YouTube Music's next major addition has Spotify squarely in its sights

Audio-only podcasts are officially on the way

Google recently divulged that YouTube Music and Premium subscribership has grown to a record 80 million users, and the company said that it would be investing more in its subscription services going forward. We're starting to see tangible evidence of that investment after YouTube executive Kai Chuk spilled the beans on plans to incorporate podcasts into YouTube Music.

Speaking at the Hot Pod Summit during the On Air Fest in Los Angeles today, Chuk, YouTube's head of podcasting, revealed that the company plans to bring podcasts to YouTube Music "in the near future" (via The Verge). In reference to YouTube's massive existing library of video-form podcasts, Chuk explained that "If someone wants to watch a podcast, we have a solution. If someone wants to listen to a podcast only, we should have a great experience for that as well."

This news comes just days after YouTube added an experimental feature for creators to make audio-only podcasts in YouTube Studio that feature a still image instead of video. At the time, we speculated that Google Podcasts functionality was being shifted to the YouTube Music platform after other signs that the dedicated Podcasts app was being shut down. Chuk seems to have confirmed this strategy, adding that audio-only shows will receive a podcast badge for easy identification and that users will be able to listen to podcasts in the background on YouTube Music's free tier at the expense of hearing ads.

These new capabilities will go a long way towards helping YouTube Music reach feature parity with Spotify, which still reigns supreme in the digital music space. YouTube's 80 million subscribers, while impressive, are topped by Apple Music's 88 million paid users and completely dwarfed by Spotify's subscribership of 200 million. Spotify famously inked an exclusive deal with major podcaster Joe Rogan last year, and that was after it dethroned Apple as the platform with the highest podcast listenership, so Google definitely has some catching up to do here.

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