First off, to get readers up to speed who may not be familiar, how would you describe Podchaser in a nutshell, or on an elevator?
The easiest way to think about Podchaser is the IMDb equivalent for podcasts. Our users contribute data around podcasts — ratings, reviews, lists, credits, etc. — to make it easier for people to find great content. And, users on any device and any platform can contribute to the database.
We read that the idea for Podchaser came from a Reddit thread in r/podcasts about the ability to rate and review individual episodes. When did you first realize the idea could become something much bigger?
This is true! Here’s the thread. This is also where I met our CTO, Ben.
When we released a very early version of Podchaser, we got an influx of demand that was unexpected. Then, after connecting with our users, it became clear there was a dire need for an agnostic solution like Podchaser to organize and distribute metadata.
How would you describe the earliest days of Podchaser? How did the team initially come together?
I would describe the earliest days of Podchaser as a series of fortunate events. Several people from the Reddit thread made contact with me and it was just pure luck that Ben happened to see the thread. We’ve never actually met in real life but he was the perfect person to develop the technical side of Podchaser.
What does it mean to bring podcasting onto a standard dataset? How will reaching that stage affect creators?
Having credits standardized and open to use across hosting platforms, players, and publications means podcasters getting the credit they deserve for their work. This is an important step to push the industry forward. For an awards ceremony, for example, it’s important that there is a reliable source of credits and a community that defines the words we use to describe the various podcast-related jobs. A compendium of credits is also crucial for new creators to learn from the amazing creators before them and for listeners to follow threads of their favorite creators and enjoy their backlog of work.
Podchaser is known for its platform-agnostic model. What does being neutral mean to the company and for the larger landscape?
We’ve always believed that hoarding data acquisition and distribution to our platform is myopic. Our dataset is more powerful and valuable because of contributions from and distribution to our integration partners. For the every-day podcast listener, this ultimately makes for a better discovery experience.
You’ve partnered with apps like Radiopublic and hosting providers like Omny Studio. As collaboration between podcasting companies becomes more common, how would you advise others?
As alluded to before, I think it’s important the industry comes together to grow and move forward. In our experience, podcast companies are generally open to collaboration and partnership that helps everyone. Podcasting is unique in that it generally benefits all parties to collaborate.
In your view, from the beginning of Podchaser to where it is today, what single decision set the track for growth?
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that no single decision magically does anything. I think in a broad sense, remaining agnostic and open has helped us. However, it’s been a series of hundreds of good and bad decisions and trying to learn from each that has allowed us to continue to grow. It’s also been important to maintain our course in building features and services for podcast listeners and creators. By doubling down on that core audience, we’ve created fans of Podchaser that are more likely to spread the word.
In January, Podchaser raised $1.65 million in seed funding and launched Podchaser Connect. How have the first months of 2020 been different, day-to-day and in the bigger picture?
I don’t think anyone would have predicted a literal pandemic that would quite drastically alter podcasting. I think everyone will slightly adjust course accordingly. Aside from that, things are more or less the same, just more moving parts, bigger and more ambitious features to create, and goals to chase.
As Podchaser has expanded, what has impressed you the most about individual users of Podchaser? How has it been receiving and adapting to feedback from creators and fans?
Honestly, it’s just incredible to me just how many podcasts some of our users consume! I’ve always been a pretty avid listener, but our users 10x my consumption easily. It’s been exciting to see these users spread the word to their listening communities about Podchaser and contribute thousands of lists, credits, ratings, etc. to our platform.
It’s always a balance to adapt to feedback. We absolutely welcome it and learn from it, I just wish I could wave a magic wand and fulfill each feature request immediately.
Podchaser has been called “the future for finding podcasts.” What specific developments would you like to see in the industry within the next year?
I do believe that with the cooperation of the industry, we can drastically improve the listening experience and grow together. There are some pretty drastic technological shifts that need to happen, but it seems we’ll get there.
Specifically, I’m looking forward to podcast monetization being made more efficient. VCs have placed bets on both dynamic ad insertion and listener-supported models, and I think both will have a place to stay. I’d also like to see the industry reconcile the open nature of podcasting via RSS feed with the ‘walled garden' subscription model that has quickly taken over other media verticals like television/movies.
I think we’ll start seeing quickly whether publishers will suffer or flourish for making their content platform-specific. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Podchaser’s upcoming systems will play into the whole picture.