In a move designed as much as a way to expose podcasting to people who’ve yet to try the medium as offer up show options, iHeartRadio will use thousands of data points to power a new podcast recommendation feature on its app. “We do that based on finding people who have similar tastes,” says Chris Williams, chief product officer for iHeart.
He explains they use information like what type of music or artists someone listens to and songs that they’ve thumbed, as well as several components that leverage radio habits. That includes not just what market they live in, but what stations and morning shows they tune to. “Because we have so many data points on people, we can find and match people who look just like you except - you haven’t listened to this podcast but they have,” Williams says.
There are currently about 25,000 podcasts on iHeart to draw recommendations from although that number is expected to eventually climb into the hundreds of thousands. Discovery is seen as among the biggest challenges for podcasters. Williams says for a lot of listeners a “tyranny of choice” can be overwhelming when they finish a series and aren’t sure what podcast they next want to dedicate their time to. But it’s the overall exposure of podcasting that he thinks will bring the biggest benefit initially. Studies show about 35% of Americans said they’d listened to a podcast in the past month, and Williams says putting show recommendations in front of the other two-thirds will push the medium forward. “The more we can do to help ease people into the door and make sure their first experience is a great one, the better it’s going to be,” he says.
By educating iHeart users to a new feature on their app, Williams says they’ll be able to use their vast reach to help accelerate the growth of podcasting. “There’s an investment in education to get them to become podcast diehards,” he says. “The byproduct is they will consume more and listen longer, they follow more podcasts, and that will keep them engaged more in the app.” A recommendation engine, now on iOS devices, is just one feature being added. By the end of first quarter several functions currently available on iOS will be added for Android, including the ability to listen to podcasts while offline, auto-download shows, and to sequence their order.