US public radio consortium buys Australian podcasting app Pocket Casts

Concerns raised over user privacy. 

A group of US public radio giants comprising NPR, WNYC, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life has acquired Pocket Casts, a podcast app created by Australian developer Shifty Jelly. 

Pocket Casts – billed as ‘The world’s most powerful podcast player’ – is widely considered one of the best podcasting clients on Android due to its use of Material Design and quick support for new Android features. 

The press release (via The Verge) announced the deal:

‘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 venture will be jointly owned by the consortium, with Pocket Casts’ existing developers and Shifty Jelly founders remaining at the helm. The new CEO of Pocket Casts is iHeartRadio / Clear Channel veteran Owen Grover. 

All four public radio broadcasters involved in the acquisition have released their own apps already, with TechCrunch reporting that the purchase of Pocket Casts should give them another way to become more involved in distribution and reach listeners directly. 

Podcast listeners and media commentators have expressed concern regarding the long-term strategic vision of the acquisition, with Nieman Lab’s Nicholas Quah arguing:

‘[it’s] a fairly vague picture of what’s to come, one where future Pocket Casts could resemble anything from a pure vessel for experimentation to a utility platform like Patreon to even something that looks like Radiotopia.

‘That vagueness has led to reservations from certain circles in the podcast community, an expression of anxiety aimed at many possible outcomes including: the implementation of intrusive user tracking into the app, the commandeering of Pocket Casts’ discovery portals to privilege public radio programming over others, and the market-distorting effects of an entity that consolidates the powers of a few pretty prominent podcast publishing entities.’

Owen Grover, the new Pocket Casts CEO, addressed the concerns surrounding the future direction of the podcast app and potential privacy issue in a blog post on Reddit:

‘We don’t need your location data. We don’t want your location data. We won’t be collecting or storing your location data. Where you go day to day is none of our business. I have no idea why people even think we’d do that.’

Pocket Casts continues to be available on nearly every popular platform, including iOS, Android, Windows 10, macOS and the web, with no change in pricing reported for the foreseeable future. 

Tags: | | |