The Dynamics of Exploration on Spotify


  • Lillio Mok University of Toronto
  • Samuel F. Way Spotify Research
  • Lucas Maystre Spotify Research
  • Ashton Anderson University of Toronto



Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media


Digital media platforms give users access to enormous amounts of content that they must explore to avoid boredom and satisfy their needs for heterogeneity. Existing strands of work across psychology, marketing, computer science, and music underscore the importance of the lifecycle to understanding exploratory behavior, but they are also often inconsistent with each other. In this study, we examine how users explore online content on Spotify over time, whether by discovering entirely novel music or by refreshing their listening habits from one time frame to the next. We find clear differences between users at different points of their off-platform lifecycles, with younger listeners consistently exploring unknown content less and exploiting known content more. Across their on-platform histories, users also explore in bursts by following seasonal cycles and exploratory phases. We also find that these patterns of exploration do not translate to other notions of heterogeneity like diversity; notably, younger listeners are more diverse in their consumption despite exploring less. Exploration and diversity thus capture different ways in which people find variety, potentially accounting for the inconsistencies in existing work. Together, these nuanced dynamics of exploration suggest that online platforms may be better poised to support users by incorporating different measures of heterogeneous consumption.




How to Cite

Mok, L., Way, S. F., Maystre, L., & Anderson, A. (2022). The Dynamics of Exploration on Spotify. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 663-674.