Los Angeles-based Goodpods launched at the start of the pandemic in the hopes of answering the question "What podcast should I listen to?"
As the podcast market has become more saturated, more and more companies are trying to make discovery easier. Google's Podcast app relies on AI-powered suggestions to lure listeners. Other podcasting platforms like Breaker take an approach more like that of social media.
"So many podcasts are being created every single day. And so the vast universe of podcasts that you can listen to is just getting bigger and bigger," said JJ Ramberg, co-founder of Goodpods. "Discovery is getting harder and harder."
Ramberg, the former host of MSNBC's weekend business program "Your Business" and "Been There Built That" podcast, came up with the idea for Goodpods after she found herself stalling her daily jog so she could search for a good podcast. She realized there was likely a more efficient way to ask her friends for podcast recommendations.
So she co-founded Goodpods with her brother, Ken Ramberg, as a way to stay connected with friends about what they were listening to in the podcast world. Both Rambergs are investors in dot.LA.
Breaker was recently bought by L.A.-based Maple Media.
"Rotten Tomatoes does it for movies. Yelp does it for restaurants, Goodreads did it for books," said Ken Ramberg. "There was no really social network or discovery platform for good podcasts, really."
Over half of Americans have listened to a podcast and about a quarter listen to a podcast at least once a week, according to a recent survey by Edison Research, which examines trends in digital media consumer behavior.
Breaker, a social podcasting app similar to Goodpods, has also been trying to make it easier for listeners to find podcasts they love. Maple Media, run by Michael Ritter, recently bought the platform and its social media handles after Twitter absorbed their staff. He thinks the problem is that all this content was created without a well-thought-out infrastructure that could channel it to consumers.
"Podcast discovery trails other media formats, such as video," Ritter said. "YouTube executes very well with a robust recommendation system that has been refined over the past 15 years and TikTok is innovating in this area as well. Podcasting does not have this infrastructure, but new shows and audiences are both growing very quickly."
Goodpods launched at the start 2020, and has averaged over 1,000 downloads monthly since, according to Apple app store data. Since March, the Los Angeles-based app has attracted attention from celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, who offered to follow back the first 10 people who followed her on the app — a move that was not a paid partnership in any way, said JJ Ramberg.
Other notable users include journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell, actor and producer Alyssa Milano and journalist and host Katie Couric.
Among the groups that have popped up on the app's recently released feature are "Gen Z College Podcasters," university students who are sharing the podcasts they've made with each other; "History Lovers," podcast listeners who share their favorite podcasts; and "Slopeside Pod Club," whose description reads "Pods for dog walks."
Podcast creators can also use the app to see how many listens their own podcasts are getting and they can interact directly with their audiences, enabling them to crowdsource opinions and ideas for later content.
Goodpods aims to make it easier for listeners to find podcasts they love.
Podcasts have long had trouble gaining new audiences, so there is a market for companies like Goodpods if they can successfully create a revenue model.
"Podcast discoverability isn't a business in itself," said Colin Maclay, a research professor of communication at USC and executive director of USC Annenberg's Innovation Lab. "It may be a feature, but it is not a business by itself. But if you imagine a mixture of a social network with that, then you maybe [can] build toward a business."
Maclay is optimistic that larger players in the podcasting world like Amazon, who recently acquired Wondery, Spotify and Apple, won't crowd out smaller companies like Goodpods. He points to Twitter, which started as a podcasting app, and eventually grew into a much more general social media site.
Ritter, who now runs Breaker, said the advantage companies like his have is that larger players have been more focused on exclusive content rather than the social aspects of podcasting such as sharing and listening — both key to discovery.
"We believe social podcasting platforms continue to have plenty of room to innovate and create unique sharing and listening experiences in the future," said Ritter.
As for the Rambergs, this is not their first venture together. In 2005 they founded Goodshop, an online shopping coupon code site that donates a portion of each sale to charity. It's raised $13 million since it launched, donating to causes from local schools and dog shelters to the American Cancer Society. Ken Ramberg also co-founded JOBTRAK, a college job site which was acquired by Monster.com in 2000.
When asked what Goodpods' plans are moving forward, JJ Ramberg said: "We're still early days. It's not even been a year yet. So we are 100% focused on the user experience and fulfilling the promise that users find great new podcasts, and podcasters find new users."
The popular podcast mobile app Breaker will get a second life in Los Angeles.
Three-year-old Maple Media will use Breaker - the 10th most-downloaded podcast app on iOS in 2020 - to help amplify its podcasting presence.
Breaker is a podcasting platform that hosts over 700,000 shows. It competes with the likes of Apple Podcasts, and aims to help users discover podcasts based on what their friends like.
Earlier this month, Breaker appeared to be shutting down when Twitter absorbed its employees. But, the company formerly based in San Francisco was resuscitated over the weekend after a 72-hour negotiation session. In the end, Breaker agreed to sell its website, technology and social media handles to Maple Media for an undisclosed amount.
Backed by private equity firm Shamrock Capital, Maple Media owns a portfolio of more than 150 mobile applications that reach over 40 million users monthly, according to the company.
When Breaker's CEO Erik Berlin and CTO Leah Culver "decided to join Twitter to help build out a new product for them, it was a natural fit for Erik to turn to us. What was most important to him, his team and investors was to see Breaker thrive," said Maple Media CEO Michael Ritter.
The deal came together over the weekend, Ritter said.
With podcasts growing ever more crowded, Maple believes it can help solve "the discovery challenge in podcasting: creators want to find an audience, and audiences are seeking out new shows." To do so, in the coming weeks it will launch a program to allow creators and brands to promote podcasts across its podcast apps Breaker, Player FM, Podkicker and its social media platform We Heart It.
The podcast industry brought in about $1.3 billion in 2020, according to research firm Omdia. Although that figure is less than what one blockbuster film can make, the space has attracted significant investment of late, driven largely by expectations of growth. Omdia forecasts industry ad revenue could triple by 2025 and that listenership could grow to two billion, up from about 800 million listeners in 2019.
Spotify, Apple and Amazon have all been ramping up their podcasting footprint. In December, Amazon acquired L.A.-based podcast studio Wondery for a reported sum of over $300 million.
Launched in 2017, Maple Media's business model is to acquire apps with a loyal following, then grow that user base and improve the app's monetization, said Ritter.
Operating them collectively is cheaper and allows the company to cross-promote their apps.
For instance, Maple plans to add podcasts onto We Heart It, which it says "many popular podcaster creators" use to promote their shows.
The company's portfolio includes two other podcasting apps, Player FM and Podkicker, which combined reach millions of monthly users, Ritter said. Player FM is the sixth most-downloaded podcasting app worldwide, he added.
Outside of podcasting, some of its popular apps include SwiftScan, WeekCal, Pic Stitch and Weather Hi-Def Radar.