As promised, YouTube Music now offers podcasts. In the US, you can launch the Android or iOS app to stream audio or video podcasts without a Premium or Music Premium subscription. Shows will play in the background, and you can cast them to other devices like speakers.
The feature is reaching American users "gradually," YouTube says, so don't be surprised if you have to wait a little while to see the podcast section. The format is coming to other regions, although YouTube hasn't provided a timeline. And before you ask: paying members will still have to listen to host-read ads.
The addition may seem odd when Google already has a Podcasts app. This unifies listening for YouTube Music subscribers, though — and, of course, theoretically entices you to sign up. This could make the app a more viable alternative to Spotify if you're paying for on-demand music and want everything in one place.
YouTube has been ramping up its podcast efforts across the board, including an Explore page for non-Music users. Just don't count on the service producing a swath of originals like Spotify. The rival has dropped some of its originals, and has been expanding distribution of Gimlet shows to other platforms. The podcast industry isn't as hot as it once was, even if there's still plenty of demand.