The audio industry continues to attract entrepreneurs and investors, with the two joining forces with the debut of Vurbl. The just-launched online platform and soon-to-follow mobile app intends to be a sort of audio library, weaving all types of audio content into a single place. Vurbl debuts with a half million English-language podcasts that will swim a sea of more than 25 million curated audio files, including user-generated content. But rather than drowning consumers in choice, Vurbl believes the one-stop-shop for audio content is what the marketplace is missing.
“We do believe our timing for Vurbl’s launch could not be better for the product itself. More than ever, people are searching for free digital entertainment and learning resources to fill the time they used to spend at events, parties, social gatherings and work,” said co-founder and CEO Audra Gold. “We see millions of audio queries on Google and YouTube that reflect demand for audiobut the results are generally pretty dismal. Discovery is hard, cohesive consumption experience is harder, and advertisers have very few options in reaching all the people out there consuming free audio -- especially in real-time programmatic.”
Vurbl follows the YouTube framework — it is a centralized place where any user can upload any content they own, Vurbl streams it, supports embeds and facilitates audience building and monetization via real-time programmatic ads. Users can listen to all types of great audio across more than 40 different content categories, with thousands of playlists offered. Podcasters and other creators can also create their own “stations” which Vurbl says will help them grow their audience and monetize their audio creations.
For podcasters, Vurbl says its appeal is they can take the episodes they have created and earn additional revenue from reaching new audiences. It also sees its platform as a way that subscriber-only podcasts can offer trailers, teasers, and outtakes to help drive awareness of a podcast and send Vurbl users back to the app where they can subscribe.
For its part, Los Angeles-based Vurbl will rely on advertising revenue with inventory sold through programmatic platforms. It says that dynamic ad insertion is a “poor way” to buy and sell podcast inventory that has “held back” the industry’s growth.
In September, Vurbl announced it had raised $1.3 million in seed funding despite what Gold said was a “challenging” time to be raising money in the middle of a pandemic. The round was led by AlphaEdison with other participants including Halogen Ventures, TEN13, Angellist and several strategic angel investors from the audio, advertising, and entertainment spaces.
“Massive companies have been built on streaming music and to combine this with user generated content is a formula for enormous growth,’ said Jesse Draper, general partner at Halogen Ventures. “We invested in Vurbl and Audra’s team because they are building the single source for all audio. We think this is going to be the YouTube for audio — which currently doesn’t exist.”