Two months after launching, the podcast listening app Moonbeam says it has surpassed 12,000 downloads and had more than 400 podcast hosts claim their show. Created by Paul English, the Boston-based entrepreneur who was a co-founder of Kayak among other businesses, Moonbeam uses a mix of technology and human curation to better direct users to podcasts they are likely to want to hear.
Moonbeam says among its early adopters, users are spending an average of 23 minutes on the app per session. “We're seeing a lot of users jump into full episodes directly in the app,” says CEO Mike Chambers. “We're also hearing from our users that they really enjoy listening to clips as a standalone consumption experience and don't always feel the need to jump into full episodes.”
Leveraging a combination of machine-learning technology and a team of human curators, Moonbeam hunts and finds the best curated moments from podcasts and plays them to users via the main feed known as "Beam.” If users don’t like the content, they can simply swipe up. If users do like it, they can listen to the episode all the way through, save it, share it with their friends, and subscribe. These actions feed Moonbeam’s algorithm, allowing it to serve the most highly curated and personalized content available.
There’s something for podcast hosts too. In addition to helping listeners discover shows, the Moonbeam Console provides a space for podcast hosts that claim their show to produce content specific to the app. For example, the console allows hosts to create short episode clips that also appear on the mobile app and which can also be shared on social media.
Chambers says they don’t have exact numbers on how many clips have been created and shared by podcasters so far, but he says they have received positive feedback from hundreds of hosts who are using the clip feature to get in front of potential listeners. “With Apple and Spotify battling to be the home of big-budget audio, independent creators are finding it harder than ever to get discovered and grow their audience. Our platform is based on the idea of ‘equitable discovery’ and this concept really resonates with independent creators,” he says.
There is a growing focus on using technology and artificial intelligence to help solve podcasting’s discovery challenge, one that has grown larger as the number of podcasts has topped two million. Spotify struck a $53 million deal in June to buy the startup podcast discovery platform Podz. It too leans into machine learning and Spotify said Podz’ technology will complement and accelerate its own efforts. Launched in February, Podz says it will replace podcast directories with a personalized audio newsfeed of 60-second highlights, automatically selected using the power of artificial intelligence.
Unlike Podz, Moonbeam also features a tipping function that allows listeners to help support creators. Moonbeam is not taking a cut, although in-app purchase fees still apply. Other monetization features are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Moonbeam is currently privately funded and it is currently in the middle of raising a seed round of funding.