- Podcasting has evolved as a multibillion-dollar industry, with ad income in the United States alone likely to reach $2 billion this year – a sum that is predicted to more than quadruple by 2024.
- However, Snipd intends to give listeners greater detailed control over what content shows in their highlights feed in the future, including the ability to filter out snippets from podcasts to which they have not directly listened.
- Given the popularity of podcasts among drivers, Snipd recently added support for Apple’s CarPlay, allowing users to produce podcast highlights while driving.
Podcasting has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, with ad income in the United States alone estimated to reach $2 billion this year – a sum that is predicted to treble by 2024. In this context, major players in the field are beefing up their podcasting arsenal, with Spotify recently paying around $85 million for two companies specialising in podcast measurement and analytics, and Acast recently paying $27 million for Podchaser, a “IMDb for podcasts” that provides advertisers with deeper data insights.
However, while the large platforms compete for podcasting riches, smaller firms continue to emerge with their own ideas on how to grow the podcast medium for producers and viewers alike.
Snipd, a Swiss company, is developing a podcast app that utilises AI to transcribe material and sync with note-taking applications, automatically produce book-style “chapters,” and, as of this week, provide audio highlights in a TikTok-style customised feed.
Beyond search and subscribe
With Snipd`s latest launch, which is available on Android and iOS this week, the company is channeling its inner TikTok by presenting users with a highlights reel, of sorts, automatically pulling out what it believes to be the most memorable moments from numerous podcasts. This means that the episode feed is not based purely on users` podcast subscriptions, as it also pulls in content that Snipd thinks they will be interested in based on their chosen subjects, among other “signals.”
“The goal of the algorithm is to present the user with content they are interested in — for this, we use various signals,” Snipd co-founder Kevin Smith explained. But there are many other important signals such as what the user has listened to, highlighted, and saved, or what is currently trending among other users.”
While this might be construed as a positive move by those looking for help finding new and useful podcasts, it could irk users who only want to see content that they have specifically subscribed to. But Snipd eventually plans to give listeners more granular controls over what content appears in their highlights feed, including the ability to filter out clips from podcasts that they haven`t specifically subscribed to.
AI at work
According to Smith, it`s all about how users have interacted with episodes historically — it analyzes which type of content garners the most interest, and then feeds this data back into its AI-training mechanism.
“Our AI learns by analysing the content of old episodes, and comparing which parts of those episodes were highlighted the most by our users and which parts were not,” Smith said. Our AI has learned to use the actual content of the conversation to identify these parts, and can recommend them in new episodes.”
Smith added that Snipd mostly creates its AI models in-house, and for the language models specifically, it starts with large pre-trained models similar to GPT-3, which are already able to understand a great deal about text and language.
We then use feedback signals from the users to improve the models over time.”
Smith said that in the company`s initial findings, users seemed to use highlights to decide which episode they want to listen to — so they`ll browse through various clips until they find something that grabs them, and then they jump into the full episode. The problem, ultimately, is one of choice overload — similar to how Netflix “suggests” new shows to watch based on subscribers` viewing habits, and presents a preview of the show on the main menu screen, Snipd is trying to help listeners filter through the podcast noise.
“Our users are sometimes subscribed to over 100 shows, especially those that are very information-rich, like the `Lex Fridman Podcast` or the `Tim Ferriss Show`,” Smith said.
From discovering the best content, consuming it, saving the knowledge the user would like to remember, to sharing it with friends.”
Prior to the latest app update, Snipd has been mostly focused on letting users highlight and save specific knowledge tidbits they come across, so they can revisit later. And given how popular podcasts are with drivers, Snipd also recently rolled out support for Apple`s CarPlay, allowing users to generate podcast highlights while at the wheel.
Snipd supports its “knowledge-unlocking” mission in other ways, too. For example, users can integrate and synchronize Snipd with read-it-later service Readwise and note-taking app Notion if they want to read segments or transcripts from their podcasts. On top of that, users can manually export Snipd content to Obsidian, Logseq, Bear and Markdown.
Show the money
Based out of Zurich, Snipd constitutes a team of five, including three co-founders and two employees. The first iteration of the app launched last August, and in the intervening months the company raised an “over-subscribed” $700,000 pre-seed round of funding from backers, including early-stage Swiss venture capital (VC) firm Wingman Ventures, as well as U.S.-based VC Acequia Capital, which has previously invested in billion-dollar companies such as Square, Pinterest and Wish. Smith said that Snipd plans to raise a seed round at some point “in the not-too-distant future.”
All this leads us to a rather important question around finances — how, exactly, does Snipd make money? But in the future, the company plans to adopt a freemium business model à la other similar podcast apps out there, so this could mean a basic free version supported by ads or promoted content, with some of the funky AI-powered smarts pushed behind a paywall.
This also raises questions around how easy it will be to flourish in a market that includes well-established (and well-funded) incumbents such as Apple, Spotify, Acast and Pocket Casts. Snipd`s AI-powered features are neat for sure, but it`s not clear whether Snipd can garner enough of a user-base to build a significant business.
“We look at podcasts as one of the largest knowledge-bases in the world, and are hence focused on the knowledge-seeker community,” Smith said.