A new way to discover and engage with podcasts
It has been six months since we announced the formation of RadioPublic PBC, but in many ways we have had a dozen years in preparation for this moment. At PRX we built the Pubcatcher podcast app in 2005, the Public Radio Player app in 2008, This American Life’s app in 2010, the Matter Ventures startup accelerator in 2012, the Radiotopia podcast network in 2014. With these and many other innovations PRX has been a public media pioneer during a transformative time in media and technology, set the stage for RadioPublic, and continues to take the lead with Dovetail, Catapult, The Podcast Garage and more.
Today we begin a new chapter as RadioPublic releases the first versions of our iOS and Android apps (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play here). These apps are under active development so check back for updates often (join our mailing list here). We’ve got all kinds of exciting things on the roadmap and are incorporating listener feedback already.
Discover, Engage, Reward.
RadioPublic’s mission as a Public Benefit Corporation is to “help listeners discover, engage with, and reward the creators of podcasts and other audio.”
This is also our strategy, and our roadmap. We are starting with discovery, and will be layering in engagement next, followed by rewards — both for producers and listeners themselves.
Pubcatcher may have been ahead of its time, but the idea of distributed discovery has remained a core concept for us ever since. Discovery is at the heart of this first RadioPublic release, and is part of our vision for rethinking radio in the mobile world.
Here below are a few things to note on the three main tabs in this first version of RadioPublic.
Home: your listening launchpad
In the home tab we surface a tailored set of “cards” driven by your listening habits and context. We prioritize the top card prompting you to find new episodes from shows and playlists you already follow (“follow” is essentially the same as “subscribe”). But then you’ll notice the cards shuffle: recommending episodes and playlists based on your interests; resurfacing an episode you didn’t complete from earlier; prompting you to “binge listen” on a show you’ve been diving deeper into. This is a constantly evolving feed driven by your listening, and we’ve got lots more to come (e.g., “Since you listen to 5 shows from Radiotopia, you might like The Bugle”; “Here are 3 short news stories for your morning commute”).
Explore: your shortcut to discovery
There are more and more articles on the web featuring lists of shows (“Top 10 Podcasts for Book Lovers”), driven by increased audience demand for discovery amidst an influx of new podcast content.
But what if you aren’t ready to commit to a show? And what if the most recent episode of a recommended show isn’t the best place to start? And what if you wanted to open the list up in an app without navigating to 10 different links?
At RadioPublic we are featuring curated episode playlists across myriad topics, activities, moods, genres, artists, publishers, and networks. We’re assembling hundreds of our own, and inviting tastemakers everywhere to use their curatorial expertise and brand to help listeners get to the good stuff.
Each playlist is a feed you can follow, and acts both as a mixtape to listen through and a collection of jumping off points. Each episode pivots to the show it’s from (tap the “tap the show artwork or the “more” icon to get there) — essentially a podcast hyperlink. And the playlists live on the web as well, easy to share, link, and soon to embed in publishers’ and podcasters’ sites.
Under search you’ll also notice an invitation to “Ask a Librarian” for recommendations. Tap the button, answer a few questions, and it sends a request to a RadioPublic podcast librarian. Yes this is a human being, standing by to help suggest shows, episodes, and playlists you might enjoy (so please be patient, the library is only open for certain hours each day). This is our experiment in high-touch personalized recommendations. We’re already learning a lot from the data and interactions, and are developing methods — both human and machine based — to scale and evolve this service as demand grows. Meantime the early birds get the worm, so give it a try!
Explore is your shortcut to discovery. At the top you will find our growing search index. We’ve aggregated hundreds of thousands of podcasts, with more added every day (if you notice any missing please let us know and we’ll add it; you can also add any podcast directly, as well as your own OPML list, by going to the settings icon at the top of “Your Profile”). You can follow any show directly from the results. Soon we’ll add more facets and prompts for popular search and suggestions.
Suggestions for you: prioritized picks from your favorites
At the bottom of the explore section you’ll find a list of suggestions culled from the shows and playlists you follow. This is a quick way to get to the most relevant stories you want to hear, prioritized by publish date and influenced by your listening habits over time.
Your Profile: you are what you hear
At this early stage we give listeners a simple space to find the shows and playlists they follow, a play history, and an advanced settings mode for those savvy enough to paste in their own xml or opml feeds (this will soon be replaced with a smoother interface that includes the option to migrate your subscriptions from other apps to RadioPublic).
You may have noticed that RadioPublic does not require an account of any kind to use the app. This is intentional, and reflects our commitment to privacy and information rights. It also streamlines adoption for new listeners and removes barriers for producers and publishers helping promote the app as a seamless listening path.
We will be introducing accounts soon, but not as a requirement for use. Listeners will be invited to create accounts when they need them for particular uses such as syncing listening across devices, following other users’ listening, sharing via social networks, opting in to value-added content and services from creators they follow, etc.
Calling all Podcast Producers!
RadioPublic is an open platform, built on RSS (which we have strong opinions about). We want to give producers ways to enhance their presence in the RadioPublic app without having to invest in another custom publishing platform, or one-off decorations that require real effort with dubious effect. We have a variety of useful extensions in the works that drive discovery, engagement, and monetization, and a few that are ready for you to take advantage of right now, including gateway episodes, podcast playlists, show endorsements, and series play order. Read about how to get started here.
The post roll
These are still early days for the resurgent podcast ecosystem and for RadioPublic itself. We couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come, and confident about our opportunity to connect listeners and creators through stories and the human voice. Podcasts help support empathy, knowledge, curiosity, enlightenment — qualities too frequently in short supply elsewhere in our media, and urgently needed in the world.
Thanks for joining RadioPublic.