Sir Gene Speaks

0039 Sir Gene Speaks Special - Interview Tom Rossi

April 28, 2021 Gene Naftulyev Season 1 Episode 39
Sir Gene Speaks
0039 Sir Gene Speaks Special - Interview Tom Rossi
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Gene:

We're joined today by Tom Rossi, who is the co-founder of Buzzsprout and Buzzsprout happens to be my hosting company. And so I'm very excited to have Tom on how are you today, Tom?

Tom:

good. Good. Thanks for having me. And thanks for hosting your podcast with us.

Gene:

Absolutely. And I will say this I've been doing podcasts on and off. For about 16 years. And so I've tried pretty much all the hosting companies. And I have to say that in its current incarnation, as of time being recorded, you guys are definitely the best out there.

Tom:

Oh, well, thank you. I appreciate that.

Gene:

Yeah. So that's a good start for any of you. And now I can get all the dirt from me, right?

Tom:

I feel like you're just setting me up now. You're going to drop the heavy.

Gene:

Exactly. Obviously we want to know a lot about the cool podcasting 2.0 features, and which is the reason that I love you guys because you're very inclusive and supportive of podcasting 2.0, which I've been a huge proponent of But first let's find out a little bit more about you, Tom. So before Buzzsprout, so give us the background. What'd you do? And how'd you get to where you are right now?

Tom:

Sure. Sure. So I actually started off as an aerospace engineer back in the day and right about the mid nineties, when the internet really started to make an impact on the way businesses operated. I quit my job and started a company to go ahead and really figure out. You know how to basically go West and figure out where the gold was going to be to, build a business around it. And that eventually led us to a place of now I have two partners and we build web-based products and bus route is the one that we spend the most time on. And it's the one that's, just growing the fastest and probably the most fun to work with just because it's podcasters. No. It was a long path of building, building websites and doing client services work for people. And eventually in 2001, we wiped out the consulting business. After September 11th, everybody froze all their, capital expenditures, which was everything that we did. Everything we did was a capital expenditure. It was the first thing to go. And I'm sitting on a staff of 20 people and talented people and no work. And so that's when we started building products, he said, okay, let's build something. And we built a content management tool. This is, this is probably 2000. We started building it. And if you remember, there wasn't anything really, there's nothing like medium, or, at the time it was maybe geo cities or angel fire. But nothing nothing that did all that we wanted. So we built our own little content management tool that was designed for nonprofits campus ministries that we had relationships with, that we knew where they could upload pictures into a photo album and they could have a blog and things like that. And that product grew and did really well. And eventually we had churches that started using it and the church has said, Hey, we want to put our sermon audio online. And we, Kevin, my partner was, always writing updated articles of how to build an RSS feed and how to upload your MP3s to go daddy, things like that. And eventually we were like, that we just need to build a product that just does this, that just does podcasting. And that's how bus route was born.

Gene:

Wow. Well, first of all, that sounds good. Amazingly similar to what I went through. I had a software development company in the late nineties. They had about a dozen developers working for me and things were awesome. Like I was riding my motorcycle and mostly, and just going through a few sales calls and everybody was saying, yes, the money was just flowing. And then in 2001, the year that I decided to get married, all that stopped, which was not fun. So I ended up having to, yeah, I had to lay off pretty much everybody and just, go back to square one and figure out shit. Now what, how do I figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life here? Because it's clearly not going to be running an on demand software development company. And we were building CMS systems at the time as well, which is hilarious. So, but my, my, pivot from that was to just do a high-end consulting myself rather than trying to Work with the company. It really put a sour taste in my mouth for having to support a whole bunch of staff that, they're generating money for you and things are good. But when things turn for the worse, now, all of a sudden your savings are getting sucked out at a very fast pace. As you're trying to pay people that aren't really generating anything for the company.

Tom:

Yeah. It's very similar and I think I probably would have gone down a similar path. I, it was not, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started building the products. But what happened was when the work fell off and I've got this staff that you've, you built years, you built over a period of years and you're pouring into, and you have personal relationships. You, it's really hard to just say, sorry guys, it's time to go. And so that's when I said, well, I'm going to go ahead and base my savings at this point is gone. Now I'm just going into debt to cover payroll, but let's build something, let's build a product, but had I not had that relationship or had I not had the people on the team? Yeah, I probably would have never gotten into product, but the fact that I had a really awesome team that could execute and build something that led us to, to build our first product. And then once I got a taste of the product life, Where rather than having a customer, who's just, put a button over here, do this, do that. And you're like, gosh, that's really dumb, but okay, you're paying the bill. So I guess I have to do it. Once you get into product, you can actually just say, well, what's the best way to do it. What's the best way to build a podcast hosting platform that's easy to use and people want to use it and it's got the features that, that makes sense for the majority of the people that are going to interact with it. Or certainly for me as a user, it's got what I would want. And that's a very different approach than the client services work.

Gene:

Yeah, no, that's a very good point. And I think it's cool that you were able to do that. So as bus sprouts, was that your original name for it? Is it really been around for 20 years?

Tom:

So bus pro didn't launch until 2000 think was about 2008. So it was about seven years after we launched our first product. So we launched M sites, which was a content management tool. And that's what led us into Buzzsprout, but it would be years before it did that. So we've launched other products as well. And in 2008, when we launched Buzzsprout, even then it was, compared to our other products, it just wasn't a moneymaker, but it was super fun to work on because it was podcasting and right after we launched it we had all these different people from all over the world that, podcasting was not where it is today. And so there wasn't as many different people podcasting, but there were certainly a lot of people podcasts. And when we saw all these podcasts signing up for Buzzsprout right after we launched it was just fun. It was just a fun product to work on, but it didn't really cover the bills. And we had other products that did well now, fast forward on to whatever 20, I don't know, 16, 17 things really pick up in the podcasting industry and bus is in a great position. Because it's, it was always designed to be a very simple solution for podcasting. And so as more people are getting into the podcasting space, they're finding Buzzsprout and they're saying, man, this is so much easier than what they've experienced in the past. That we're just in a great position to capture a lot of the growth that has happened in the podcast.

Gene:

Well, and that I would phrase it a little differently. I'd say it's an elegant solution, more so than a simple solution because it's not basic. I mean, everything is in there but it is absolutely easier to use it's cleaner good user interface. So in a lot of ways, I think it allows people that are brand new to podcasting to probably be able to navigate it with much better understanding than some of the competing products. And that's not to say that plenty of other companies that have been around for a long time don't offer great hosting as well for podcasts, but. I think the difference is you guys have managed to create something that is aesthetically very nice. That is easy to use and allows people to take advantage of even the the latest podcasting 2.0 functionality which a lot of, other companies, a lot of your competitors just haven't gotten to yet.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate that. It's definitely. People don't understand how hard it is to do something simple, right. To make it are elegant to make, to take something that can be complicated. And, all they see is the end result and they go, wow, that must be really easy, but you don't see all of the iterations, all the debate, all of the things that happen to get to this feature set that now you look at it, you're like, wow, this is, this can't be that difficult. And it looks so simple. You're like, well, it's a process. And so I think that's where we thrive as a team. Like we, every feature that we build, we run it through those filters of how can we take the seemingly complex. Challenge and make it really easy for our users because our users, they don't know what podcasting a lot of our users, a lot of our podcasts have no idea about podcasting 2.0 and new namespace. But we do. And so how can we make it really easy for them to be able to take advantage of those features? Without having to know anything.

Gene:

Oh, absolutely. And including things like getting listed in directories where some of your competitors have instructions for what to do. You guys have a button that says get listed and then that button will either just do it through an API, or it might say here, copy this. And then here's where you're going to paste it and then hit the button. So it's very easy to use. It's very straightforward. You don't have to be a techie. And this is why I think if you look back to the early days of podcasting shortly after Adam started doing the daily source code, most of the podcasts, including my first one were technical, they were done by techies for techies, because you needed to be somebody that was comfortable in Unix to be able to host your podcast and create an RSS feed semi manually. There was some generation involved, but you pretty much had to tweak things to get it to look right. If you wanted the artwork different. If you wanted something to be deviating from the standard, you really have to do it manually. And even going in and like the only way to really get artwork to be encapsulated in the MP3 file is you have to open up the iTunes on your ready to upload file and then put the artwork through there and save the file right out of iTunes. And then get an upload. I'm not sure what people on the PC side did, but at least on the Mac side, that was like the only way to get artwork into the episode itself, rather than artwork coming in from the RSS.

Tom:

Yeah. And that's just on the content creation side. Think about how complicated it was on the consumption side for somebody to go subscribe to an RSS feed. That just, if you weren't a techie, that just wasn't something that, that people did. Blogging, I think really helped because people got more comfortable with the idea of subscribing to a feed. But really it's Apple driving podcasting into more and more people's right into their point of view where they can see it and understand it is when you really see podcasting take off in terms of the number of people that are subscribing. And I think there's a demographic shift as well with the podcast creators, which again, I think Buzzsprout was the beneficiary of people getting into podcasting that weren't techies. And so w there were a lot of people in the industry that were like, Oh, well, you need to encode your audio like this, and you need to do this and that. And they're like I just want to talk about being a great boss and how do you do that? Or I want to talk about whatever cooking and then when I have a podcast, but there were all these technical obstacles that people were throwing in front of them. And Buzzsprout eliminated all of those and just made it really easy for them to be able to wait. All I have to do is upload a recording. It can be in any format and you guys will just take care of everything for me. I don't have to know what a tag is. I don't even know what MP3 is. I can just upload it and it does everything. And that was what really helped us grow. And it's, staying true to those roots that I think it's so important for us now, as we continue to add more and more features.

Gene:

Yeah. And I think being there at the right place at the right time, and then having a product that was capable of taking advantage of the demands that you guys were seeing was a very good combination that obviously resulted in in getting me as a client. That's ultimately what it resulted in.

Tom:

That's great. How did you find out about Buzzsprout.

Gene:

So Adam actually recommended you for this latest podcast. Cause I, what I've done in the past is, I was self hosting for a long time and then eventually I got tired of that and I just wanted some more automation. And I'd known Todd for many years. So I said, all right, something, he up on his thing then did the same thing with the the other guys. I can't remember off the L-CAP and now he's going to hate me, but anyway, I've gone through a bunch of them. So every time I start a new podcast is an opportunity. a different host and see how it works. And I think this time round where with you guys, which is the first time I've tried, you guys was for this podcast. But I was very pleasantly surprised that, like I said, at the aesthetics the UX and just how seamless everything seemed to be. And then I w I'm really trying not to like pile the compliments too much here but I think you're tech support probably knows me on a first name basis because I probably reach out to them at least once a week. And it's usually not with a problem or it fits a problem quite often. I'm giving him what the problem is along with. Here's how I fixed it. So you guys can let other people know as well. Like one of the things, Oh, here's a here's. Yeah. Like here's an example of a problem I had is that. I had, I used descript for creating the audio files and descript talks to you guys through an API. And so what was happening was I had a three hour long episode that I was uploading that I just finished. And I think that the API either on your end or descript side, probably on your end, that with guests timed out before the episode was ready from the descript side to suck into you guys. And in that instance, because it never happened with shorter episodes. But it didn't happen with this longer one. What happens is the episode is created in your on your side, but then it was always sorta like in progress or downloading it had that message. And that would, yeah, it's waiting.

Tom:

to be able to get it from descript.

Gene:

But th but it's been like, it took descript probably 10 minutes for it to be ready, so it's been ready, but there was no something wasn't working in the APA. And so eventually after 24 hours, the episode comes back as there's no audio file. So it's created empathy, but that 24 hours has to go by for that to happen for whatever reason. And

Tom:

Well, yeah,

Gene:

was, it'd be nice if there was a cancel button, even if you're in the middle of the upload, just to say, Oh, I just realized I clicked on the wrong file. Let me just cancel that rather than waiting until that is uploaded into the system. And then or timed out in this case after 24 hours. And it happened with two different long episodes. And what I figured out as a work around solution. Is that if I wait until descript is done processing, which takes, about 10 minutes for three hour episode. So it's past, it's after it's already uploaded all the descript stuff, but it has to do some internal gobbledygook that they do on their backend. If I wait until that's done and I can actually play the audio from their server and it's working, and then I start the upload to you guys through the API, then it seems to work just fine, even for the longer files. But if the way that I do it as the way that I did it for all previous times, which is I hit the publish button right out of the descript, and then right away hit the upload button on your side, which descript opens up the, basically the script, like loads your site with a button that says, go ahead and hit go to ingest the

Tom:

Yeah, well, let's talk a little bit about that. So my role I love UI and the UX for, Buzzsprout but unfortunately I have very little to do with that. My partner, Kevin, and Dave dishes is our senior designer. Like they do all the experience all the design, all the HTML, and I do all the technical or my team. So I have a team. Of technical people, John Pollard, who's been here for years. He does a lot of the coding related to to Buzzsprout. But this particular one I did. So the descript integration, the way it works is you upload your audio to them. And when you click your button to share it back to Buzzsprout, all we get from them is a URL. And then what we have to do is we have to pull that URL. We have to keep asking, Hey, is it ready? Is it ready? Is it ready? And until it'll keep doing that for maybe up to 24 hours, and if it fails out, finally never comes back as being ready. That's when you see that message. And so when you see that issue, the issue is on the descript side of not providing us with the URL to be able to download the audio and the transcript. And so you can always reach, you can always reach out to us and we can provide you with the URL that you can provide to descript and be like, Hey, why didn't

Gene:

Well, and I did actually dig through this is actually not the case. So their audio is ready. Cause I get a bunch of testing after that, finding that issue, try and figure out how to fix it. So it does take a while for that idea to be available on that URL. But and you guys I'm sure are polling, but something's not happening because when I load that same URL manually I can hear the audio. The URL is working just fine. The file is downloadable, but it's obviously not getting pulled in from your end.

Tom:

So the URL that's passed to us is not working.

Gene:

is. That's the URL. I'm loading. That's what I'm talking about.

Tom:

the URL that's passed to us. Isn't the link to the audio file. It's a link to, to the meta information that has the transcript and the audio tag is separate links. And so it will continue to pull until it can download both the audio and the transcript.

Gene:

do that manually while you guys are still pulling

Tom:

Yeah then you're seeing something that I've never

Gene:

right. Well, that's why I'm, that's why I'm saying I'm happy. I'm happy to help you fix this permanently. My workaround was just to wait a little bit and then I just don't have the issue. But when I do it the same way that I've historically done for previous episodes, which is just, assuming you're polling and just send you that click the button right away so that it sends you that link. That's when I had that 24 hour waiting until the timeout issue. But yeah, if I go to that same URL

Tom:

But if it's not a timeout, it's polling. So that means that our system has been polling for 24 hours. And whenever we're calling the URL, we are getting a response, which is either a four Oh four or a four Oh three, which is what we typically seen from the script when the air is out after that. And we get, we actually get a log message whenever that happens. And so then we go and we investigate. And we haven't had any cases, like what you're talking about. Anytime we get those messages when we,

Gene:

if you want, we can play around. I can reapply three-hour file and see how it behaves this time around. But I'm saying that's because I looked at the, what it's sending to you guys. I looked at that and then I created that exact thing and I got a page and I got data in that, from that request. It wasn't a four or four. It wasn't timing out. It wasn't, it was coming back.

Tom:

But like I said, the URL though, you need to go into that URL and look at the meta information at the top. And then there's two URLs in the meta information from the original share URL. That's what we're polling. So if it's not responding, it's because of one of those two URLs wasn't working,

Gene:

But that's what I'm saying was working. That's what I could actually download the audio and play it. So it was the audio was available from their end. But again, we don't need to do that on a podcast episode. I just brought it up as an example of not wanting to compliment you too much because I did have an issue. But nonetheless, your support has just been amazing. The I've had things where the issue has been with some other product, like a podcast player. And I said, Hey for some reason on this particular podcast player, I'm not seeing the artwork, but. They say that they have artwork available from other hosting platforms that's coming in and other podcasts. So it's a really strange bug. And then your guys will actually contact that app effectively on my behalf and then talk to their support. And then in this particular example, they actually had found that the app had a bug that was only showing up with feeds coming from you guys. And it was something that, they, I guess they had they had used integer instead of a floating point or the other way around, but it was something essentially an issue with the way that they were assuming data was coming through from API. And this is obviously related to the podcast and 2.0 stuff, not the historical podcasting stuff. There was a I reported the issue to you guys. You guys took the initiative to go out, contact that third party vendor, help them diagnose the problem on their end. They fixed it. And then it was.

Tom:

Yeah, well, our support is one of the things that we've realized in the last couple of years is our support is more than just. No supporting the application. It's really podcasts for support. It's helping our pod-casters to the degree that we can. And that's expanded a lot from when we first started. We have people that'll send us questions about microphones, like where in the past you'd be like, well, that's, that's not us, we're software. But now, we've been providing a lot more and that's true in our YouTube channel and our blog our Twitter feed, like there's all kinds of information that we're providing that in the past. We really didn't, but we've learned that, you know what, that as this industry is growing, there's just a lot of questions that people are asking that we can help with, which helps the brand for Buzzsprout, but it also helps our pod-casters be successful and the more successful they are, then the more successful we are. And that's driven a lot of the way that we approach support and features and the content that we create that really has nothing to do with the actual product itself.

Gene:

Yeah. And you can tell that obviously support is not simply trying to get rid of you, which is the typical mode of operation for most support is well, here's some documents that probably answer your question. And hopefully this answered your question. It's well, no, I'm. I want more than just a link to some doc to figure it out on my own. And that's where I think you guys have done a great job with having your support actually act human rather than the robotic. But I'm going to assume still be measured on metrics relating to number of solutions per day and quality of assessments from consumers and all that good stuff. So definitely good job on that front, but enough complimenting let's talk a little bit about the exciting stuff, which is podcasting 2.0, and tell me about how you first found out about it and how you're going about implementing the brand new features.

Tom:

Sure. We got into, we actually began working on transcripts and we really wanted to provide transcripts to players the ability to be able to see like a closed captioning experience. And so we said, look, there's no way to do this currently, but let's just do it ourselves. Let's just put it in the RSS feed. We don't Buzzsprout doesn't own an app player. We have our embedded player, but that's a small fraction of the downloads that, that occur on people's podcasts. And so let's put it in the RSS feed and hope that some of the players out there adopt it. So we went ahead and we launched that the transcript tag in our RSS feed and shortly after came across the podcast index and the work that they had been doing on the namespace. And so we quickly jumped in and were like, Hey, this is awesome. This is great. It's exactly what we want it to do. And so we shared what we did on the transcript side. And we went back and forth and actually made some changes based on feedback that we got from others in the group. We made some changes. And then within a very short amount of time, we had already had transcripts available and all these different players that are using the the new namespace. And so that was the beginning of us just really participating in this group of, Hey, how can we move podcasting forward? How can we help do innovation in this area? That's really been stifled by. Apple who doesn't do much or Spotify who just wants to control it. We really need an independent group that just cares about the ecosystem of podcasting. And that's that? That's the namespace guys. That's Adam and Dave and the work that they've been doing over there.

Gene:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I think that one of the benefits to having. A hosting company. That is part of that group really. You're, it's not just Dave and Adam. It's also about 50 developers that are all making their own products or their own services that are all coming in and talking to each other. I'm blown away by the level of cooperation that is happening from what otherwise would be essentially competitors in the space coming together to explain to each other how they get new features working or what they've had to do to enable something or asking for a sample code. It's been a really cool experience watching that. Then the closest that I can remember to seeing this type of interaction was really the early nineties with the beginning of the the transition of the worldwide web and the internet as a whole to a commercial thing. From a business or from a government and educational thing. And and one of my other episodes, I talked about how I remember going and checking every day at lunch, a list of all the new websites that had popped up because there was the index that was kept I'm, I can't remember how long it was kept probably for six to nine months that that literally, if you created a new website, you were welcome to send an email with the address and the brief description, and you could submit it and Mozilla would have it up on their index. And that very much with the same kind of idea where everybody helped everybody else, there were no competitors or, it was a very friendly competition to put at least. And one of my buddies was actually one of the authors of gopher, which was the precursor that to HTML that just created a graphical user interface for access to file systems, which was very popular at the university. And that was back of the U of M. So I have this experience right now with the podcasting 2.0 guys that just really reminded of an experience from 30 years ago.

Tom:

Yeah. I can see that it's definitely similar in that, we're remember that excitement of what could we do. We could do anything we could. And that's what you're, that's what you're feeling when you go into any of these discussions that are happening. Because yeah, we could do this with transcripts. We could do this right. And these different areas. And that's exciting. And it's great that we've got people that are participating from all different companies and really in different roles within the industry, from players and hosts, podcasters that are all in there. Dreaming about what they'd like to be able to do with podcasting.

Gene:

Exactly. And having that communication happening throughout the entire stack. So you've got pod-casters, you've got podcasts, player developers. You've got guys like you on the hosting side. And then you've got they've and a few folks like him that are really keeping the index growing and the live. And everybody is trying to make the experience for the podcaster better than it was yesterday. It's a really cool feeling. It's really fun to see the technological advances that are happening are huge, but also I think a lot of the standards and benefits are getting talked through so that they can be available to everybody. Like one of the things that I've noticed and I've commented about, although I'm not sure if it's going to end up specifically being submitted for the standard or not, but just idea that we're at a place where we could probably get all the different app developers to start using a central repository for user preferences so that I could use a, a w this is all within podcasting 2.0 applications, obviously, but. I could use a pod verse on my phone and then go to my PC and use pod friend. And it would have the exact same synchronized list of podcasts and start them off at the exact place that I left off listening to when I was on the phone using a whole different app, like we're at that point where the developers are open and receptive to creating something that really makes the application be an agnostic thing to the end user, which is really cool. I love that concept. I loved the fact that we can start treating these apps as utilities and then people can pick on the ones that have the biggest benefits to them rather than, well, this is the only app that I can get a transcript with, or this is the only app that shows me a new picture throughout listening to the episode. So thankfully I think those days are coming to an end.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. That's the hope is that we can get more players to gain market share. We need more of the podcasting 2.0 players to, to gain more market share so that as more people use them, then it's easier to build features around them. And that's when that's, when it'll really start accelerating.

Gene:

Yeah. And I think all of that, it goes quite contrary to this walled garden that Spotify created and Apple and Google seem to want to, and Facebook all want to emulate.

Tom:

Yeah. I think that the independent podcaster is threatened by those walled gardens. And so that's why we're so passionate about supporting what they're doing is because we believe in the independent podcaster and helping them with the tools that they need to be able to produce their content and get it out to the world. And so the walled garden is a threat to that. And the namespace allows us to do things that a walled garden would never do. And that's the kind of thing that really gets me excited about developing something that makes it harder for somebody to own podcasting.

Gene:

Yeah, exactly. And I love the idea of Adam taking the directory back and because it really brings things full circle. Since he essentially provided the directory at the time to Steve jobs when Apple was. Wanting to embrace podcasts or at least Steve jobs was in order to promote the the iPod player. So for Apple, it was always a marketing play. It wasn't about getting into a new technology. It was about adding one more reason why the iPod, which costs twice as much as the the yeah. Zune or, well, even before that, like the eye river or whatever then all the competing players, but what does it actually give you? Well, it gives you podcasting, that's integrated through your iTunes, which none of the other players had at least for awhile. So it is something that Apple, I think, got their money's worth on marketing for sure. But they've also, I felt really let it stagnate for about a decade to where there was nothing new that was happening technologically. They weren't really keeping their finger on the pulse of what. The consumers wanted from their podcast apps. And certainly the Apple podcast app was very basic. Just going to Oh, what was the one I used to use over something or other overcast. Yeah. So I used overcast for years, for one simple reason. It was an app that allowed me to have multiple devices that had that same app that could share the the place where I left off listening to an episode. So I could go from my iPod to, or my iPad, I should say to my iPhone and back pretty seamlessly. Whereas the Apple app didn't even do that. And that was from Apple. Now I may have eventually gotten that capability, but that was the reason I switched to overcast was that overcast, let me have multiple devices. And it was aware of where I was from any device. And I kinda. Shifted away from overcast about a year ago, because they they were not going down the podcasting 2.0 path. And I'm happy to hear now that it sounds like they've had a change of heart. I can't remember the guy's name. I know it's mostly just one guy, but it sounds like he's now coming on board with podcasting 2.0. And and wanting to

Tom:

One with the index. So hopefully he'll roll out some of the features that we've added to the namespace, because that would be great for the industry. Cause overcast isn't really popular a player to one actually that I use. And yeah, I think the community at large would. Benefit from them rolling out those features and it might lead other players to do it as well. To get everybody on board.

Gene:

Exactly. And speaking of you, UX like overcast, and another reason that I really liked it was the UX. It, it was simple and straight forward elegant without removing any real functionality. So it didn't overly simplify things. It just created a simpler way to interact with it while still keeping all the options available. So I think it was always a good app. It's just, when the other apps are adding features like transcripts images for chapters, and then of course the latest being streaming Bitcoin, while you're listening, overcast will just getting left behind. And so I had to move on, but of course, ever since I really started doing these interviews with developers, I've now had to well, and I don't say it begrudgingly, but I've certainly had to now download every single app on both Android and iOS platforms. Two, because I want to play with them. I want to test them out. I want to see how they're different. I want to see if there's features that are on one, but not the other one of the features that I've been recommending pretty much on all my interviews that everybody adapt is something you guys actually do, which is an asymmetric forward and back jump, 30 seconds forward, and then 10 seconds back.

Tom:

Hell. Yeah.

Gene:

so I've been telling that to all the apps and most of the developers that are on board with that, they're like, yeah, I should be able to do that pretty easily. And I think it makes

Tom:

Right.

Gene:

And it does from a human standpoint, that is a much better way to do it. I would back in the Steve jobs days, I would say this is the Steve jobs approach, which is to look at how humans actually interact with technology and then make the technology anticipate what the human wants. I'm not sure I would say that about the current version of Apple, but Certainly the historic version of Apple, that was the way that tended to operate. So I was very happy to see that you guys had that. And and now I'm hoping more and more of the podcast players will have similar functionality as well, because it does make more sense from a UX perspective. So what kind of things from my podcasting 2.0 really namespace feature set, whatever you want to call it. What have you guys implemented? Let's start there. And then is there something you haven't implemented yet? Or maybe hasn't even been published as a standard yet, but you'd like to see happen in the namespace.

Tom:

Sure. Well, we've implemented all of the tags from the first phase, the first group of tags that came out and said that would be like the locked tag, giving podcasters the ability to lock their podcast. This was pretty much in direct response to what people were doing with anchor, where they were just copying people's podcasts and then submitting to anchor as if it was their own I don't think Ankar ever gotten, I don't think anchor ever actually respected the lock tag, but certainly all the podcast hosts that participated in the in the podcasting namespace discussion, we all now respect each other's locked position and their podcast. The transcript which we talked about, there's a tackled funding, which allows people to provide a URL to be able to accept donations. So this is different than the value for value Bitcoin streaming. This is being able to provide a link for some type of funding. And the chapters, we moved the chapters into the RSS feed, which is a much better way to provide more rich content for the chapters. And let's see the soundbite is one of the other features that we implemented. This is a great way to be able to provide within your RSS feed, a little snippet for episodes. So if a podcast player chose to implement, which I hope that they do an ability to be able to, Hey, I just want to hear a snippet. I just wanna hear a little sound bite from an episode. This would be the sound bite that the podcast or chooses to share for that episode. So that way they can pick what part of the interview or whatever sounded the best. And they can just highlight that with the sound bite tag. And then,

Gene:

the only one that does that right now,

Tom:

Oh, that's good. So pod versus using it.

Gene:

I believe so. Yeah.

Tom:

Good. We've also implemented the location tag, which allows somebody who has a podcast that's, targeting a particular area. They're talking about, Jacksonville, Florida, they're talking about a particular place. They can provide that in their location tag things that we're working on. W we want to see the person tag rolled out, which the ability to be able to highlight your. Who's the host of the show and be able to do that. And that's something that we've got on the drawing board. We've worked out some different solutions, but we're not sure how we want to incorporate it into our UI. The challenge with a lot of these features is that they only affect the RSS fee. And so for the majority of our podcasts, they have no idea why would I provide a location for my podcast? Why are you even asking me for that? Because it's not going to show up anywhere that they're looking. It's not going to show up. If all they're using is Apple podcasts or Spotify, which is the majority of the apps that people are using to consume content. And if they don't see the results of the information they give us, then it's a usability issue from our perspective, because we're asking them for something that they don't even know why they're giving it to us. So anyways, all that to say the podcast person tag falls into that category. We're hoping to see some players implement that and then figure out a way to incorporate that into our UI.

Gene:

No, that's very cool. So one of the tag proposals that I put in is a speed tag or I default speed. I can't remember what the exact verbiage was, but essentially a recommended speed for playback that can be overwritten by the user, obviously. But if you first. Download the podcast that podcast players will be able to read the tag and then default the playback speed to the one that's in the tag. And then let the user adjusted from there. And part of the reason I started doing that was because I tend to consume podcasts fairly quickly. And what I did in my first few episodes of this podcast is actually speed up the podcasts as part of post-production. So that I could just leave it alone and listen to it. One X and Adam actually talked me out of it or provided, I should say a different viewpoint, different perspective and said, really, you want to leave this up to the individual person so you can, why don't you just make a recommendation instead of forcing them to listen to it faster? And so in my description on every episode it says best consumed at 1.2, five X. But if this was a tag that was part of the namespace, then not only could I have that suggestion there, but it would actually be the default setting for the podcast. And I know some people I actually have a clip of of Ben what's his face Ben Shapiro, who is known for how fast he talks, but in that clip, he says, and of course you have to slow me down to 0.7, five X to actually understand what I'm saying in a podcast. So I thought that was very cute because that's the, one of the counter examples of somebody who you may want to actually slow down the revenue and speed up as part of that conversation. And then of course the other tag that exists that I don't think you guys currently support, but I'm awaiting the day that it is live on your system. Is the tag to fill in the information for the split for the streaming sets.

Tom:

Yeah that's going to be while I think the industry has to get to a place where it's easier again, what we're thinking about is we want to make it as simple as possible for the majority of podcasters. That is such a challenging. It was hard for us even just to do a demonstration of, we set it up and it was, it's just really hard right now, but when that gets easier than, and more players support it, then that's gonna make it much more attractive for us. But we've got. No shortage of features that we want to, build into or things that we want to, make easier within podcasting. And so we just have to prioritize,

Gene:

Now you guys don't publish your your features, map your, the stuff that's coming up, essentially. Do you.

Tom:

No, but we don't have one, so that's why we wouldn't publish it. Like we don't operate that way. Yeah. Featured map, if you put together a roadmap for your product, you're placing yourself in a, in you're locking yourself in, you're trying to make a decision pretty far out. Whereas we always want to use the most recent information to decide what it is that we want to work on. And so we work very similar to company-based camp. We work in six week work cycles, and so we're really only biting off six weeks at a time. And during that six weeks, we're gonna implement changes or do something. And then at the end of that six weeks, we're gonna evaluate what do we want to do in the next six weeks?

Gene:

Yeah. Well, and then I get that then obviously from a long time ago having a development background, I think there. There is certainly safety in being able to not publicly describe what your roadmap, what your plan of action is. But I will say I find it very useful for descript because they do that. And you can actually go in and look at where features lie that are immediately going to be available shortly. And which ones are further out. In fact, they've implemented a voting system that for the person that actually bothers figuring out how to find the website you can actually upvote different requests that people are making for features and bring it to their attention as something that the consumers really want, if it gets a lot of upwards. And so it'll probably take a higher priority on their roadmap to bring it out as a feature set.

Tom:

Yeah, one way to approach product development. But we don't really operate that way. Great examples this week what's happened with what Facebook is doing, what Apple is doing. I'm excited that we're going to have a work cycle spinning up in the next couple of weeks, and I'm going to be able to look at all of the things that are happening in the industry and decide what do we want to do? What do we want to do in that six weeks? I don't have to go back to some. Document that we wrote six months ago and say, well, what did we promise to our users? Or what did we communicate to the world? Or what did, even if we never communicated it publicly, if we've written it down and we've set that expectations within our team, then people are moving in that direction. Well, we don't want that because now you've got momentum in a direction that's going to be hard to change. So instead, what we want to do is we want to say, look, guys, we want to be agile. We want to be nimble and respond to to what we think is the best thing to do. And in those six week work cycles. And so we're in a great position to be able to respond right now to some of the things that we're seeing, in the industry.

Gene:

Well, let's talk about Apple then briefly. How do you see the new announcement affecting you guys?

Tom:

I think it's going to cause a lot of questions with pod-casters really evaluating whether or not that's a model, that'll work for them. Whether or not they can monetize their podcasts to a subscription model. It's not, it's not new, but it certainly is simple. When it's built right into the, I was going to say the purple app, because that's how some people respond. Cause they don't even, they don't even think that they're using Apple podcasts. They just know that they're clicking on the purple icon on their iPhone. And that's how they listened to podcasts. And you figured that's the majority of podcast consumers, right? They're not the techies that they were 10 years ago. And so what Apple has done is they've made it much simpler for those people to be able to say, yeah, I'll pay whatever $3 a month or $5 a month for a podcast. And so there's a lot of podcasters that are now going to be asking the question. Well, is that going to work for me? Is that a way for me to monetize my podcasts? And so that's I think the The result of what Apple has done is it's people asking that question. And ultimately, I don't think that is the right way to monetize content, but it's going to be through trial and error that people realize that.

Gene:

I agree with you. And one of the things I was thinking of doing, and it all depends on how much free time I decided I have is to spool up another podcast that is more focused on my business side. And then put that up online at Apple as a 99 cent podcast or something like that. Really more as a test to see what kind of response you get as a small player, because ultimately I don't expect that it's going to be much of a response because the money that's going to be going to podcasts is going to be going to NPR. It's going to be going to large production houses. It's going to go to, more conservative in the sense, not politically conservative, but conservative in the sense of media brands of properties that are based around companies that create media as their sole business.

Tom:

In the subscription space, that's what you're competing with.

Gene:

Yeah. And there may be an Apple version of a Joe Rogan out there, but it's not going to be. It's not going to be a whole bunch of small juror organs. I don't think at least that's my prediction. I could be totally wrong.

Tom:

yeah. With you. I would say that's where we are, but whether it works out or not, it's definitely causing questions and confusion with podcasters. And so they're like, well, wait a minute, I'm just starting my podcast. Should I be doing it on Apple? Should I be doing it on anchor so that I can get it into Spotify and get a monthly subscription? Like how do I do this? And so being able to put content that's, we want to be transparent. Like obviously we have a vested interest in you hosting your solution with us, but we're more about the independent podcaster and helping them become successful. And it's really hard to be successful if you're putting yourself in a walled garden behind a paywall.

Gene:

There's a video series that some friends of mine started doing probably three, four years ago called the whiskey vault. And it was a millennials based information about whiskey. So it wasn't the stodgy formal, here's a fiver a hundred dollars bottle of scotch that nobody's going to actually buy, but I'm going to review kind of show. It was more just, looking at what's available out there in variety of whiskeys and what's good about them. And from that perspective, and one of the things that I recommended to my one of my buddies that was starting this, as I said don't monetize this until you have a sufficient enough audience that are tuning in every week, that monetization is going to make any impact for you because that's one of the mistakes people make is they start monetizing things and they've got ads. In something that only a hundred people are watching. It's like those ads aren't going to do nothing for you, but every ad is opportunity for a person to switch, to watching something different.

Tom:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And you're trying to build that trust. You're trying to build that trust relationship with your listener and you're selling it for 22 cents to Geico to get them, to put an ad in there and yeah. And that, and they feel that right. They feel that as the listener.

Gene:

It doesn't make sense. And so they did it with no ads for probably about 18 months or so. And then they started a Patrion that generated $25,000 on the first month. And it was like, yep. That's how you do it. That's the right approach because you've got you've built a solid audience that likes you. You did nothing to push them away. You didn't have ads in there. You didn't have constant messaging. You weren't trying to pedal. The whiskey that you're reviewing. You're just, in fact, you're reviewing whiskey that either you bought yourself or somebody sent you as a gift and not whiskey that the brands provided. So it was done very well. And as a result, they were able to actually build a little business and hire employees to do the mundane stuff so that they didn't have to do everything themselves as a result of this. So I think at the same approach for podcasts, there's equally true in that while it's cool that you guys have popcorn as a direct link from the website to try and find some sponsorship opportunities for people that are interested. But my advice would be don't even think about that until you get to a point where it's going to make a financial impact on you. If you've got a thousand

Tom:

well, I think there's ways to do it. There's ways to do it that are not that don't compromise the trust relationship that you're building. So even at a small number, you can say, look, Hey, you're not paying $15 a month to host this podcast. And if you'd like to support the show I want to tell you about this product that, that I bought, that I like you can't lie, you can't share a product that you don't really like. You can't share a product, that's that you're only sharing it because they gave you a certain dollar amount. If you do that, you can actually build a trust relationship at the same time, as monetizing. That's why we are fans of affiliate marketing. As long as you truly know the product and you're not selling out your listener for a few bucks instead, you're saying, man, this really is a product that I like. And if you like this content and you want to support this show, follow the link, to go buy it. I've definitely done that as a way for me to support shows and because I like what they're talking about.

Gene:

Sure. No, I think that makes sense. I'm more a fan of the direct support model and

Tom:

Oh yeah. In the direct support. Yeah. Direct support is fine

Gene:

people don't realize just how little if you spend $15 buying that product that the guy's talking about. And I drink a lot of tea. So if I really wanted to advertise something that I enjoy myself, I would try and get a tea sponsor. And, but that $15 tea purchase that you make is going to net me about 12 cents, rather than you use, you could send me 15 bucks directly through PayPal and I would get 14 out of that, which I would be much happier. So, again, I think it's cool that you have popcorn integrated and for a lot of people, it's going to make sense. But I will say that asking people to help you directly whether it's Patrion or PayPal or now. The streaming stuff, which is, it's still a beta test. Let's just be honest. But it is a good approach to do it. Like I started getting donations that exceeded my expenses for the podcast, literally on the second month of the podcast. So in, I don't think it's hard for people to do. I think anybody can pretty much do it.

Tom:

Yeah. And both Buzzsprout we like all those, we like the affiliate. We like being able to be able to do the direct sponsorship. Those are ways that you can do these things without compromising. You're not giving up the privacy of your listeners. You're not you're not selling them out for dollars. You're picking your brand, you're pricking your relationship, or you're picking whatever. If you're going to send them to buy me coffee or PayPal or something like that, to be able to make a donation. I think that's, those are all. Cause they're all great ways to monetize.

Gene:

And that's one thing to keep in mind if you opt into the Apple thing, even if you just do it as a 99 cent a month podcast, which is what I'm probably gonna do as a test keep in mind now Apple will actually have all the details of people that you're targeting with your podcast. So you may not, but they do, or they will. Because it's one more data point for people that are, presumably everybody has already registered with Apple and you're, you've got an iPhone you're connected to them, but what they're adding is a data point of interest. So if you have a podcast on, I don't know, ancient history in South America, everybody that subscribes to your podcast and pays Apple for that podcast is now going to be adding that data point to their profile, which is used to sell them advertising. It's Oh, and this person really likes history of South ancient history of South America. So let's try and pitch them stuff. That's relevant to that.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Gene:

So they're not altruistic about this stuff. They're not just doing it to help podcasters make money. They're doing it to have a zero cost thing for them since they're charging 30%. And then also They're going to be able to charge more for advertising because it's more specific from the additional data points of subscriptions as well. So they're, they're a smart company, they know what's happening. So let me tell you a little bit too. I don't know how much you're in the loop on the streaming sat stuff, but I've been very much using that as an experiment and seeing how the progression is going, how hard or easy and believe me, it's hard. It is to set up as a podcaster. And I'm sure right now, if Adam's listening, which he tends to listen to these episodes, he's shaking his head. Fuck Eugene. That's not that hard. You just didn't do it. Right. So to be fair, I voluntarily chose to set all my own stuff up because I want to know from a technical aspect, what it all entails, and there are certainly services available now that can outsource the Bitcoin wallet creation and all that stuff and make it a little bit cleaner and simpler for people. And so. Hopefully everyone's experience is actually going to be slightly easier than mine is, but I'm not doing it blindly. I'm doing it specifically to understand if you want it to do it from scratch, what are all the technical implications? But one thing I will say that I've been somewhat surprised by is given the very limited number of apps that are available currently that do streaming SATs. It is nonetheless still doing. And by the way, I also have a very small audience. I'd say it's, I think it's under a thousand people per episode that are listening. But even with all of that, it's still generating about three to $5 per day in streaming sites, which, you do the math, you can only go in one direction as that technology becomes more mainstreamed. And more applications add that capability. It might be a 50 to a hundred bucks a month right now. It could easily be a thousand bucks a month with virtually the same audience, just higher higher percentages of applications that have the technology built in and more people being comfortable with the use of the technology, because that is one thing that is also a little bit of a constriction on the user on the listener side is okay. So I want to donate some Bitcoins to this person, but that means I have to go and buy Bitcoin first and then load it in here. And that process while it's getting easier is still not as seamless as clicking one button with Apple pay and then being able to automatically subscribe or send money.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah, I think it's definitely a cool technology and it's a neat way to, to kinda handle the micro transaction for support. And that's just, it's really hard to do that with a typical currency.

Gene:

Yeah, absolutely. And they are tiny transactions. I think at the typical transaction is less than one penny per minute. So the dollar amounts for listening that people are paying, first of all, it's totally voluntary. It could be set to zero but beyond that, but they're typically set to are amounts that are very tiny, almost negligible. It always reminded me of that that sort of hacker mythos theme that's showing up in multiple movies, including office space of, Hey, if we just take the fractional percentage or the fraction off of all transactions that are more than. A fraction, I'm saying it I'm going to bring it, but essentially when you add things up, there are fractions

Tom:

It's the Superman too, with Richard Pryor and the half of pennies or the office space.

Gene:

Office space. It's the

Tom:

If we just get the rounding error, we just get the

Gene:

That's all it is. It's the rounding air is all that we're asking for in podcasting. Just give me the rounding error and that rounding error ends up, real money very quickly, the more people adopt technology and start using it. It is there and I think it is moving along. It's that part of podcasting 2.0 is like the early days of podcasting where it's just the techies that are doing it, I think. But it's all proof of concept. And then once the concept of fully flushed out and proven and made to be easier, one button fixable. Something that I saw somebody asking about this, why can't I just buy an app in the app store that is preloaded with $25 as part of that app. So I'll pay like $30 to buy the app and they'll have a $25 wallet built in just an interesting idea. Maybe somebody will do it that way. Just to simplify you from just getting the app and then having to learn how to go and fill the the wallet up with Bitcoin in there, but it's neat stuff. So I'm very excited. It sounds like you're pretty excited about the podcasting 2.0 and all the other new stuff coming down the line. So I, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.

Tom:

Thanks. Thanks for having me on the show.

Background
Tech Support
Podcasting 2.0
Future Plans
Apple
Streaming Sats