Pocket Casts acquired by NPR, other public radio stations, and This American Life

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Pocket Casts, widely considered to be one of the best mobile apps for podcast listening, has been acquired by a collective group that includes NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life. “This unprecedented collaboration furthers public radio’s leading role as an innovator in audio discovery and distribution, while ensuring the continued support and growth of one of the most popular listening platforms on the market,” the companies said in a press release announcing the news. That team of stations and podcast producers are responsible for some of the format’s biggest hits like This American Life (duh), Serial, Radiolab, and Planet Money.

Moving forward, Pocket Casts will operate as a joint venture between the new owners. Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic, who formed Shifty Jelly (Pocket Cast’s developer) in 2008, will have unspecified “leadership roles.” The existing staff and development team is staying put. Owen Grover, a veteran of iHeartRadio / Clear Channel, has been named as Pocket Cast’s CEO. NPR’s apps including NPR One will remain in development.

The acquisition price isn’t being disclosed. But the people behind Pocket Casts are insistent they chose this path not because of what the buyers paid, but because of who they are. “We have had acquisition offers in the past,” Ivanovic told The Verge by email. “We turned them down because the unique thing about this opportunity is the mission driven nature of these organizations. They want what’s best for the podcasting space, they want to build open systems that everyone can use.”

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The move comes as more and more tech companies are trying to serve as the central destination for podcasts. Apple has its own hugely popular Podcasts app for iOS, Spotify is trying to get people listening to them inside its streaming music app, and Google also offers podcasts as part of Google Play Music. Separate from that, you’ve got excellent options like Overcast on iOS and other apps from smaller developers. Everyone’s got their favorite way of listening, which is why show hosts have basically taken to just saying something to the effect of “available wherever you get your podcasts.”

For those of us who’ve used and enjoyed Pocket Casts, this should be good news and points to a promising future. Some might have pause over content from Pocket Cast’s new owners potentially getting preferential treatment and visibility over other podcasts. But that scenario seems unlikely to me.

In a blog post that provides more insight on the deal, Ivanovic put it this way: “We’ll be moving faster, we’ll be more ambitious in the things we do and we’ll have some amazing insights from the top podcast producers in the world to help guide our future steps,” The app is beautifully designed, fast, and works wonderfully across iOS, Android, and the web for people with multiple devices running a mix of software. Thankfully it sounds like none of those things are going to be changing anytime soon.

Comments

Hands down the best Podcast app. Always the first App I install on a phone.

But let’s be honest… They’re probably going to add a pay to skip ads feature… which I would happily pay for.

they do have a skip feature. most podcast ads are in increments of 15 seconds, which you can set the skipper to.

yea even on the apple podcast you can just skip 30 seconds ahead to skip adds. I would assume advertisers realize people are lazy enough to not skip them like I do every once in a while.

On the npr app you can’t skip ads whereas on pocketcasts you always can. Pocketcasts sees the track as one continuous "song"

So it depends on if any if the functions will cross polinate.

I wonder if it will become free?

It’s totally worth the $3.99 entry free (assuming that’s what it still is.) I even paid for the web version separately since playback status on each show syncs across my phone and the web.

No.1 podcast app by a mile. One of the best designed apps on android, period (including google stuff).

I’ve chatted before with some folks who make it over at Shift Jelly and I’m gonna trust them that PocketCasts is in good hands going forward, or at least hope, they’ve historically had their hearts and minds in the right place for their user base and I can’t imagine this decision strayed from that.
All that said, I’m going to be devastated if this goes awry, PocketCasts is probably my most used app, by time (35 days of listening, since 2015).

Same here….It’s great. So far 44 days and 3 hours since 2015, mostly at 1.5-2.0X speed

I hope they keep it similar to what it is now with only minor changes going forward. It is almost perfect.

I checked my stats and now am confused by what it considers. My phone says 12 days – but I switched phones in February (restorying a backup) and had formatted my previous phone in November. So I think that’s the time I’ve listened since then — my iPad says 48 days since July 2016, and I certainly haven’t listened that much on the iPad… That’s probably considering what was synced with my phone since I installed the app on the iPad… And before that date I still listened using PocketCasts an iPod touch for about two years. And before that I listened to podcasts on an older iPod touch and an iPod nano using Apple’s apps.

So I’d guess I have some three months of podcasts listened total x_x

It probably also depends on if you have a sync account. They only started syncing the stats relatively recently (last year), so that’ll throw a wrench in your numbers, too.

Definitely depends on the device. I don’t have a sync setup either and on my Pixel 2 since November I’m at 15 days.

I’m gonna trust them that PocketCasts is in good hands going forward, or at least hope, they’ve historically had their hearts and minds in the right place for their user base and I can’t imagine this decision strayed from that.

I hope so. My biggest concern is that they no longer have control over their platform. Former iHeartRadio General Manager Owen Grover is the CEO, now. And, presumably, have to answer to those people who opened their pocketbooks (however much or little).

49 days, 8 hours of listening since October 27, 2015.

I felt the same way about Pulse and then it was acquired by LinkedIn and went way south. Hopefully, Pocket Casts avoids that fate.

You just inspired me to check my stats. 150 days since 2015, and 62 days of time saved.

Same! My stats say 29 days 7 hours since March 12, 2015… but I’ve been using it since long before then. I originally started using it on an Android device and switched to iOS a couple of years ago. The developers are awesome… I’ve always enjoyed the release notes! Glad to hear that won’t be changing either. Their latest blog post is reassuring.

https://blog.shiftyjelly.com/

This is my go-to podcast app on iOS. Terrific app. Hope it stays great.

Anyone here use this on iOS? Is it better than Apple’s?

Yes and yes.

Obviously yeah, but better than Overcast?

I won’t pick a horse in that one.

I personally prefer Pocket Casts to Overcast simply because I don’t care for the aesthetics of Overcast, and the fact that Overcast isn’t cross platform. Functionally, I think both are great.

Yeah, I tried Overcast, but the design of the app is pretty atrocious

I’ve always preferred it—especially because it’s cross-platform. Not your question, I know, but sometimes I’m on an Android device, or I want to have it play on my Sonos system.

I’ve used both extensively and I’d say yes, though it’s not one of those "by a mile" type deals.

Pocket Casts is cross platform and far less Apple-centric for the better. It means Pocket Casts supports features that Overcast doesn’t like Googlecasts which allows you to stream your podcasts to your Chromecast or Google Home. You can also have an iPad and Pixel and still have your podcasts sync across devices without worry.

Pocket Casts has also had far better discovery than Overcast in my experience, I’ve discovered most of the podcasts I listen to through it. Pocket Casts also offers a great web app while Overcasts is pretty basic and more or less just gets the job done.

I also really like the UI/UX and little features like the cute stats page that give you funny little factoids about how much you’ve listened to and how much time specific features has saved you. This is more preference, but I find Pocket Casts looks so much more playful and inviting than Overcasts near religious following of Apple’s more spartan design language punctuated only by a bit of orange.

To top it off the one time payment of $3.99 is preferable to spending $9.99 per year to keep ads out of the picture and have the full suite of features. Nothing really beats Pocket Casts imo.

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