[App Friday] Kayak Co-Founder’s New Podcast Discovery Service Aims To Be The TikTok For Audio
Paul English, which revolutionized travel search with Kayak.com, is back to solve another discovery problem. This time it’s podcasts, and he wants to help people find better ones.
In June, Paul teamed up with a Colorado entrepreneur Mike Chambers to throw Moon Beam, an ML led podcast discovery application. They believe that find new podcasts in a sea of audio content – there’s more four million podcasts in progress today, according to Podcast index – is the biggest problem facing the industry.
With Apple podcasts and Spotify locking horns in big budget audio production, independent podcast makers and hosts are finding it increasingly difficult to create, grow and monetize their audience.
Moonbeam wants to “level the playing field”. “As podcasting gains in popularity, traditional podcast platforms are failing to bridging the gap between hosts and listeners. From a listeners perspective, it’s harder than ever to find great content. From a hosts perspective, it’s harder than ever to build and monetize an audience. It doesn’t have to be that way, ”CEO Mike recently wrote on LinkedIn.
The application mixes machine learning with manual curation offer a custom podcast feed to each listener. It not only helps in the discovery of newer, niche, and less known podcasts that are lost in larger audio ecosystems, but also allows creators to connect, engage and develop better their audience.
Moonbeam passed 12,000 downloads in three months
Essentially, Moonbeam wants to be the TikTok for podcasts.
It follows the design principles of the application owned by ByteDance. Similar to TikTok’s “For You” page, Moonbeam features 100 to 120 second podcast clips on a known sweepable flow as the ‘Shine‘. If listeners don’t like the content, they can skip to the next clip (or swipe down to the previous one). This is also similar to Instagram Reels.
The goal of Moonbeam is to surprise listeners with stimulating discoveries instead of running repetitive algorithmic feeds which usually only include well-known shows or celebrity podcasts. Unlike other podcast discovery apps, listeners also have the ability to designer tips directly from the application. Moonbeam does not take any cuts.
However, it monetizes through Moon Ray Console – a unique tool allowing hosts to “claim” their programs by creating stand-alone clips to tease the full episode and control content that appears on the app. The console also allows creators to request advice from listeners and access user analysis to improve the audience experience.
Moonbeam has passed 12,000 downloads on Android and iOS. Until September, more than 400 podcast hosts had claimed their shows using Moonbeam Console. Users are currently averaging 23 minutes per session on the app.
Moonbeam is rated 4.5 / 5 on the Google Play Store and 5/5 on the Apple App Store.
Over 400 podcast hosts have claimed their shows on Moonbeam Console
After creating an account, Moonbeam wants you select topics for the content you would like to discover. You can choose from About fifteen genres (arts, business, comedy, education, health and fitness, history, children and family, recreation, music, news, religion, science, sports, television and film) and 120 subgenres. (Selected topics can also be edited later.)
You are ready to ‘start to shine’ now. The home page is a sliding flow arranged automatically standalone podcast clips based on your chosen topics.
Just like scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, you can swipe up or down, like, share or subscribe to clips, or hit ‘keep listening’ to access the full podcast. Standalone clips are usually a few minutes long and aim to tease listeners with the best parts of the show.
Moon Beam feeds its ML algorithm based on how listeners react to clips, and learn more about the type of podcasts they might want to discover on their feed.
Moonbeam shows users a TikTok-style stream of short audio clips cut from podcasts
Sometimes users also like to listen to it as autonomous consumption to live. It gets better application engagement and also reduces the fatigue of discovering with podcasts.
When you switch to the full podcast, Moonbeam lets you record episodes at the library, download episodes, together sleep timers and reminders of new episodes, read public notices, change reading speed, filter explicit content and tip creators.
You can also click on the “Discover” button to browse thematic podcasts curated by the editors of Moonbeam. It even allows you import podcast subscriptions as OPML files from other podcast applications.
Finally, the Search tab (which looks like Spotify’s search feature) allows you to enter a keyword to find related podcasts.
Moonbeam also plans to roll out software updates every two weeks and launch tools that allow listeners to interact with the teams behind their favorite podcasts.
Moonbeam combines ML with manual curation to personalize podcast feed
Verdict: can be a disruptive force
If the experts are to be believed, then abbreviated audio is the future of podcast discovery. This That’s why Spotify acquired Podz (a podcast discovery app that creates 60-second episode highlights) less than 10 days before Moonbeam launched.
Just as TikTok disrupted the video with short content, becoming a sensational worldwide success, the crowded audio space also waits to be caught off guard by an upstart. Moonbeam can be that one. In fact, he wants be the only one.
Founder Paul has publicly stated that he inspired by TikTok’s advanced discovery algorithm, which he wishes to bring to the world of audio, in particular to podcasts which are multiplying hour by hour.
“Similar to TikTok, Moonbeam’s advanced technology allows the app to predict your interests better than your friends, so your new favorite podcasts are right at your fingertips,” he said in the launch release.
Moonbeam’s approach to fair discovery puts large studio-backed podcast hosts and small independent creators on the same level. While personalization of the content will make it sticky to listeners, paying attention to hosts can also make Moonbeam a designer favorite.
Then there is the industry-leading tilting function (Clubhouse tips, but it’s not a podcast app) which is likely to be ape by other players in the days to come.
Maybe the only problem with Moonbeam right now is his limited content library compared to established players like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc. This could be because the app is only three months old and will only get better.
What Moonbeam doesn’t offer in terms of breadth of content, it makes up for with clips which are an absolute delight and will lock out new users in the app instantly. Sophisticated user interface on top of that enhances the listener experience.
In a world where audio is the new buzzword, Moonbeam is just getting started.