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Podcasting News: The “Spotify of Podcasting,” Carolla’s Victory Strategy

In podcasting news this week: from Sweden “the Spotify of Podcasting”; Carolla’s Mike August opens up about podcast troll; Blumberg’s podcasting startup hits $1 million.

From Sweden, “the Spotify of Podcasting”

The Swedish podcast listening app Acast just launched in the UK, promising to be “the Spotify of podcasting.” At least the comparison point is refreshing, since otherwise in the US we typically hear about the “Pandora of podcasting.” But given that Spotify is based in Sweden and some Acast developers were involved in Spotify, that comparison seems quite natural (though I’m not sure what really makes one app the “Pandora” and another “Spotify”). It’s not officially launched in the US, but I was able to download it free from the iTunes store.

Acast Screenshots

Acast home screen (left); Supplemental podcast content (right).

In some ways what Acast brings to the party are the enhanced podcast features that Apple used to support with Garageband. Acast lets podcasters add supporting content like images, music, video and web links to accompany their shows in the app.

It also touts the ability to add advertisements into “clean breaks” during the actual podcast. An advantage of such an approach is the ability to target ads dynamically to the listener based on region, listening preferences or other data. This is different than the predominant editorial ad format, where hosts do live reads of ads that are baked-in to an episode.

Ad insertion is how ads work with many online radio streams. Of course, the disadvantage is that it makes podcasts sound more like radio, possibly turning off listeners who like podcasts specifically because they don’t sound like commercial radio. Also, for the podcaster, it means their ads only run on Acast, not any other platform or app.

I’ve only given Acast a cursory try-out. It’s a relatively slick app that focuses on showing you popular shows first thing, with decent search abilities. Instead of subscribing to podcasts you “follow” them, which seems like the same thing. When you select a show it begins playing nearly immediately, though you can also download shows for when you’re offline. At first glance it’s nothing special, but works perfectly well.

I only found one podcast that had any supplemental content, Värvet International, which is the English version of a Swedish interview show. When listening to the program I could scroll through pictures that link to related websites. At least with this show it was like an integrated set of show notes that otherwise lives on the podcast’s website. It’s a nice convenience, though hardly earth-shattering. Also, it’s unclear how podcasters add that extra information to accompany their shows.

More on Carolla’s Podcast Troll Victory

Last week I reported that Adam Carolla broke his silence on the dismissal of the patent troll suit against him and his company. Carolla Digital’s business manager Mike August orchestrated the company’s crowd-funded defense and recently explained more about the circumstances in an interview for Above the Law.

August confirms that the company is still $200,000 in the hole for its legal defense, and will continue to crowd-fund to fill that gap, acknowledging that it will be more difficult now that the suit is dismissed. He reinforces his belief that their “porcupine strategy,” helped them push Personal Audio to settle, explaining,

“our belief was that nobody in the biz of patent litigation wants to be called a patent troll… It just doesn’t help their credibility particularly with the ability of digital media to penetrate every nook and cranny of the potential jury pool they need to support them at trial…We were validated by the fact that they offered to dismiss the case with a 45 day gag on us that corresponded to the anticipated amount of time they were putting their trials on against CBS, NBC and FBC”

He also says that the trial lawyers are the real winners, noting that the American Trial Lawyers Association lobbied to kill a patent reform bill because it had a “loser pays” provision. That would be, “absolutely abhorrent to trial lawyers whose lawsuit biz would be greatly curtailed if they were on the hook for the legal bills of those they sued in the event they lost the case.”

Blumberg’s Startup Raises a Cool Million

Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber’s American Podcasting Company has raised a little more than $1 million, according to Brooklyn. Blumberg is a This American Life producer and the co-creator of NPR’s Planet Money. He and Lieber are raising funds for a podcasting start-up focused on journalism and storytelling. He’s also documenting the journey in podcast form.

From a Silicon Valley perspective $1 million doesn’t seem like a lot, while from a more grassroots radio or podcasting perspective it’s a good chunk of change, and a good starting point.

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