Podcasts are now live on YouTube Music — and background listening is available for free

By 04/28/2023
Podcasts are now live on YouTube Music — and background listening is available for free

It’s finally happened: Podcasts have arrived on YouTube Music.

The long-awaited update hit YouTube’s music hub on April 27. For now, only users in the U.S. can access podcasts through YouTube Music. In a tweet, the YouTube team announced its new distribution option and shared an animation that shows listeners how to find audio shows on the YouTube Music app.

As podcasts arrive on YouTube Music, they’re bringing a new perk with them: Free background listening. Previously, that option was limited to YouTube Music’s Premium subscribers, who fork over $9.99 per month in order to access a slew of paid features. YouTube’s podcast community will now be able to access their favorite programs while browsing other apps. Within YouTube Music, those listeners will be able to toggle between audio and video versions of long-form shows.

YouTube’s looser policy on background listening will help it compete with its main rival in the podcast game. On Spotify, podcast fans can take advantage of flexible listening options, and podcast creators can take advantage of a redesigned hub filled with statistics and best practices. Though YouTube quietly launched its own podcasting hub in 2022, its latest rollout will extend the reach of its audio shows.

Though it has taken some time for YouTube to assemble its podcast library, the leading video player has taken several strides to encourage more podcast creation on its platform. It has built podcast tabs into its channels and released detailed guides for creators who want to improve their episodic shows. For brands, YouTube has rolled out audio ads that are well-suited for YouTube Music’s newly-expanded library.

Many of those efforts have been led by Kai Chuk, who became YouTube’s first Head of Podcasts in 2021. Even before Chuk’s promotion, YouTube has long attracted podcast listeners, who deliver strong watch time to long-form shows produced by leading channels.

YouTube first teased YouTube Music podcasts in February. “If someone wants to watch a podcast, we have a solution,” Chuk said at the time. “If someone wants to listen to a podcast only, we should have a great experience for that as well.”

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