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Spotify overtakes Apple as top US podcast platform, says Spotify

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Spotify's push to build out its podcast platform is paying dividends, as the streaming music giant on Wednesday said it surpassed Apple to become the top podcast provider in the U.S.

The apparent changing of the podcast guard was announced during Spotify's third quarter earnings call, when the company said it "recently became" the top podcasting destination in world's largest market. Spotify cited data from its own internal calculations and Edison Research, which confirmed to TechCrunch that the results are based on usage rather than downloads.

Whether Spotify also leads in terms of download volume is unclear. Indeed, any claims to the podcasting crown are impossible to confirm, as neither Spotify nor Apple reveal detailed listener figures.

Edison Research in its second-quarter Podcast Consumer Tracker queried more than 8,000 weekly podcast consumers about their listening habits. Specifically, Spotify's announcement appears to turn on the question, "What platform or service do you use most to listen to podcasts?" Here, Spotify led the pack with 24% of users, besting Apple Podcasts' 21% and YouTube's 18%, according to the report.

"We started our journey three years ago in podcasting with a catalog of about 185,000 podcasts. And we were really nowhere, compared to the largest players in the industry. Today, we have 3.2 million podcasts on the platform, a growth rate of over 1,500%," Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said during the earnings conference call.

Ek credits Spotify's content library and laundry list of new features with the achievement. Recently launched interactive elements like polls and Q&A capabilities were called out as contributing factors.

"We fought hard to gain new listeners. And our success is not attributable to just one thing, but literally hundreds, if not thousands, of improvements that we're working on in parallel for the benefit of creators, users and advertisers alike," Ek said, according to TechCrunch.

The company has been on a tear over the past few months, releasing new tools for podcasters and a variety of enhancements for podcast listeners. In August, premium subscriptions debuted with a substantially more generous commission rate than terms offered by Apple Podcasts. Anchor, Spotify's podcast creation platform, rolled out interactive features and video podcast support within the last month.

For the most recent quarter, Spotify said it hit 381 million monthly active users and 172 million premium subscribers, with both metrics up 19% year-over-year. Podcast listeners are lumped into that massive sum. The company did say that the share of listening hours dedicated to podcasts notched an all-time high in the third quarter, but without substantive data, that claim is difficult to qualify.

Market research firms previously forecast Spotify's rise in the ranks, however, as eMarketer in September predicted the streamer would bypass Apple Podcasts by year's end.

Apple is playing catch-up in the podcasting game after squandering what could have been a near insurmountable lead that came with having a hand in the creation of the medium. Following years of neglect, Apple over the past few quarters has brought renewed focus to its podcasting platform, seemingly recognizing it as a potential source of services revenue.

Things are not going well.

Recent reports detailed a litany of complaints from both podcast creators and podcast consumers who are unhappy with the revamped Apple Podcasts solution. Among the more serious objections are an error prone content management system and persistent bugs that mar the user experience.