024 – Paul Michaelenko – The Listen App & Social Podcasting

The next episode of the Future Ear Radio Podcast features Paul Michaelanko, Founder and CEO of the Listen App. Paul and the Listen App team are creating a new type of podcast player that’s aiming to differentiate via an emphasis on social sharing features. I sat down with Paul to get a clear idea of what the Listen App will entail and get a better sense of the ultimate vision for the app.

One of the reoccurring thoughts I’ve been having around the burgeoning world of ambient, audio-oriented content, is that there’s not really much of a social layer that exists today that is truly native to the audio medium. Yes, you can share a link to a podcast on Twitter (or FB, LinkedIn, etc), or at best, share a clip of the podcast episode, but you’re still effectively sharing the audio content to a text-based social sharing network.

So, what do I mean by a native audio medium? Think about the way that Facebook initially tried to port their website to their mobile app. It was a disaster as it wasn’t built natively for the touch-tap-swipe interface and small screen size that are hallmarks of smartphones. It took a totally redesigned app that was built from the ground up with the new user interface and hardware specs in mind.

Now apply that same logic to audio. What does a “like” look like in the audio-web? A Retweet? Instagram’s “Swipe up”? We’re going to need to completely re-think what media and the general internet looks like when we’re either removing screen entirely or for a portion of the time.

As Paul describes to me, at the heart of Listen App is connecting like-minded listeners to one another and create communities around content and do so in an environment native to audio, built from the ground-up. Let’s use my podcast for reference. Through the Listen App, my listeners would be able to comment on my episodes, via voice recordings, which are public for any fellow listeners to listen to or even reply to the comment with a voice recording of their own. In theory, my listeners could be engaging with me as the host or each other, enabling communities to foster.

Think about the last podcast episode you listened to that was entirely new to you. Where did you find it? For me, by and large, the answer to that question is through friends, family, or someone I hold in high regard on Twitter. Very rarely do I find new content on my own, and to be fair I don’t really go and actively search new content out. Through the Listen App, my listeners would be able to recommend podcasts to friends in their network, with a voice message. This opens the door to Paul’s team creating an archive of “podcast recommendations” within the app, potentially capitalizing on word-of-mouth recommendations by cataloging them in one place.

It’s hard not to think about all of the possibilities that a voice assistant would bring to the table here as well. I believe (truly) conversational voice assistants represent the final piece that will really drive this type of native audio environment, as they would enable and drive everything from engagement to commerce in a screen-less environment.

There’s no doubt that what Paul and his team are building is ambitious, especially as indie-podcast players are seeing Spotify increasingly throw its weight around as it continues to pivot into different types of ambient media. Regardless, I absolutely love the concept of the Listen App and the passion that Paul exudes talking about it. I’m looking forward to experimenting with the app and getting some of the Future Ear fans to come engage with me once the app goes fully live, which should be next week.

-Thanks for Reading-

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