“Podcast Discovery” Is A Problem But It’s Not A Company

I love podcasts. Basically they’ve replaced satellite radio in my car and airpods + apple watch combo make it near frictionless to listen while walking between meetings. I’m also a believer that there’s money to be made in podcast businesses – most of it not “venture scale” but lots and lots of opportunities for founders to build meaningful SMBs here. And undoubtedly some will prove me wrong and break through to levels of success I didn’t expect [disclosure: we’re investors in Anchor, which I believe is one of these examples]. However, let me tell you about a problem that founders occasionally tell me is the basis for their startup: podcast discovery.

The startup usually pitches something like this: There are lots of great podcasts and most people can’t find the best ones for them so we’re building an app that solves this for them. How? Insert one of the following: bootstrap from social graph, bootstrap from interest graph, bootstrap from what they’re currently listening to, etc etc etc

These are all wonderful ideas but they are at best features, not products or companies. It’s true that at any given time there’s probably a podcast (or at least podcast episode) that I don’t know about and would enjoy. But while it’s a persistent problem (true of almost EVERY media type), it’s not an especially valuable one in a standalone business. You’re not going to get to a critical mass of users and if you do, trying to sell Promoted Pod slots (or other ads) around the recommendations isn’t substantial enough to build a business. And people won’t switch their podcast client to your just because you do discovery “better.” Inertia is too strong and companies like Spotify, which solve this via search, curation and personalization, are increasing their share of podcast market.

So what are some businesses to be built here if you are passionate about this challenge? You could try a theSkimm for podcasts – newsletter based summary and recommendations for target demographic or content vertical. There’s an app called Wilson that some folks have recommended to me which does podcast curation, almost magazine style. Oh, and I do think podcast discovery is problem for CREATORS and there are some interesting business models there, but that’s another post 🙂

If you think I’m wrong about all this, I’d love to hear why (@hunterwalk on twitter).

Twitter Trolls Should Lose Ability To Include @Names in Tweets

The @name is one of Twitter’s most powerful mechanisms for generating conversation and the @ convention has transcended their platform to become identity shorthand (if not actual protocol). Last summer in the midst of Leslie Jones’ harassment episode, I suggested that Twitter doesn’t do enough to think about how @names (and intent of the tagging) factor into their abuse policy. Basically the concept that when an @name is inserted into the tweet, it becomes targeted, the difference between just expressing an opinion about a person and the desire for that person to see the opinion. For example imagine these two tweets:

“Hunter Walk is an asshole” vs “@hunterwalk is an asshole”

The former doesn’t appear in my mentions. The latter does. I never see the first unless I’m actively searching for my name on Twitter. The latter does regardless of my desire to interact with the sender. Accordingly, once an @name is included, the standard for harassment should be lower, because intent can be assumed.

I still don’t understand why this seemingly doesn’t factor into Twitter’s policies and why they’re not stricter about harassing messages including @names. But witnessing a woman I follow on Twitter deal with yet more harassment gave me another idea that builds off of this previous post: Twitter users who troll should lose the ability to use @names in their tweets. That is, if you tried to include @hunterwalk in your tweet after being put into this purgatory, it would either be blocked all-together (ie you’d have to remove it in order to send the tweet) or it wouldn’t register as a link/mention. (While the second option makes more sense IMO, I think it’s much harder to implement technically).

So a Twitter account state in-between “in good standing” and “suspended” would be “lost @name privileges.” These accounts would lose the ability to hurl their invectives and vileness in a manner which forces their victims to see the words through their normal use of Twitter.

Generally, Twitter continues to miss their chance to rebuild trust that they’re working to combat harassment on the platform. Outside of some high profile banning of racists, I’m struggling to think of major commitments made by the executive team. I know Twitter management cares but there’s more to be done. Why not start 2017 with a public roadmap of what’s going to be delivered and the appointment of an Ombudsman/PublicEditor employed by the company who will blog periodically about their view of how Safety at Twitter is functioning?

Tweet Disclaimer

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about when disclaimers should accompany blog posts, news articles, etc. Since I’m a totally above-the-board kind of guy, when reading my tweets, please be aware that one or more of the following disclaimers apply:

I invested in the company or am looking to invest in the company (or the company turned down my investment and thus they are morally corrupt liars who deserve to fail).

I am friends with the founder or multiple employees. Basis of friendship may include classmates, former colleagues, awkward social interactions but we’re in the same general friend circle so we need to pretend we’re buds, blood relatives (click here for 23&Me results to see if we’re relatives).

The brand mentioned has sent me something for free and while they didn’t ask for anything particular in return, I found it odd they included a hashtag in the note. Or I’m hoping the brand mentioned will send me something for free. #SellOut.

@HunterWalk is actually a pseudonymous account representing a much larger group of people. While this explains how I fav so often, it also makes this disclosure statement difficult because I’m one degree of separation from 75% of Twitter (and the other 25% are bots).

I may be trying to gain the attention of someone in hope they will retweet me and if they don’t, will deep fav several tweets from their timeline history. If they still don’t react I may simultaneously send them friend requests on the Top 100 social networks. After that, it’s Single White Female.

If I seem to be getting into a Twitter Fight, I may also be in a DM conversation with the same person strategizing how to gain attention. This doesn’t include @rabois. I mean, he and I DM all the time but it’s the only DM stream I have that’s actually nicer and kinder than our public back and forth.

I repeat, I am not Startup L Jackson.

When you see people link to a Techmeme headline in their tweet they’re obviously trying to get that tweet included on the site. I never rarely do that.

If I’m tweeting with journalists please be aware I classify reporters into three camps: those who I’m friends with and who also happen to be reporters, those who are reporters that I’m friendly with and those who I don’t trust. Always remember that middle bucket is looking for a story. And if you’re a reporter reading this, you’re totally in the first bucket (love ya, cover my companies please).