The podcast app Podopolo is playing cleanup after getting into a public dispute Thursday with influential podcast producer Aaron Mahnke on Twitter that led to his demand that all the shows created by his Grim and Mild network of podcasts be pulled down.
The dispute began when Podopolo publicly urged Mahnke on Twitter to claim his show on their app in order to receive its share of advertising revenue. “Similar to Yelp, each podcaster must claim its own podcast to receive its shared earnings from listens,” said Tyler Paget, Podopolo’s Director of Social and Digital.
Mahnke however said that Podopolo – which pulls all its content from public RSS feeds – never requested his permission and demanded his shows be removed despite insistence from Podopolo CEO Mellissa Wittstock that her company’s goal is to help smaller podcasters increase earnings, and their listener base.
“You asked me to claim my podcast on your platform in order to ‘receive its shared earnings from listeners.’ That seems pretty clear to me: the show is currently earning revenue, but I can’t share in it unless I ‘claim’ the show I own, produce, and distribute,” Mahnke responded.
That sort of pushback is not unlike what the subscription platform Luminary faced when it launched two years ago and many networks pulled their show from the app.
In a letter posted online Thursday, Wittstock says Podopolo is not unlike most other apps in featuring content pulled from the public RSS feeds. She insists Podopolo does not make any money from podcasts on its app through ad insertion or any other way unless a show explicitly partners with them. Instead, she says listeners on their app count as a download.
“That means having your podcast on Podopolo is a source of free traffic to boost your existing revenue stream without any monetary benefit to Podopolo,” Wittstock writes, adding, “Our goal is to help you reach and engage new audiences.” She notes every producer can also make their RSS feed private or exclusive to a provider if they choose.
After more than a year in stealth beta, Podopolo formally launched in August. It says it has more than four million podcasts with hundreds of millions of episodes, more than any other app, including shows from producers NPR, Wondery, iHeartRadio, and CNN, among others. To sort through that vast library, Podopolo relies on an AI-powered proprietary recommendation engine. Users can also build personalized and social listening libraries which can be shared with friends.
Podopolo hopes to convince podcasters to upgrade their status on the app, giving users that pay between $100 and $500 the ability to have their own communities, gamification, and other features such as the ability to have public and private groups. It will also have an ad sales representation component. Wittstock has also vowed her company would be more transparent and give podcasters data about the size of their audience and various demographics and psychographics to help them monetize their shows.
The app came together during the past year with a team of 22 employees working virtually across eight countries. The lead investor in Podopolo is Steve Little, whose Zero Limits Ventures has invested more than $1 million dollars in the company. He has also become the Executive Chairman of the company. Several individual podcasters have also invested as much as $100,000 into the app’s development.