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GM pulls (a few) podcasts into its in-car audio suite

General Motors is reportedly adding podcasts to the dashboard of about one-million cars. Exact models to receive the audio feature are not specified in the report.

The car company is partnering with eight media companies, including Fox Sports, People Magazine, and The New York Times. We don’t know the other five companies, but the current reporting doesn’t mention a podcast-specific platform. GM seems to be targeting providers with big-media brand recognition to attract listeners — which to GM means car buyers.

The GM approach to connected cars is oriented around making the car a native WiFi hotspot, rather than relying on drivers to provide internet connections through their phones. The podcast initiative offers special apps that can be downloaded to the car — and only the car. The GM podcast apps will not work in phones. The whole system is for car buyers who subscribe to GM’s OnStar 4G LTE WiFi service. The value proposition — smaller content selection for added cost — seems dubious to us, but could be attractive in some consumer scenarios (e.g. no phone, or preference for lean-back content curation).

The most interesting aspect of this venture is GM’s recognition of podcasting as a worthy audio category around which to build business relationships and proprietary distribution products. Along with that, this scheme attempts to fracture a fairly open podcast market, where many distribution points offer a global selection of shows. One result might be a scrum of media companies elbowing for placement in GM cars. And if the downsides are lack of breadth, and zero discovery outside of the sanctioned apps, the service might also spark an awareness of podcasts in new listeners who could stretch their wings outside of the car.

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Brad Hill

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