In Defense of “The Netflix of Podcasts”

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What’s Luminary?

These days, it seems like the perfect elevator pitch for your business is “I want to be “The Netflix of ___.” That’s the case for Luminary, a 100 million dollar startup that wants to be “The Netflix of Podcasts.” In Luminary’s ideal world you’ll use their app to listen to all your regular free podcasts and pay 7.99 a month for their exclusive premium content. It’s a business model similar to YouTube and YouTube Red, where the basic service is free, but the ad-free “quality” content is behind a paywall.

Popular Criticism

The Podcast industry is growing. According to Edison Research One-third of the US, population reports having listened to a podcast in the last month, representing 90 million monthly listeners. But will people start to pay for something they expect to be free? Luminary thinks you will and through venture capital investments they’re willing to bet 100 million they will.

“This is a watershed moment for podcasting–a true milestone. With over half of Americans 12+ saying that they have ever listened to a podcast, the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream,”

Tom Webster, Senior Vice President at Edison Research.

Can Podcasts Get Better?

I love podcasts, but in my experience, the quality of production has little to do with how much I enjoy the show. Sure, I listen to the incredible production of Radiolab, This American Life, and 99 Percent Invisible. But I also listen to Eating Alone in My Car a navel-gazing show recorded on an iPhone.

Some productions are significant works of art on par with music and short films. They’re already great. I don’t see how throwing more money at them could make them better. Not to mention that some podcasts are just people talking to their friends for 3 hours is there a premium subscription way to gossip with friends?

Don’t get me wrong, I think podcasts deserve to make more money, but right now the only thing that could get me to pay for podcasts would be to take all the shows I already listen to and put them behind a paywall.

4 Great Things About Luminary

Branding
It’s a podcast app, but they’re marketing it like a Kindle or Audible subscription. This isn’t a place you go to listen to rambling, this is a pinky out educational podcast app. It’s a place where you go to be inspired. This message may be lost on avid podcast listeners, but I think it could be impactful on an “Oprah Bookclub” demographic.

Simple UI
The user interface is minimal. It doesn’t offer a slew of customizable features or categories to organize your subscriptions. It’s another attempt to appeal to new podcast listeners, taking the Netflix approach with one homepage with trailers and a queue.

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They also offer algorithmically curated recommendations based on your listening taste something which no other app currently offers.

Podcast Stories
It’s difficult to get into a new podcast and Luminary has a solution to that. They added a “stories” feature just like Instagram or Snapchat when you click the story, and you get a short trailer made by the creators. It’s currently a great way to a lot of browse podcasts faster than any other app