WHAT: Stream podcasts and talk shows from your smartphone, iPad or desktop browser on demand (i.e., Pandora for talk). Also available in cars via OnStar and Ford’s Sync. Content partners range from the BBC to Kevin Smith’s Smodcast Internet Radio to Rush Limbaugh.
This week Stitcher launched a recommendation feature for its iPhone and Android apps to help users discover new content.
LAUNCHERS: Noah Shanok, CEO, previously led sales for StubHub and was a consultant. Peter deVroede (CTO) worked in finance and managed tech for various gaming, software and entertainment companies.
WHY: Downloading every podcast is a PITA, plus downloads are not automatic. Mobile internet has become mainstream. Talk makes up 35% of traditional radio listening.
BACKSTORY: Noah briefly tried podcasting himself at HoundBite.com, which he calls “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for audio. That experience, combined with his frustration downloading podcasts as a consumer, gave him the idea for Stitcher. And given radio’s appeal to commuters, Noah knew from day one Stitcher had to work with car manufacturers.
WHEN/WHERE: August 2008 (beta iPhone app) / San Francisco.
BUSINESS MODEL: In-stream and on-screen advertising currently in the experiment phase, will roll out more broadly later this year (the company has not yet built a sales team). Noah says their demo is affluent professionals ages 35 to 54. Luxury brands have shown the most interest so far.
Through its affiliate program Stitcher pays the content provider for every new listener they bring to Stitcher.
COMPETITION: Traditional radio, satellite radio, Audible, iTunes store. Noah says competition includes anything that competes for the time of people who listen while commuting, exercising, cooking, etc.
CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: Over 5K shows and 2.5M registered users, mainly in the U.S. (just 15% international). Noah calls engagement and retention “quite high” but won’t say how much.
FOCUS: U.S. market though Noah says they’d like to build out international content -- “it’s a matter of timing and resources.”
WHAT A REGULAR STITCHER USER THINKS: Nelson Wittwer, a systems auditor and self-described startup enthusiast in Salt Lake City, has used Stitcher since October 2010. He listens mainly to startup-focused and business shows -- many discovered on Stitcher -- while commuting or during quiet time at work.
“I have listened to 178 hours of podcasts on that bad boy. The only app that I use more than Stitcher is the browser,” says Nelson.
ON WORKING WITH BIG MEDIA COMPANIES: Noah says they take “the same-side-of-the-table approach” in agreements. For the media companies, “there’s more of an interest in getting their content in all the right places and figuring out mechanisms that are fair to do so,” he says.
LAUNCH translation: “We don’t want to be in a Pandora situation where more listeners means more money we owe someone else. We’ve managed to avoid getting screwed so far.”
PHILOSOPHY: “Build a better mousetrap,” says Noah. With Stitcher, “We want to be there for users with content that makes you laugh, informs you, appeals to whatever your interests are.”
ON THE INDUSTRY: Noah says the amount of audio content being produced is growing and “will only grow as consumption gets stronger.”
WHO BACKED IT: Benchmark Capital and New Atlantic Ventures
TOTAL RAISED: North of $9M: Seed round plus $2.7M Series A (2008) and $6M Series B (April 2010). Stitcher will “likely” raise another round this year because the market is attractive; Noah points out, though, that they have plenty of runway.
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 20
When you open the app on an iPhone, you get a main menu page -- but at the top you can always enter the name of the podcast you want.
Click on “My Stations” to see what’s in your queue (when you sign up, you can choose specific podcasts or genres you’re most interested in).
When you play a podcast, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter or email. You can also give it a thumbs up or down and favorite it. The “listeners also like” recommendation appears in the middle -- tap the name to start playing that podcast.
1. “Open Letter to American Business: Why Aren’t You Sponsoring Podcasts?” (ProPodder.com, June 14, 2011)
2. “What is the future of podcasts?” (ZDNet, April 24, 2006)
CONTACTS & LINKS
Email: noah at stitcher dot com
Email: peter at stitcher dot com
Bob Kagle, Benchmark Capital
Thanasis Delistathis, New Atlantic Ventures