Founded last year, Fountain uses the Lightning Network – a layer 2 network built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain that helps make bitcoin transactions faster and cheaper – to pay listeners in bitcoin. Users get rewarded for listening to podcasts, engaging with promotional content, referring friends and creating user generated content.
According to Fountain, its previous system, “Flow,” wasn't intuitive. Listeners felt the mechanics behind the model were vague and unrewarding.
“We’ve been looking closely at the data and gathering lots of useful feedback from users. … Clearly the Flow system has not been working. This is why we are launching a new earning system that is more simple, intuitive and transparent. Most importantly, it will allow users to earn more over time,” the company stated in a blog post.
How does Fountain work?
Nick Malster and Oscar Merry founded Fountain in 2021 after being inspired by Adam Curry’s Podcasting 2.0 project, an initiative that seeks to advance and decentralize podcasting. They combined this inspiration with their passion for Bitcoin (and some pre-seed funding from crypto investor Anthony Pompliano) and Fountain Podcasts was born.
“We saw what Adam Curry was doing with Podcast Index – the idea that value can be sent from the listener to the creator directly as they listen. So we thought, what if we can … allow podcast listeners to earn bitcoin as they're listening?” said Malster in an interview with CoinDesk.
In order to get paid, listeners download the Fountain app and start listening to their favorite podcast shows. The podcast selection on Fountain is similar to traditional podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Users earn satoshis or “sats” (100 millionth of a bitcoin) at a random rate for their first hour of listening. Payment is made to a built-in wallet hosted by Fountain.
Users can also earn bitcoin by listening to promoted content and referring friends and family to Fountain. Earned bitcoin can be transferred out or used to pay for likes and comments. Users can also fund their in-app wallet with BTC if they want to increase their engagement level.
“Withdrawals are not available immediately but are unlocked after further listening. If you listen to podcasts regularly, you will be able to cash out within a week or so,” Malster told CoinDesk. (Fountain wouldn’t disclose the minimum threshold for withdrawals.)
More creative listeners can create clips of their favorite episodes and, if other listeners engage with those clips (by liking or commenting), the creators of the clips receive bitcoin from that engagement. Clips can be created, edited and published within the app for free.
Podcasters get paid when listeners choose to pay them. First, a podcast creator must download Fountain and “claim” their show. Podcasts are distributed via publicly available RSS feeds that have emails associated with them. (RSS feeds are online files with content that continuously updates.) Access to an email associated with a podcast feed allows you to claim that podcast.
Once a show has been claimed, the owner can automatically earn bitcoin whenever listeners elect to pay a small streaming rate (sats per minute) to support the show or when listeners pay to post comments (known as “boosts” in the Fountain app).
Fountain’s business model
Fountain also offers a premium version for a monthly fee. The subscription fee allows listeners to create custom playlists and send payments without incurring transaction fees.
“So with Fountain Premium, you get a few additional features, some new clipping tools, the ability to create playlists of your clips. But, again, the revenue that we get from Fountain Premium goes back into paying users,” Malster said.
Fees are Fountain’s lifeblood. The company makes money by taking a cut of all payments. For example, when non-premium users send payments to support podcasters, Fountain takes a cut. The company also takes a 20% fee from funds paid by podcasters who want to promote their content. The non-conventional aspect of its business model is built on maintaining a budget to pay listeners.
“That money goes back into paying listeners. So we really optimize our business model to be able to continue paying our regular listeners who come to Fountain every day, to allow them to keep on earning,” Malster said.