What Automattic Should Do With Pocket Casts

Last week, I…

It got me thinking about what I’d recommend to Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, if I were running the Pocket Casts product strategy.

What helped the Web grow so massively was the users’ ability to follow links from sites that already interested them to discover other sites relevant to their interests (Curation). Further helping the web’s popularity explode was the ability to search for something that interested a user and usually discover at least one resource relevant to their interest (Discovery). What made people love Google Reader was the ability to “subscribe” to those resources they found useful in case the same site published more they found interesting.

I found it odd that every piece I read about Pocket Casts last week mentioned that it was a well-liked app partly due to its discoverability and curation features. It’s odd b/c I’m a very frequent user of Pocket Casts, and I was under the impression that Pocket Casts makes absolutely no effort toward curation and discoverability. If what Pocket Casts offers for curation and discoverability is in the upper echelons of the podcast world, then the podcast world is in a dire state. Podcasting has dozens if not hundreds of “Readers.” It’s easy to subscribe to any podcast about which you already know. It’s the finding of podcasts that’s hard. It’s a problem that’s basically the inverse of the one web pages had.

WordPress, a platform that already runs 40% of all webpages in the world, should leverage its power to build a discoverability and curation service for Pocket Casts to consume to help people interested in a given subject find new, relevant podcasts. Automattic should aim to make that service so good and Pocket Cast’s discoverabilty and curation UX so delightful as a result that other podcast players seek to use the service as well. And Automattic should let them. Use the service to force other podcast players to adhere to the use of web protocols.

Most every podcast has an associated website of some kind. WordPress should build tools to help with managing a podcast’s RSS feed, tagging episodes, transcribing episodes, and even scanning both the content on the WordPress site and any sites linked on an episode’s correlated “blog post” to better identify context of an episode. Imagine if WordPress could then use a highly-invested user-base to create a way for one podcast producer to notify another podcast producer that their most recent episode actually discusses things from the receiver’s podcast. How great would it be, as a podcast listener, to be able to follow a “conversation” from one specific episode of a podcast to another specific episode of an entirely different podcast even if you didn’t follow the 2nd podcast?

The platforms that are putting “podcasts” (note: if you can’t use RSS to subscribe, it’s not a podcast) behind walled gardens can’t do this. And while those companies may attract huge numbers to their listening platforms, they’re stuck with strategies catering to quarterly reports. Automattic is uniquely positioned to play a much longer game, continuing to help the open Web grow, adding features atop protocols, and eventually, possibly, helping a much larger, true network solve the second problem for podcasts: monetization.

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