The Follow Button: Spotify’s Social Experience

I’ve written several times about how important curation is for good media consumption. When media companies pair content libraries with well built curation tools, it creates a magical experience for the consumer. Recently, Spotify (an enormous content library) made a major improvement to its music discovery tool.

Spotify eliminated the all inclusive discovery stream, replacing it with a Twitteresque “follow” model. Previously, the all inclusive stream displayed all the music being listened to by a user’s Facebook friends. This previous discovery model had several shortcomings. First and foremost, it ignored the simple fact that peoples music tastes are not homogenous. People have certain friends or tastemakers they look to for new music. Music taste is extremely personal, so assuming users are interested in ALL their friends tastes is a rash generalization.

Instead of a stream with all the music a user’s FB friends listen to, the right 1/5th of the Spotify window now contains a curated stream. Spotify users now elect which friends and artists to follow. Based on those choices, users see a stream with songs those specific friends listen to (and tracks/playlists artists recommend). This “follow” model is a proper reflection of social music exchange in real life: we’re only interested in certain peoples tastes. I believe this is the first in several product decisions Spotify will make to create a better social music expereience. This first change is focused on social discovery, and it has major product and revenue ramifications for Spotify:

  1. Privacy:

    As opposed to before, only users who specifically elect to follow me will see what I listen to. This makes me feel much more comfortable. I didn’t like that previously, seemingly the entire overlap of my Spotify-Facebook venn diagram could see my listens….. Not EVERYTHING I listen to I want broadcast out to the world. This “follow” model is much better for private listening.

  2. Better Music Recommendations: Curated Stream

    I now get to curate whose feed I see. Instead of wading through unwanted clutter, I can focus on the friends/musicians whose taste I respect. Plus, in the open graph model, I can follow anyone I wish.

  3. Advertising Value For Brands: Native Ads

    With a curated recommendation stream, Spotify can charge artists or brands to advertise their latest releases, playlists, etc. inside that stream. This creates an additional revenue source for Spotify that can even be included in premium subscriptions. The best part of native recommendation ads is that becuase they would be curated, they will genuinely add value for the end user.

I’m very excited about the most recent update to Spotify social, and am looking forward to what’s next.




Disruption Abound: The Future is Siloed Excellence

This picture gets my blood racing (NERD ALERT):

Goodbye Conglomerate Service, Hello Siloed Excellence

The above picture breaks down all the services currently competing with Craigslist. However, each of the above firms are only competing with Craigslist in one (maybe two) area(s). Essentially, what’s happening is that for a long time now, Craigslist has provided a very solid platform for personalized transactions online. However, it assumes the same basic format is applicable for all these different types of transactions. That is simply not the case.

An interface optimized for selling homemade crafts is going to be different than one optimized for job posting/searching. The reason for this is quite simple: different transactions/postings require different designs and attract different audiences.

Craigslist has provided a very successful, free, and profitable platform. I’ve used it countless times. However, the core product is too broad. Craigslist’s inability to customize its service for different sectors, along with an outdated and hassle-ridden design could well lead to its downfall. That fact, along with the flattened access and distribution platform of the modern Internet, means that Craigslist is being disrupted by many niche services (check out the linked Dave Mcclure post on the power of niche) which are custom built to excel at delivering a single, narrow product.


The reason this picture “gets my blood racing,” is because LOOK AT ALL THAT OPPORTUNITY. There is so much space for narrow, excellent vision and product execution in todays marketplace. The evolution of the Internet has led our society to a place that is so ripe with opportunity for innovation and disruption. But, what is truly beautiful is that those opportunities will/can be successful because THEY SOLVE A PROBLEM FOR PEOPLE.  They do genuine good because their products help people live more efficiently. They add value to lives. And that is just plain awesome.


If you like what you read, you should follow me 🙂

Update: This was recently published in the NY Times about what could happen to Craigslist. Interesting Read!