August 14, 2019

A small - but very vocal - minority of Spotify users are currently up in arms about Spotify’s decision to drop their Android widget. A lot of the complaints are in the form of a question: infuriated users are asking why Spotify would choose to regress the functionality of their product.

I think I have the answer: advertising revenue.

Spotify has started serving advertisements to paying customers of late. Sure, that’s not what they call it. A Spotify rep told me:

An “advert” promotes products and services from mostly an outside party in an attempt to buigld their own customer bases. An “announcement”, on the other hand, provides recommendation to contents already available thru Spotify … we also help the industry by allowing them to promote their contents via our platforms.

So, they’re not ads because Spotify says they’re not ads. Paid promotions aren’t ads. They’re announcements. Gotcha. Right.

With the ads in mind, Spotify’s decision to remove the widget makes perfect sense. Without the widget, I need to open their app to start playing my music. So now, I can’t launch music without being exposed to ads (sorry, ‘announcements’).

As I told the Spotify rep in my reply:

I also think you’re aware of how this will be perceived, hence the “announcement” weasel-word to describe that advertising. If you weren’t self-conscious about the perception of serving ads to Premium subscribers, it would never occur to you to use that terminology. I can almost imagine the brain-storming session with legal and product managers sat in front of a whiteboard, trying to come up with a ‘more acceptable’ term for banner ads.

I have to admit that I’m embarrassed that I didn’t anticipate the next step: nerfing the Spotify UX to ensure that customers are forced to view the ads, including those who are paying to, supposedly, enjoy an ad-free experience.

Not cool, Spotify.

(Also posted on LinkedIn and the Spotify Community).