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Kayak co-founder launches app with personalized podcast picks

Moonbeam Founder Paul English joins Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita and Zack Guzman, to discuss his latest venture in the podcast space, with his new Moonbeam app, designed to help its customers find their new, favorite podcasts.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The podcast industry in the US is on pace to exceed $1 billion in ad revenue this year. That is roughly a 60% jump from the numbers we saw last year during the slow periods of COVID. Startup Moonbeam is looking to help listeners navigate what is an extremely saturated market with the help of machine learning.

Let's bring in the founder of Moonbeam, Paul English. You also know him as the co-founder of Kayak. And Paul, it's great to talk to you today. Walk me through how this all works. Because I think those of us who love podcasts can attest to the fact that we sort of get stuck in listening to the same ones because they're so great. But the element of discovery is always a little more difficult, as the space gets increasingly crowded.

PAUL ENGLISH: Yeah, I mean, the way other podcast apps deal with this largely is you read a lot about other podcast shows. And you sort of scroll through, and you're reading and reading and reading. And I thought that was a poor way to do that. And so what we have is a feature called-- the app's called Moonbeam. And the feature is called Beam, where we just play content for you. And it's a curated clip. If you don't like it, you just swipe up and go to the next clip and the next clip.

And it's a way to discover content by immediately listening. And we have a combination of human editors, which are curating sort of the best moments of a show, so you don't have to listen to a full hour long show. You just want to listen to sort of the highlight clip. And if you like the show, then you can subscribe or listen to the whole thing. That's the basic idea.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and Paul, that idea stands out to me because, as Akiko knows, I hate podcasts. I can't get into them. Too long, too-- they all sound the same to me. I'm a visual guy. But I do like the idea of having a platform like this to really focus in on the highlights and have it learn in terms of what I like. What kind of growth have you seen in terms of the early uses from, I guess, your customers out there in the way that they've interacted with the platform?

PAUL ENGLISH: We just launched the app a few weeks ago. We're getting really good feedback, getting lots of five star reviews. People enjoy it. The best feedback that I get that we've gotten from the reviews and from people who send feedback on the app is people telling us about a show they discovered that they otherwise never heard of before. And that's kind of the whole point of Moonbeam. It's, we're going to show you something really cool that you might not have found on your own.

AKIKO FUJITA: When you think about the growth in this space, it really is incredible to see over the last several years, how much of it has evolved. And, you know, there's everything from sort of the originals, as some would call it, like "This American Life," to sort of the Joe Rogan type podcast, too. When you look at the overall trajectory, where do you think we are in the growth phase of podcasts? Is it still in the very early innings? Where do you think eventually goes?

PAUL ENGLISH: I think it is in the early innings. I think consumers have shown that they like consuming content like this. I mean, Audible is also really popular with people. Like, listening to books has become very popular. Clubhouse is really popular. People like live audio.

And I think for podcasts, what we're going to see over the next couple of years is more personalization, so you get the shows that you listen to, and better recommendations because there's way too many shows out there to be able to navigate all of it. And so you need a technology and tools to find the shows that are really going to really match your interests.

ZACK GUZMAN: And on the creator side, too, interesting to see in-app tipping being one of those things you guys were talking about on the platform. How important is that really to kind of create that two-way street between the people consuming the content on Moonbeam, plus the creators getting maybe a little kickback and reason to turn to you guys to help find new fans?

PAUL ENGLISH: The creatives have to have some way to support their show. And we think just by adding this one-click tipping mechanism built into the player is a simple way that if you get inspired by something, a story that really touches you or something poignant or funny or educational, just with one click, you can send $1 to that show or more than $1, whatever you want. We're just trying to make it really easy for the people inspired by your show to send a financial contribution directly to the creator.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Paul, in terms of podcast consumption, you know, the thinking was during the pandemic that it would drop a little because people, as I do, listen to podcasts on the way to work, when they're on the go. I know we had Audible on before, who said that, actually, consumption didn't necessarily drop, but the types of content that was consumed on audio did change. What are you seeing in the space? Are you seeing an uptick now that more and more people are outdoors, going to work, commuting, and listening to podcasts on the way? And what do you see as particularly popular?

PAUL ENGLISH: So the feedback rating from our users is really a mix about how they consume podcasts. People are getting back to work so people are listening in the car as they're commuting or on the train if they take the train to work. Some people listen to podcasts when they're out for their daily walk with their dogs or, as I do, I listen to podcasts every night in bed. And the theme feature is a really fun way for me to discover content because it'll play a two-minute clip of something interesting, then the next one, the next one, the next one. So it's a really cool way for me to discover new content.

ZACK GUZMAN: And lastly, Paul, I mean, it was interesting because we saw such a big wave of enthusiasm when Clubhouse launched for the people on the platform, which is, basically, I guess, podcasts-- live podcasts, if you want to call them that-- and everyone kind of doing that.

But you have Twitter Spaces kind of coming in, stealing maybe a little bit of the thunder there. I wonder how you look at that space as Clubhouse now moves past their invite-only stage to kind of be open to everybody, what that new rise in live might do for podcast demand and how you see those two sides of the coin maybe interacting.

PAUL ENGLISH: I think both types are important. People like consuming content of different types. People like going to YouTube, they like Netflix, they like TikTok. People use different tools to consume content for the way they want. And I see this of audio as well.

I mean, I don't look at Clubhouse as an alternative to podcasts. Clubhouse is interactive, so where the participants in a room get to talk as well if they're invited up by the hosts. But the nice thing with podcasts is they're incredibly-- the best podcasts are incredibly well produced and edited. So it's a really efficient way to get very, very high quality content on whatever subject it is you're interested in.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, absolutely love them. I feel like there's not enough time in the day to listen. But Paul English, Moonbeam founder, it's great to have you on today. Appreciate the time.