Spotify is improving search results for podcasts with deep learning

Spotify is improving search results for podcasts with deep learning

Spotify has been rapidly building up its podcast abilities over the past year, not only with acquisitions of shows and podcast studios, but also with software features to improve the listening and search experience. Now another improvement has rolled out to most people: an updated search powered by deep learning AI.

Spotify wrote in its engineering blog, “To enable users to find more relevant content with less effort, we started investigating a technique called Natural Language Search, also known as Semantic Search in the literature. In a nutshell, Natural Language Search matches a query and a textual document that are semantically correlated instead of needing exact word matches. It matches synonyms, paraphrases, etc., and any variation of natural language that express the same meaning.”

Graph showing Elasticsearch, Natural Language Search, and other sources combining for search results

Multi-source retrieval and ranking (Source: Spotify)

The end result is that searching for the phrase “electric cars climate impact” can bring up podcasts with titles such as “are electric cars better for the environment?” and “electric cars and ecology,” even though there’s no exact match with the original search. The results from the deep learning model are also combined with traditional search results, apparently because the deep learning model isn’t as great at exact term matching as more traditional search methods.

The change might make Spotify a better search engine for podcasts than many other podcast players, but it’s not alone in using AI to improve search. Google Podcasts has been generating transcripts of podcast episodes since 2019 to improve search results, which Spotify also started experimenting with last year.

Spotify has been investing a lot of money in its podcasts push. The company acquired Podsights and Chartable in February, which are advertising and analytics platforms for podcasters. Spotify also paid $340 million for Gimlet Media (a podcast network) and Anchor (a podcast publishing platform) in 2019, and podcast tech company Whooshkaa was purchased at the end of 2021.

Source: Spotify

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer. Check out what he's up to at

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