A new podcast application is designed to solve the problem of discovering new shows. Co-founders Pete Curley and Garret Heaton (who previously founded and sold HipChat) launched Swoot last week, and the great idea is for listeners to see what programs they follow their friends, as well as the programs and episodes they recommend, all in The Name of getting people to discover new content. When you search for podcasts, for example, you can see your friend's face as a listener. Otherwise, it works like any other podcast player. The duo raised $ 3 million to bring the concept to life.
Podcasts have a discovery problem, says Curley, which is what most podcast executives will tell you. Spotify wants to solve it. The same goes for NPR and everyone else who has a podcast and wants more listeners. Unlike a viral TikTok or Instagram post, there is no easy way to share a podcast and make it attractive enough to click and enjoy. That's where friends' recommendations come into play, says Curley.
I see Swoot as something similar to Last.fm, the social music network that allows people to see what their friends enjoy. I used to trust that in college to find new artists, before Spotify made my playlists for me. In theory, Swoot could achieve this for podcasts. If I see my friend enjoying a program that I've heard about, I could send them a message and ask if it's good, or if I already listen, I can talk to them about it. Curley tells me that this is his use case. He found my podcast, Why did he press that button and said that when he looked for it, his co-founder was already a listener, which gave him an additional dose of confidence.
This means For the application to be successful, your friends must be in it, so you have to make the people you know change players. You can find friends in the application through Facebook, Twitter, your contacts or search them by username.
I do not know if Swoot can solve the podcast discovery problem, or if it can even encourage people to leave their default podcast player, but it's an interesting concept. I know some friends who would love a service like this, if only to evangelize for the shows they find for themselves. Most of the other attempts to solve the discovery are apparently aimed at creating better recommendation engines, based on their own listening habits, and this is clearly a very different approach. With Spotify investing millions in space and venture capitalists putting their money behind multiple podcast startups, the market is still developing and there may be hope for small startups.