Launching Podcast 9 - a bit too early

Today is a big day! We are launching publicly. Here’s the launch video:

We’ve decided we wanted to be super transparent on the future of, so the post you’re about to read is not your average launch post.

This launch is part of our plan for 2019, a post that we published earlier this year, where we said we wanted to build different experiments in 3 different industries. Ready? Brace yourself for a rocky story!

Why we built a podcast platform

A lot of thought and research goes into choosing the right project to focus on. These were the top 3 reasons that made us want to start

1. Experiment in the space — The Podcast industry is currently on a tipping point. You can read a16z’s analysis of it. Podcasters and listeners are both growing faster than ever.

2. We saw clear pain points in the industry — We saw many pains and problems that we could solve for listeners and podcasters, as well as some untapped opportunities that looked right for us to tackle.

3. We thought we could validate our ideas quickly — Just like we said on our previous post 6 months ago, we’d planned to work on this project for 6 months. We wanted to publish our first feature-complete version after the fist 3 months, and focus on marketing and new iterations the remaining 3. We believe that launching is a very important milestone in the journey of building a product, but even so, it’s just the start. The real work comes after launching.

The result - An app for those who want to learn from Podcasts

We were right on the fact that there is a huge and growing market, but we failed to build a minimal version in 3 months. In fact, after 6 months, this is the first version that we’re launching publicly. The industry obviously didn’t stand still, and many of the problems and opportunities we’d envisioned have started to be tackled by other players. Given our delay to ship, we won’t have enough time to do what’s more important than building the product: talking to users, iterating based on feedback, and marketing it to grow an audience and community around it.

Nevertheless, we are really proud of what we’ve built, and we believe this initial version helps communicate our vision quite well. Not only by providing exciting new features today, but also by setting the tone of where we’d like to take the product if we were to work on it for a few years.

What’s new and amazing about vs. other apps

The best thing about the Podcast 9 player is how much it can help listeners who want to learn effectively from the Podcasts they hear. The whole experience is built around the concepts of snippets and transcripts, both of which can help understand, bookmark, and share audio content much more easily than current tools allow us to.

Another problem we saw was that the best way to discover new podcasts hasn’t yet been entirely figured out. Discovering new episodes based on your friends’ listening habits is a great way to find great content. Also, if you’ve ever got asked for episode recommendations, you probably ended up sharing screenshots or even a plain list of podcast titles, both of which are cumbersome. Our approach to solving this was to provide an easy way to create and share playlists, both privately and publicly.

We acknowledge that the current version of Podcast 9 is not the best podcast app you can use. Even if we had developed everything in our backlog, every listener has different habits and looks for different experiences when listening to podcasts. That’s why there are many different players thriving and coexisting in the space after all.

These are the core features of Podcast 9, inspired by what we saw was the best app for each feature:

- Discover what your friends listen (Breaker) — Breaker is the best player solving this, as you can publicly see the listening history of all users. The main problem with Breaker is that it’s way too public. With Podcast 9, we created shareable playlists that can easily be shared as web link, and others can import to their libraries within the app. Check out this playlist of epic interviews from Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan and Naval Ravikant.

- Playlist management (Spotify) — Spotify’s amazing playlist management experience for songs was also ported to podcasts, where you can create private and public playlists, along with many other features. The existing traction for their music platform enabled them to provide other cool features as well, like providing more context about what’s trending and what users are listening to. This can be an advantage and a drawback as well. Podcast 9 enables users to create playlists in a simple and non-cluttered way.

- Discover the most listened podcasts by category (Apple) — The fact that Apple is still the most used player enables them to dictate what the actual “Top Charts” are. Apple Podcasts is a very simple and powerful option, but it’s not without its drawbacks. In our research, some users found it difficult to get around, and its overall simplicity meant it missed some key features that we did build into Podcast 9, like Playlist management or saving bookmarks in the form of audio snippets.

- Discover new episodes everyday (Podhunt) — The community approach to curation is the best. Podhunt is a very new platform aimed at curating the best new episodes coming out.

- Visual playing experience (Entale) — Previewing an episode before listening to it is a great way to see if it could be interesting. Entale does this beautifully. Also, podcasts usually mention a lot of useful resources and references, like websites and tools. Providing a visual experience to go along with the audio content helps find resources more quickly. Our take on this at Podcast 9 was to be able to preview all the transcripts and resources mentioned on the Podcast. Check out this episode containing the full transcripts of “How to get rich without getting lucky” from Naval Ravikant.

- Queue management (Castro) — Adding a new episode to your queue is a great way to manage your upcoming listens, which Castro solves really well. However, sometimes you may want to listen about a specific topic rather than your upcoming listen. That’s why we went for a playlists-based approach and kept them simple.

- Transcripts for every episode (Google) — Reading transcripts while listening to the audio content proves to be super useful by making it easier to understand, especially for non-native listeners. It also helps in indexing podcast contents for SEO purposes, which is why Google itself creates automated transcripts. At Podcast 9, we were able to generate automated transcripts, which we can edit later in case transcription wasn’t accurate enough. Our transcript experience works on the web too!

- Video clips optimized for social sharing (Overcast) — Creating clips to share a specific timeframe of a podcast helps create content for social sharing. This is one of the core features of Podcast 9, where we enable users to generate a transcript video to make it more engaging. We invested a lot into this feature, and it’s also the reason why we delayed our launch so much. We do however believe the wait was worth it, as we’re currently the only ones that provide this feature to end users for free. We also believe this feature will eventually be provided by many other podcast apps, so we’re now working with some of them to offer this feature inside their apps using our API.

- Snippets (JUST US!) — We didn’t find any app that enabled users to record, store and share snippets of episodes that they found interesting. Snippets are fragments of podcasts that you can go back to because you found them particularly interesting. Our whole experience is built around snippets, and you can see it for yourselv at the tap of a button when playing any episode in Podcast 9.

The bad news? We are not developing it anymore until 2020

The 6-month constraint we set to work on this project has expired, so it’s time to launch. We wanted to be very transparent about the fact that we can’t continue working on it until 2020.

As we shared in our previous post, we want to experiment with other opportunities and products during this year, and we can only focus this much of our energy into building one amazing product at a time. We’ll back to develop Podcast 9 in 2020!

The good news is that it’ll be free until then. You’ve probably heard the quote:

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”

But this is not the case this time. Our plan was to release it as a paid app, but given that we don’t think we were able to launch with a very polished version, we decided to keep it free for the time being.

This will remain so until we feel we’ve arrived at a polished enough version users can happily pay for. In the meantime, those early users will be rewarded with free memberships forever, so take advantage and download it now!

Why are we doing this?

These are the top “why” questions we get when we share the news:

  • Why launch early? — The best time to launch a product is when there’s an initial set of users really happy with it, so the launch works as an amplifier of the current momentum. However, we want to show everyone our creation, regardless of it not being the best time to do so. We see many products halfway done that never get launched, and we definitely don’t want this to be become one of those. Besides, we believe Podcast 9 already provides tons of value.

  • Why not focus only on one thing? — Our goal for this year was to find a product we’re passionate about and willing to focus on for the next few years. That means finding product/market fit and also product/team fit. The only way to find this is by experimenting a little bit with all our ideas and studying the industry from within. Also, some of our ideas have better profitability predictions than others. Our upcoming video maker product has more profit potential than any other project we’ve been involved in.

  • Why will the video maker product be more profitable in the short term? — Mainly because we have distribution channel advantage. Our Top Nine app is used every year by over 7 million Instagram power users, who may also like or need a video editing platform. In comparison to the podcast app, we don’t have an existing distribution channel in place, we only have a distribution innovation (growth hacks like video and transcripts) in place.

What’s next: Figma for video

We’ve started to work on a video editing platform with the mission to build the Figma for video. Of course, we won’t get there in a just a few months, and our initial releases will look like very simple editing tools. However, the rendering technologies we’re currently developing will enable us to provide tools and results that aren’t currently available using online services.

Because of the apps we’ve developed, we’ve become good at working with video editing technologies, whether it’s developing experiences on the web, or programming natively on iOS and Android.

We’ve always enjoyed working with all types of creators, and we’re inspired by those who push the limits of creativity. Building a video tool will enable us to help other creators, and we think we’ll enjoy the journey of developing complex video tools that could be used by both consumers and businesses.

Podcasting is also involved in this project, as we’ll make sure to include use cases for podcasters who want to create cool videos to promote their podcasts with audiograms and transcripts.

Want to help us?

We’re really lucky to have friends asking us “How can I be helpful?”. Well, here’s a few ways:

  • Interested in podcasts? — Check out our app! You can download it here.

  • Interested in creating videos? Sign up to our newsletter below! We’ll reach out with updates on our new video platform.

  • None of the above but still find it interesting? Share this with someone else!

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