Spotify’s upcoming integration with Uber — getting announced formally today — is not the only development the music streaming service has planned to grow its business. The company has plans for a podcasting service as well as an as-yet undetermined feature that is currently set up under the name “Magic.”
The features, uncovered in a developer build of the app, sit alongside code that also shows the Spotify end of the Uber integration. On Friday, we revealed the Uber side of the Spotify service — which will let users stream their Spotify music as they come into an Uber car.
The news comes at a key moment for Spotify. The company, last valued in November 2013 at around $4 billion, has long been believed to be planning an IPO. (On that front, we have heard that it’s recently been looking to hire talent to help it through that process.)
More immediately, it has been strategising about how best to position itself in the face of competition from companies like Apple, bad PR from huge pop stars, and wider skepticism about the business models around digital music. Adding more services, more service ubiquity, and more users would help Spotify on all of these fronts.
The new features were uncovered for us by Ethan Lee — the same developer who had found Spotify’s early work to import apps built on the Spotify API, aggregated in its desktop-based App Finder app store, to its mobile app. Those attempts, as we now know, were never rolled out because Spotify ultimately changed its mind about how best to grow its user base and engagement — in fact, the company has now decided to shut down the App Finder altogether.
He says that just as there was once code that pointed to plans for the App Finder in Spotify’s app, the new features are buried in the code for Spotify 2.0, which was simply described as offering “improvements and bug fixes” when it was released.
(That should serve as a disclaimer of sorts, too — Spotify clearly plays around with different things before releasing to the wider public.)
Lee says that the app has details of the Uber partnership within the code that shows “they are ready to launch” the integration. Alongside that, code for a whole new feature: podcasts. “A few files point that it is a feature ready to go,” he says. There’s also an image that supports it — pictured here. “My take is that they are releasing it as a response to users’ requests and to become a full-blown iTunes competitor on more than the music front,” Lee says.
It’s also notable for another reason: Deezer last month acquired a podcasting startup called Stitcher. It could have been that Deezer was doing this partly in response to intel it had picked up about its big competitor making a plan to launch a podcasting service.
More importantly for Spotify, Deezer gave me smart explanation of why podcasting was interesting: Deezer is making a big move to do more with in-car services, and podcasts and talk radio are especially popular in that setting. It could be that Spotify, which also has a number of connected car integrations in place, is thinking along the same lines. (Not to mention the Uber integration being very focused on how Spotify is used in cars.)
And what about “Magic”? This appears to have a far less developed home than Podcasts does for now (see services like App Finder in mobile that never launch).
“I’m not sure what this is referring to, or if this is an existing feature with the internal codename ‘Magic’,” Lee says. “I could find no places in the app right now that uses the magic wand graphic,” which is pictured here and was in Spotify’s app resources file, in addition to the code, as detailed below:
We’re reaching out to Spotify for comment and will update as we learn more.
Update with Spotify’s response: “We’ve had spoken word content in our catalogue for quite a while now, highlighted in the ‘Word’ section within Browse,” a spokesperson says. “In order to keep improving Spotify, we are always testing new things to our different platforms and to various user groups. We don’t have any more information to share right now – but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know!”