBCUniversal is creating for Peacock — and twice as many hours of content overall — you’ll need Peacock Premium, which will be bundled for Comcast and Cox subscribers, and will cost $4.99 per month otherwise.

Both of those versions will include ads, though you can also pay $9.99 for an ad-free experience.

The new service is one of several big streaming launches expected this year, with WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile service Quibi also preparing to make their debuts. Those join other recent entries from Disney and Apple in an increasingly crowded streaming landscape still led by the big three — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. (The latter is now majority-owned by Disney, but NBCU parent Comcast will hold onto its Hulu stake until 2024.)

Many of the newer streamers — including the just-launched Disney+ and Apple TV+, as well as the upcoming HBO Max — are opting for an ad-free experience. But NBCU’s Peacock will instead follow the business models adopted by Hulu and ViacomCBS Inc.s’ CBS All Access, where advertising helps to bring down the cost of the subscription.

Despite its terrible name (yes, we get it — it’s the NBC logo), Peacock has a chance to grab a slice of the streaming market thanks to its decent back catalog and NBCU’s plans to promote the service heavily during the Summer Olympics on NBC.

NBCU announced Peacock’s original programming lineup last fall, which includes reboots of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Punky Brewster,” and “Saved by the Bell,” plus new series like “Dr. Death,” based on the true-crime podcast; “Brave New World,” based on the dystopian Aldous Huxley novel; an SNL docu-series “Who Wrote That,” “One of Us Is Lying,” based on the NYT best-seller, and many more.

Peacock will also be the new home for Netflix’s most-watched series, “The Office,” in a deal valued at $500 million for the comedy classic.

Other NBC shows will be available on Peacock, too, including  “30 Rock,” “Bates Motel,” “Battlestar Gallactica,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Cheers,” “Chrisley Knows Best,” “Covert Affairs,” “Downton Abbey,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” “Frasier,” “Friday Night Lights,” “House,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “King Of Queens,” “Married…With Children,” “Monk,” “Parenthood,” “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Superstore,” “The Real Housewives,” “Top Chef,” and “Will & Grace.”

Popular films to stream on Peacock include “American Pie,” “Bridesmaids,” “Knocked Up,” “Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Back to the Future,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Casino,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Erin Brockovich,” “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” “Field of Dreams,” “Jaws,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Shrek,” and “The Breakfast Club.” Peacock will also feature films from the franchises: “Bourne,” “Despicable Me,” and “Fast & Furious.”

 

 

44% of TikTok’s all-time downloads were in 2019, but app hasn’t figured out monetization

Despite the U.S. government’s concerns over TikTok, which most recently led to the U.S. Navy banning service members’ use of the app, TikTok had a stellar 2019 in terms of both downloads and revenue. According to new data from Sensor Tower, 44% of TikTok’s total 1.65 billion downloads to date, or 738+ million installs, took place in 2019 alone. And though TikTok is still just experimenting with different means of monetization, the app had its best year in terms of revenue, grossing $176.9 million in 2019 — or 71% of its all-time revenue of $247.6 million.

Apptopia had previously reported TikTok was generating $50 million per quarter.

The number of TikTok downloads in 2019 is up 13% from the 655 million installs the app saw in 2018, with the holiday quarter (Q4 2019) being TikTok’s best ever, with 219 million downloads, up 6% from TikTok’s previous best quarter, Q4 2018. TikTok was also the second-most downloaded (non-game) app worldwide across the Apple App Store and Google Play in 2019, according to Sensor Tower data.

However, App Annie’s recent “State of Mobile” report put it in fourth place, behind Messenger, Facebook and WhatsApp — not just behind WhatsApp, as Sensor Tower does.

Regardless, the increase in TikTok downloads in 2019 is largely tied to the app’s traction in India. Though the app was briefly banned in the country earlier in the year, that market still accounted for 44% (or 323 million) of 2019’s total downloads. That’s a 27% increase from 2018.

TikTok’s home country, China, is TikTok’s biggest revenue driver, with iOS consumer spend of $122.9 million, or 69% of the total and more than triple what U.S. users spent in the app ($36 million). The U.K. was the third-largest contributor in terms of revenue, with users spending $4.2 million in 2019.

These numbers, however, are minuscule in comparison with the billions upon billions earned by Facebook on an annual basis, or even the low-digit billions earned by smaller social apps like Twitter. To be fair, TikTok remains in an experimental phase with regards to revenue. In 2019, it ran a variety of ad formats, including brand takeovers, in-feed native video, hashtag challenges and lens filters. It even dabbled in social commerce.

Meanwhile, only a handful of creators have been able to earn money in live streams through tipping — another area that deserves to see expansion in the months ahead if TikTok aims to take on YouTube as a home for creator talent.

When it comes to monetization, TikTok is challenged because it doesn’t have as much personal information about its users, compared with a network like Facebook and its rich user profile data. That means advertisers can’t target ads based on user interests and demographics in the same way. Because of this, brands will sometimes forgo working with TikTok itself to deal directly with its influencer stars, instead.

What TikTok lacks in revenue, it makes up for in user engagement. According to App Annie, time spent in the app was up 210% year-over-year in 2019, to reach a total 68 billion hours. TikTok clearly has users’ attention, but now it will need to figure out how to capitalize on those eyeballs and actually make money.

Reached for comment, TikTok confirmed it doesn’t share its own stats on installs or revenue, so third-party estimates are the only way to track the app’s growth for now.

YouTube launches Profile cards that show a user’s comment history

Last September, YouTube began testing a new feature called profile cards, which showed a user’s public information and comment history on the current channel. The feature was touted as a way for creators to more easily identify their biggest fans by offering easy access to their past comments. Now, YouTube is launching the product to the general public, initially on Android.

YouTube hopes the new feature will help users “explore comments, build connections with others, and contribute to a more welcoming YouTube overall,” the company explains.

To use Profile cards, you’ll just tap on the profile picture of anyone who’s commenting to view their card. Here, information like their name, profile photo, subscriptions, subscriber counts, and recent comments will appear in a pop-up card. All this information is publicly available on YouTube, but the Profile card consolidates it in one place.

If you’re already subscribed to the commenter’s channel, the Profile card will indicate this; otherwise, you can click the red “Subscribe” link to start following the commenter on YouTube.

To be clear, the comment history that displays isn’t a user’s full YouTube comment history (though that would be interesting!). Instead, the Profile card only shows the comments on the channel you’re viewing when you click to view the card.

A link to the commenter’s channel is also included, towards the bottom.

While YouTube has promoted the feature as a way to connect with community members and identify a channel’s best commenters, it could also be useful for identifying trolls. Being able to see the commenter’s history on the channel can help creators or moderators make more informed decisions about whether future comments from the same users should be hidden, or if the user is trustworthy enough to earn a spot on the “approved users” list, for example.

When the feature launched into testing this fall, feedback was largely positive — especially since some see it as a way to help raise their own channel’s profile by being an active commenter. More recent feedback, however, has a few users asking for an opt-out option so their comments aren’t shown, citing concerns about out-of-context remarks or privacy issues.

YouTube says the feature is available now on Android and will launch on other devices in the future.

Profile cards are one of a few changes launching on YouTube. Also new are optional topics in the Subscriptions feed on iOS, which make it easier for subscribers to filter their subscriptions by topics like “Today,” “Unwatched,” “Live,” “Posts,” “Continue Watching,” and more.

Quibi execs Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman explain their big vision

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Quibi executives — including CEO Meg Whitman and founder/chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg — took the stage in a keynote laying out their vision for the mobile video service.

Katzenberg is a longtime Hollywood executive who led Walt Disney Studios during its animation renaissance in the late ’80s and early ’90s before co-founding Dreamworks Animation. Whitman worked at both Disney and Dreamworks, but she’s best known as the former CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

So it’s fitting that they presented Quibi as a company that exists at the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley — as Whitman put it, creating “the very first entertainment technology platform optimized for mobile viewing.”

This Week in Apps: Apple’s record holiday, Pokémon Go’s staying power, a spying tool gets the boot

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 203 billion downloads in 2019 and $119 billion in consumer spending, according to preliminary year-end data by App Annie. People spend 90% of their mobile time in apps and more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. Apps aren’t just a way to waste idle hours — they’re big business, one that often seems to change overnight.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re back to look at the latest headlines from the app world, including Apple’s record holiday 2019 on the App Store, a look at the staying power of AR hit, Pokémon Go, how the app stores handled a UAE spying tool, stalled Instagram growth in the U.S., and more.

SiriusXM and Pandora test bundle discounts

It’s been less than a year since SiriusXM completed its $3.5 billion acquisition of streaming music service Pandora, but the two companies have already leveraged their collective assets to boost each other’s services. For example, SiriusXM talk shows arrived on Pandora as podcasts, while a Pandora-powered station now streams popular songs for both sets of listeners. Now, the company is considering tying the two services together in a different way — by packaging them as a discounted bundle.

What that bundle deal will look like isn’t yet known.

Pandora today offers four tiers of service: a free ad-supported version, the $4.99/month Pandora Plus service, and the $9.99/month Spotify rival Pandora Premium. It also offers a multi-user Pandora Premium Family plan for $14.99/month.

SiriusXM, meanwhile, also offers its own set of packages, with the most popular being a $5/month plan for the car and home (via an Echo device), an $8.25/month plan for in and out of the car, and an $8/month plan for streaming outside the car only.

Before rolling out a bundle deal, the company wanted to know what sorts of package price points and features customers would respond to best.

The company confirmed it’s been testing different cross-promotions, including those aimed at both Pandora and SiriusXM subscribers that offered discounts if you sign up for the other service. Essentially, the company wants to know what price point makes sense for consumers when it comes to subscribing to both services.

Today, these cross-promotions are aimed only at people who already subscribe to one or the other service, so it’s not really being marketed as a “bundle” deal yet. It’s just a promotion, if you want to get technical about the terminology.

“We would email our Pandora listener base or the SiriusXM listener base — we would test it with different user bases as a promotion,” Chris Phillips, SiriusXM/Pandora Chief Product Officer & Head of Technology, told TechCrunch. “We actually have a formal study going on to do it,” he said.

SiriusXM and Pandora haven’t yet settled on what a potential bundle deal will look like, but it aims to make a decision based on its tests this year.

“The power of the Sirius brand and power of the Pandora brand are very distinct. And people see unique value in the two,” Phillips added.

One challenge, however, is that people don’t understand that SiriusXM and Pandora are now one company, so the promotional emails confused them.

Similarly, people often find the language around “Pandora-powered” stations in SiriusXM confusing, as well.

One potential solution is to pick one consumer-facing brand and merge assets, including both programming and apps.

When asked if the two apps may merge into one in the future, Phillips said the company is “looking at what those opportunities might be.”

In the meantime, the company continues to explore how it can enhance both products using assets it has from the respective products.

“We are cross-pollinating content and features…into the distinct [user interfaces],” he said.

A recent example of this includes a new button within the SiriusXM app that allows you to launch a Pandora station based on what you’re currently streaming. And this new Pandora-powered station can then play right in the SiriusXM app — you don’t have to launch Pandora separately to hear it.

Efforts like this are aided by the fact that SiriusXM immediately put the two companies’ development groups together following the acquisition.

“We’re giving listeners choice. But when we give them choice, we want them to be able to have the best of what we offer in many places,” noted Phillips, of these sorts of integrations. “In the future, the idea that there’s a single opportunity — we’re looking at what that might be,” he said.

Nothing is yet determined, so all these plans could change, of course.

SiriusXM ended 2019 with around 30 million self-pay satellite radio and a record high of 34.9 million total paid subscribers. In 2020, SiriusXM forecasts revenue of $8.1 billion and earnings of $2.5 billion (adjusted EBITA).

Combined, Pandora and SiriusXM reach 100 million U.S. listeners per month.

Twitter is bringing twttr’s experiments in threaded conversations to its main app

At last year’s CES, Twitter introduced its first public prototype app, twttr — dubbed “little T” internally at Twitter. The app allows Twitter to develop and experiment with new features in the public, to see what works and what does not. The app’s main focus, to date, has been on making threaded conversations easier to read. Now, the company is ready to graduate the best of twttr to the main Twitter app.

“We’re taking all the different branches — all the different parts of the conversation — and we’re making it so it’s all in one global view,” explained Suzanne Xie, Twitter’s Head of Conversations, speaking to reporters at CES 2020. “This means you can easily understand, and get a pulse of what’s happening in the conversation,” she added.

When the changes roll out, you’ll be able to see when the original tweet’s author is replying within a conversation thread. Twitter will also highlight people you’re following and people who are verified.

This way, Xie continues, “you can understand who is talking to who in a conversation.”

In addition, Twitter will release other features that build on top of threaded conversations to the public, including how the user interface reacts when you tap on a reply.

On twttr, when you tap into a reply within a conversation, you get more information about the tweet in question. You can also reply in-line to the tweet. And the reply itself is shaded to differentiate it from the surrounding tweets, when selected.

Threaded conversations also hide some of the replies to keep the conversation more readable — but you can click a link to load more of the replies as you scroll down. Twitter says it personalizes which replies are shown and hidden based on things like who you follow, who you interact with, and people you’ve interacted with in the past.

“These are pieces of making this global conversation easier to use — so you don’t have to tab to new screens and go back on forth,” Xie explained.

Despite the initial excitement around Twitter’s new app, twttr, some felt the company didn’t take full advantage of having a public experimental playground. Few other new features beyond threaded conversations were tried out on the testing platform.

To some extent, Twitter’s plans could have been impacted by changes in twttr’s leadership. Twitter in August acquired Xie’s startup Lightwell. Meanwhile, Sara Haider, who had been leading the charge on rethinking the design of conversations on Twitter, which included the release of twttr, announced that she would be moving on to a new project at the company after a short break.

With twttr’s threaded conversations feature making its way to Twitter.com, the plan now is to use twttr to experiment with other conversational features.

For example, twttr may be used to try out new features in the incentives space — meaning, how small tweaks to Twitter’s user interface can influence different types of user behavior.

“Going forward, we’re investing and making a concerted effort, as we try new features and as we change different mechanics, to [determine] what we’re incentivizing and what we’re disincentivizing,” said Xie.

For instance, changing the prompts that Twitter displays when a user goes to compose a tweet or a reply could influence how they choose to respond. This is only one example of the sorts of things Twitter aims to test with Little T, as it’s called.

Twitter says the new threaded conversations features will begin to roll out on Twitter for iOS first, followed by web then Android, sometime in Q1.

 

 

 

Quibi’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman offer a deeper look at the new streaming service

Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman took the stage this morning at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to offer a deeper look into the technology behind the soon-to-launch mobile streaming service.

The company had already revealed much about its intentions with Quibi, including how it’s the first streaming service designed exclusively for mobile devices, not the living room TV.

But until today’s keynote — and briefings with reporters yesterday — what Quibi hadn’t yet discussed in detail was the underlying, patent-pending technology that takes advantage of mobile devices to push forward a new form of storytelling.

Specifically, Quibi is using a new engineering technology it’s calling “Turnstyle,” which allows the viewer to move between portrait mode viewing and landscape viewing, seamlessly — and without any black bars to fill the rest of the screen when switching to landscape video.

This technology, when demoed, worked very well. The shift from portrait to landscape and back again was smooth and fast — an almost imperceptible transition. And the video in either orientation was crisp, clear and high-def, thanks to the high production values of Quibi’s commissioned projects.

The end result is something that, though watched on a phone, wouldn’t ever be confused with user-gen services like YouTube or TikTok.

“[YouTube] is the most ubiquitous, democratized, incredibly creative platform,” Whitman told me. “But they make content for hundreds of dollars a minute. We make it for $100,000 a minute. It’s a whole different level — it’s Hollywood-quality content.”

On Quibi, there are three tiers of content — unscripted shows, movies delivered in short chapters and “Daily Essentials.”

On the unscripted side, you’ll find documentaries and docu-series, as well as other shows about food, fashion, travel, animals, cars, comedy, sports and more. Daily Essentials, meanwhile, deliver the day’s news and information — including also weather, sports and horoscopes — in five to six-minute “quick bites.”

While these two categories could potentially be delivered on other video platforms, Quibi’s riskier bet is on movies told in chapters. That is, instead of releasing a two-hour film as a single, long video to consume, Quibi movies are told in seven to 10-minute segments. In year one, 35 of Quibi’s total 175 shows will be movies.

Every day, Quibi will deliver one episode of its movies told in chapters, plus five episodes of its episodic and unscripted series and 25 daily essentials. Combined, that’s more than three hours of premium, original content per day.

“If you think about network television, and how much they produce for prime time, it’s 35% more than network TV does Monday through Friday,” Quibi CEO Meg Whitman said.

The service plans to launch with eight movies, and will then release a new movie every other Monday, she noted. But even if you don’t tune in on release day, the content will remain available so you can binge through what you’ve missed.

This idea of shorter-form storytelling is something Katzenberg — a former Hollywood executive best known for his time as chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and for being the “K” in Dreamworks SKG — has been thinking about for decades, he said. Since 1999, in fact.

“I started a little company with [Steven] Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer called Pop.com. It lasted about 12 minutes,” he explained, referring to a Quibi precursor that was likely before its time.

“I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. That’s the thing that got me the most interested and excited,” he continued. “And I think what you’ll see is that every great innovation that has happened in Hollywood has actually been driven by a new technology.”

With Quibi’s support for full-screen, high-quality portrait-mode viewing, the service can cater to an on-the-go user base — a user base that often fills spare minutes on social networks or messaging.

But turning the phone is only one way that Quibi will leverage mobile. Spielberg’s Quibi show “After Dark,” for example, will use viewers’ locations to determine what time they can watch the show — it will only be allowed after sunset.

In the future, Quibi’s filmmakers could tap into other mobile sensors and smartphone features, like the GPS or the haptics to make the phone vibrate. They could tell stories through the phone’s messaging system or even have your phone ring as part of a story. An exercise-themed show could tap into the phone’s pedometer for an interactive experience. Turnstyle, in other words, is just step one.

But what Quibi can’t know yet is how users will respond to these sorts of interactions. Will they find them clever, or gimmicky? Will they aid the storytelling experience or ultimately get in the way? And while Quibi wants to bring back the “watercooler” experience of weekly shows, it also doesn’t know if users growing up in the Netflix era will actually watch shows on the release schedule it intends, or save them to binge in longer stretches of time — perhaps even casting them to the TV via Chromecast or Airplay, which Quibi will support.

Despite an overabundance of streaming services, Quibi has attracted big-name talent to help kick off its first year, including Academy Award winners Steven Spielberg, Peter Farrelly and Guillermo del Toro; directors like Antoine Fuqua, Lena Waithe, Sam Raimi and Catherine Hardwicke; and stars like Stephan James, Chrissy Tiegen, Laurence Fishburne, Dave Franco, Bill Murray, Emily Mortimer and Kevin Hart, to name a few.

Quibi isn’t opposed to working with younger creators or even YouTubers, but Katzenberg notes that Quibi won’t be making YouTube shows, but rather Hollywood-style programming.

“If there are good actors and good talent on YouTube who can transition to that, then we’re happy to have them,” he says of the YouTuber crowd. “But it’s highly differentiated…we’re not trying to do a high-end version of what they’re doing. We’re actually trying to bring the ecosystem of broadcast, cable, streaming, television and television storytelling and bringing that to this world,” he notes.

Quibi officially debuts on April 6, 2020 and will cost $4.99 per month with ads or $7.99 per month without ads.

Interested users can sign up to be Quibi Insiders on the service’s homepage, in order to get exclusive looks at new shows and the first news of product updates.

Update: During the presentation, Katzenberg, Whitman and other Quibi executives tried to paint the service as something that sits at the intersection of creativity and technology, and between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

Whitman described Quibi as “the very first entertainment technology platform optimized for mobile viewing,” adding that, “We needed to make space for creators and engineers to be in the same conversation.”

For one thing, the creators needed to make movies and shows that were viewable in both landscape and portrait mode. CTO Rob Post said the directors and showrunners are actually delivering two edits, one in each orientation, and then Quibi stitches and encodes them together into a single experience, allowing viewers to swap seamlessly.

And Conrad said that when creators started to experiment with Turnstyle, they came up with innovative approaches like the one found in the short film “Nest” and its follow-up Quibi show “Wireless” — where landscape mode features a traditionally-shot thriller, then switching to portrait mode will show you what the main character is seeing on their phone.

The keynote also featured a number of Quibi partners, including Google Cloud (Quibi is using Google’s infrastructure for content delivery) and T-Mobile, which will be bundling Quibi as part of its services (although they didn’t offer specifics). Google and T-Mobile are also among the companies who have supposedly bought out the service’s first year of ad inventory, worth $150 million.

“Quibi is the next big thing,” declared T-Mobile’s incoming CEO Mike Sievert.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Spotify brings streaming ad insertion technology to podcasts

2019 was a breakout year for Spotify’s podcasting efforts, and now the company is turning up the dial on its ability to monetize this popular form of audio programming. Today, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Spotify is announcing Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI), its new, proprietary podcast ad technology for Spotify Podcast Ads.

The technology makes key data — like actual ad impressions, frequency, reach, plus anonymized age, gender and device type — available to podcasters and advertisers for the first time.

In previous years, podcasts have been delivered by way of downloads from RSS feeds, which would make this sort of data collection difficult if not impossible. The shift to streaming changes that, as Spotify can tap into its suite of planning, reporting and measurement capabilities, as it does for streaming music.

At launch, Spotify’s SAI technology will only be made available to its original and exclusive shows. That’s because Spotify can control this content and knows what its backend looks like, making the new technology easier to implement.

Podcast listeners are already more engaged with advertising often because the ads included in a podcast are read by the host or hosts themselves, making them feel less like an unwelcome interruption and more like a form of influencer marketing. SAI aims to improve the ad experience even more because the ads will be better-targeted and data-driven, like other modern-day digital marketing.

Early adopter Puma was the first partner to try out SAI by running host-read ads during the Spotify Original podcast, “Jemele Hill is Unbothered.” The ads resulted in ad recall lift of over 180%, Spotify says.

Today, Spotify has hundreds of originals and exclusives where it can leverage this technology at a time when podcast listening on its platform is growing. Podcast hours streamed jumped up 39% quarter-over-quarter in Q3 2019, and Spotify now touts over 500,000 podcasts on its platform.

“The problem we’re solving with Spotify podcast ads is really on the advertiser’s side — advertisers have no idea how they’re ads are working. They don’t even know whether or not an ad they purchase is being consumed by a listener,” said Jay Richman, VP, Head of Global Advertising Business & Platform, speaking about the new ad technology at a press event during CES this week. The new technology, he continued, was a “first of its kind.”

“It introduces new targeting measurements and interactivity, which is a big step change for the industry,” he said.

Streaming ad insertion technology will give Spotify a way to better compete with the default podcast apps from Apple and Google. The former, Apple Podcasts, still claims the majority of podcast app market share — but that’s been slipping as Spotify gains. While Apple is rumored to be working on its own podcast originals, Spotify is speeding ahead to the next step of turning its shows into new revenue drivers.

Spotify’s new ad tech launch also comes at a time when the podcast industry itself is changing. Many podcasts today are really just audio programs, as they’re only accessible to a streaming service’s users — not the wider web.

General interest in podcasts is climbing, too. The number of people who are monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. is expected to climb to 106 million by 2023, Spotify notes. Meanwhile, ad revenue for podcasts is projected to reach over $1 billion in 2021. Spotify doesn’t disclose its revenue from podcasts, specifically but in Q3 2019 its ad revenue grew 29% year-over-year to $189 million — a boost many attributed to podcasts.