Written by: Roshan Dwivedi
Many music fans are switching from downloads and broadcast radio to subscription-based video streaming service. By pressing play on Pandora, Spotify or Apple Music, users can access an endless stream of songs customized to your interests. However, what’s odd is that Pandora or Spotify didn’t exist for spoken-word audio which is news, talk and information that goes out over airwaves every day.
In October, last year, 60dB, a Silicon Valley startup introduced an audio streaming platform which according to co-founder Steve Henn is “a Facebook feed for your ears”. The 60dB service which until now has been there as an iOS app and an Alexa skill for the Amazon Echo, streams a custom selection of short audio stories sourced from organizations such as NPR, ESPN, the BBC, PRI, Bloomberg, Panoply and Vox. This doesn’t imply the death of the radio business which infact generates a major portion of the audio content that 60dB aggregates. Henn talks about segregating short-form spoken-word audio from the appointment-based radio channels where it airs first.
According to Henn, content aired on radio at a particular time should be available for listeners at a different time so they don’t miss out on the audio content. 60dB has launched a redesigned version of its iOS app and introduced an Android version as well. Both apps will include a new and enhanced visual design tailored for at home use. The earlier version of 60dB was pragmatic with huge text and buttons since the Company initially thought people would use it mainly in the car and hence not spend much time looking at it. Steve McLendon, another co-founder of the Company stated that more than half the plays come from Wi-Fi which was indicative that people were often using the app from home. The new version is more polished in terms of visuals.
The custom recommendation system is based on practices at McLendon’s previous company, Netflix. Personalized content provided to new users during the “onboarding” process is more simplified so users don’t need to answer too many questions while signing up. Radio segments up to 15 minutes long remains the focus of 60dB. Additionally, the firm also publishes its own stories which consist of 3-10 minute interviews between 60dB staffers and external journalists about stories they’ve recently published. The new app includes tools that enable users to find podcasts (typically longer than 15 minutes and may not have necessarily aired as radio programs) easily.