Sounder Is Out Of Beta: Building For An Audio-First Future

Sounder’s co-founders, Kal Amin, Dan Daugherty, and Goran Krgović, landscape major challenges in the podcast industry and introduce their solution.

The State of Podcasting Today

At the end of 2020, we could see 20 million new podcast episodes published online. That’s a distinct episode for nearly every single resident of Florida. While podcasting may have been around since the early 2000s, episode growth in the last three years nearly tripled from six million new episodes per year to 16.5 million. Headline: Now is the time to be in podcasting.

In many ways, it still feels like the early days of an industry where audiences and creators are searching for more structure. Listeners struggle to discover new content. Audio hobbyists struggle to build their communities. What was once an art form and a hobby has transformed into a powerful, front-and-center business.

Some companies have recognized this whitespace, stepped in, and started to build and buy. Taken from a 30,000-foot view, this is a big win for podcasting. More investment creates better products and services. However, zooming in, these investments also breed competition, fragmentation, and the potential closing of what should continue to be an open audio ecosystem.

For example, Joe Rogan signed a 100–200 million dollar licensing deal with Spotify, meaning The Joe Rogan Experience will be a Spotify exclusive in 2021. Rogan’s full audio and video will no longer be on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or anywhere else but Spotify. His millions of subscribers will need to transition to Spotify (paid or free).

Rogan’s acquisition is part of a trend. Between the creation of the paywalled Luminary and reports of Apple looking to invest in original podcast content, there seems to be a movement where only the top echelon of podcasters win. Who’s championing for everyone else? Burgeoning voices need new ways to be discovered and heard.

We created Sounder to ensure publishers, creators, and platforms of all sizes can win.

We believe there’s an opportunity to invest in a thriving and open ecosystem — one that ensures listeners can access all podcasts for free and independent creators of all sizes are supported in building a robust audience and income. Audio should be for all. We know everyone has a story worth sharing.

The Discovery Bottleneck

One way to serve the growth of the open podcast ecosystem is through discovery — connecting creators and listeners. Over the past ten years, the percentage of Americans who have ever listened to a podcast grew substantially, from 22% to 51%. Plus, there are 850 million active podcasts and 30 million episodes to choose from. With so much content, it’s harder than ever to develop creator-listener bonds.

As podcast listeners ourselves, we often get stuck listening to the same few shows when we know there is so much great content out there. But navigating the vast library of content is overwhelming and time-consuming as we’re forced to use antiquated search and discovery tools that haven’t been updated since 2004. Plus, once we find an awesome new show, it’s hard to share our favorite episode moments with our network.

This is a primary challenge for creators. If listeners can’t discover and share new content, how are creators supposed to grow their audience, shaping their podcast, and making money from their content?

There is a podcast discovery problem that acts as a bottleneck for the entire ecosystem. That’s why we built Sounder.

The Sounder Solution

We started this company on a napkin, grounded with a set of core beliefs, values, and principles. Here’s our true north:

Make every creator successful by building discovery and monetization tools that support an open and thriving creator ecosystem.

Facilitating creator-listener relationships is a critical part of the growth process. Podcasting is not a zero-sum game. That’s why we’re moving Sounder out of Beta. With our feature-rich platform, creators have the power to grow audiences and build communities.

Here’s what we’re releasing today:

  • In-Stream Audio Search: Listeners can search for topics, interests, or keywords they care about in an episode (or across all of a creator’s podcast’s episodes) so they can engage with the content that matters most.
  • Soundbite Audio Share: Creators have between 5–15 minutes to hook a new listener. When creators can share their best clips, it increases the likelihood of converting a new listener.
  • Episode Transcription: With free speech-to-text recognition, creators can easily turn their episodes into blog posts, write compelling episode notes, market a podcast to new audiences, or create videos of their episodes with accurate subtitles.
  • Audio SEO: Sounder’s proprietary technology enables advanced search engine optimization through metadata, analytics, and episode transcriptions.
  • Sounder Player: A re-imagined embeddable audio player, featuring all of Sounder’s innovative discovery tools into a small and mighty package.
  • Podcast & Episode Web Pages: We make creators look like marketing experts in minutes by providing an SEO-optimized website for their podcasts.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Proprietary analytics, including groundbreaking keyword search and sharing data, help creators track and improve podcast performance.
  • Creator Management Platform: We’ve completely overhauled our podcast management platform to make it easier and more intuitive for creators to manage and distribute content.

We built these tools because it brings podcasting and audio content discovery to 2020. As creators grow their audiences, we want to be there every step of the journey — first by removing the friction caused by starting a new podcast, and later by helping to monetize their success through ad monetization opportunities. Every creator deserves to make a meaningful income from their content!

The Exciting Road Ahead

The unmistakable power of audio is that it provides a voice to those who have been voiceless. Given the remarkable social movement we’ve seen in the last few weeks, we are even more proud to provide a space for Black, LGBTQ+, and other underrepresented groups to share their voices, stories, insights, and wisdom. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.

An audio-first future is coming — the evidence is all around us. Screens are being replaced with Alexa and Google Home speakers. AirPods are Apple’s fastest-growing product. Soon, all brands will have a podcast, just as they have a website, blog, or social media presence. Podcasts will become our preferred entertainment medium. Listeners are already consuming 6+ hours of content per week, and that figure grows every year.

We hope you’ll join us as we continue to build products to empower the diverse podcasting community.

Keep podcasting!

Kal, Dan, & Goran

P.S. If you like what we’re doing in the podcasting space, feel free to support us by upvoting Sounder on Product Hunt!

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