The quandary of how to improve podcast discovery grows each day as the number of shows grows larger. Sounder, the podcast management and monetization platform, is banking on technology as the solution. It has just struck a deal to buy Podnods, the podcasting recommendation platform. The move will allow Sounder to absorb Podnods’ artificial intelligence-driven technology into its own platform.
Terms of the deal were not made public.
Podnods has developed its own natural language processing (NLP) technology that to date has processed and indexed more than 1.7 million podcasts and their episodes, generating an audio data graph of more than three billion data signals. By incorporating Podnods’ analytics with Sounder’s in-episode keyword-based analytical capabilities, Sounder says it will be able to create new show classifications and personalize discovery and recommendations at an unprecedented scale.
“Sounder and Podnods started with the same mission – to help creators be heard,” said Kal Amin, co-founder and CEO of Sounder. “Audio has been deprived of true technological innovation for quite some time and by bringing our two companies together, we aim to deliver the next generation of audio technology, powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, to fuel growth for creators everywhere.”
In beta, Podnods invites podcast listeners to sign up for a free account that invites feedback on the kind of content they like. Based on those smiley "nod" or the frowny "nah" buttons, it tailors show recommendations. Show publishers are encouraged to claim their show and start talking up the feature to listeners. The system also allows listeners to donate money to the podcast with all the proceeds, other than a credit card processing fee going to the producers.
As part of the deal, Podnods co-founder and CEO Mercan Topkara will become Sounder’s new Chief Technology Officer, leading the company’s new research and development hub in New York. Sounder co-founder and current CTO Goran Krgovic will assume the role of Chief Architect, reporting into Topkara.
“We are thrilled to have Mercan join as our CTO, help us accelerate our operating plan, and lead our next phase of engineering innovation,” said Amin.
In her new role as CTO, Topkara will lead Sounder’s global engineering department, and spearhead the growth of the company’s newly established research and development center. Prior to cofounding Podnods, Topkara was VP of Data Products at Luminary Media, as well as a Research Engineer at JW Player and a Research Scientist at IBM.
“I’ve been a fan of Sounder from the beginning. Podnods solved discovery for podcast listeners, and Sounder did it for podcast creators – you need both to change the industry,” said Topkara in a statement. “Our complementary approaches to processing and indexing audio content will position us to improve both discovery and engagement dramatically.”
Podnods will continue to operate as a free-standing service for now. It has indexed 1.7 million podcasts to date and Topkara said they are aiming to index the full universe of podcasts soon. And while user numbers are still small, she said they are seeing “healthy growth” on a monthly basis. “We will keep the site running for the time being as we explore new options for discovery and listener engagement,” said Topkara.
Sounder announced in April that it had raised $2.15 million in a follow-up round bringing the amount it has pocketed from investors to $4 million of seed financing raised in the past 14 months. Amin said that new funding would help the company expand its technology capabilities and open a new R&D center.
In recent weeks Sounder has also overhauled its service plans and relaunched its mid-tier Sounder Plus with a lower price point and new features. The company also recommitted to offering a free product for podcasting newcomers.