All posts in “Podcasts”

Crypto author Paul Vigna talks about the future of token sales

Paul Vigna, along with his writing partner Michael Casey, are crypto gurus. A crypto critic and Wall Street Journal reporter, Vigna sees through the hype and looks for the value inherent in the crypto system.

Vigna and I spoke during this, the 100th episode of Technotopia. Vigna has a lot to say about the market and feels that his new book, the Truth Machine, picks up where his and Casey’s first book, The Age of Cryptocurrency left off. Now that some of the bloom has gone off the crypto rose, Vigna says things are getting more serious and far more interesting.

Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.

Anchor’s new app offers everything you need to podcast

Broadcasting app Anchor, which helps anyone record and share audio, is relaunching its app today with a new focus on serving the larger podcaster community. While in the past, Anchor was carving out a niche for itself in the short-form, social audio space, the new version – Anchor 3.0 – aims to be everything you need to record, edit, host, publish, and distribute a podcast of any length, as well as track how well the podcast is performing.

The changes follow Anchor’s close of a $10 million Series A from Google Ventures and Accel last fall, and arrive at a time when interest in podcasts is continuing to grow. Half of U.S. homes are now podcast fans, Nielsen has said, and 22 percent consider themselves “avid” fans. In addition, the rise of smart speakers with voice assistants has made it more convenient to listen to audio recordings in the home, helping to boost adoption further.

Anchor’s general belief has been that anyone should be able to easily record and share audio without the need for special tools or technical know-how. The new product represents a doubling-down on that belief, as it aims to remove the many obstacles that would-be podcasters face, from hosting fees, to the needs for special editing software, and the lack of insight into how well podcasts are being received by listeners, among other things.

Though Anchor had been targeting short-form audio, professional podcasters began using its app in greater numbers last year to take advantage of several of its tools. This included Anchor videos, which turns audio into shareable, video clips (which will be re-added to the new app in a later release), as well as a “call-ins” feature which allows them to receive voice messages from listeners that could be later integrated into a new episode.

But most of all, they were using the one-touch podcast feature that lets anyone record and distribute audio with a tap of a button.

“That’s when the floodgates opened, and we saw all this interest around podcasting, specifically using Anchor tools,” explains Anchor CEO Mike Mignano.

He says the team then looked to see how they could better serve their podcaster user base, and found that it was still surprisingly hard to create a podcast today.

“It seemed crazy how difficult it was to make an actual podcast. There’s the expensive microphone you have to buy, the difficult software you have to manage on your computer and learn. And there’s the process of uploading and paying to host your audio files,” he says. There’s also dealing with the podcast’s RSS feed, which not everyone understands.

What’s New

The new app will now drop users straight into a podcast creation screen, with color-coded buttons for using Anchor’s various features in addition to the big, red “Record” button.

There are buttons for recording with friends; for call-ins (now called voice messages, meant for direct, private conversations); for adding music from Apple or Spotify; and for adding transitions from Anchor’s built-in library of sounds.

As you create and use these components, they appear as drag-and-drop modules in a visual editor on the screen, so you can move them around to create your podcast episode.

This all color-coded as well, as is a bar at the top of the screen showing the length of each audio piece you’ve assembled. And Anchor has dropped the 5-minute limit on recording your voice, too.

Anchor will also now host your podcasts for free, and allow you to easily import your back catalog if you want to make a switch from your current hosting provider. There are no limitations on who can use this feature.

“In 2018, this is just the way it should be – there shouldn’t be hosting fees holding people back from this,” says Mignano.

After you’ve finished your edit, you can push a button to publish the podcast for availability on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Overcast, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Alexa devices, Google Assistant devices, Apple HomePod, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and, as of today, Spotify.

Also in the new app, and to a greater extent on the web, Anchor now offers podcast analytics which show things like plays per episode, total plays, downloads, and more. On the web, these are available as charts and graphs, and there’s a section showing which platforms listeners are coming from, too.

The web version offers a more advanced editor with the ability to upload audio files from your computer and re-use recordings from your Anchor history.

Of course, there is one concern for professional podcasters migrating to Anchor’s platform – and that’s whether it will be around in the long-term.

For now, the company isn’t generating revenue – it’s living off its funding. Podcasters who pay for hosting or self-host don’t generally have to worry with whether they’ll one day have to quickly migrate elsewhere because the company is shutting down or being acquired – and that’s always a concern with startups.

Mignano says Anchor’s plan is to eventually introduce monetization tools for podcasters, which will play a role in Anchor’s business model. (Specifics were not available, but Anchor would likely take a cut of the revenue it helped to generate, as is standard.) This seems like a good bet, especially considering how popular the format has become.

Several big names are launching on Anchor 3.0.

This list includes: Reshma Saujani & Girls Who Code, BuzzFeed, Relay FM, Penguin Random House author Alison Green, Tiffany Zhong and Zebra Intelligence, Seeker, Fatherly, Eniac Ventures, Abby Norman, The Outline, Cheddar, The Players Tribune, and Atlantic Records.

Along with hosting, every podcaster gets their own custom URL for their show, which includes buttons to subscribe anywhere its hosted – like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, etc.

Partners, and other Anchor broadcasters, will continue to see their work featured within the app, as before, but in a redesigned “browse” section that has more of an iTunes-like look-and-feel.

Anchor 3.0 is rolling out to iOS and Android, and on the web, starting today.

As tech automates, Blinkist keeps its book summary service very human

[embedded content]

When I first heard of Blinkist, a service that breaks down recent nonfiction books to easily digestible snippets and audio, I was afraid it would turn out to be some machine-learning-driven auto-summary thing. But in talking to co-founder Niklas Jansen at Blinkist’s headquarters in Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the company is still very much people-powered — and in fact, that may be the root of its continuing success.

The basic idea of Blinkist is to take the best of new nonfiction and condense it into pieces just a minute or two long, with entire books summed up in a series of these “blinks” totaling fifteen minutes or so. Titles are added regularly, harvested from best sellers, top ten lists, and user wishlists and suggestions.

So far, so normal. But where Blinkist tries to differentiate is in the quality of these summaries. Anyone can read a book and give you a rundown of each chapter, and there are automated summary services that will do something like that as well. But it takes someone familiar with the field and well-versed in how to communicate that information to do it well.

But wouldn’t it take a huge collection of experts, PhDs, authors, and so on to keep up with the variety of nonfiction being published? Yes it would, and building just such a collection is where Blinkist has put a great deal of its resources.

As a subscription service, it has steady revenues that it can deploy intelligently, maintaining a large network of experts whom it can call on to do the critical work of dissecting a book, picking out its important parts, and writing them up in a compelling way. But these summaries aren’t intended to be comprehensive — that’s why they’re called summaries.

“What’s important is that Blinkist is not intended to replace the book,” Jansen said. “We think of Blinkist as the bridge between no book and the book. There’s always a case why you should go on and buy the full book afterwards.” (And of course a link is provided.)

I was afraid, going in, that I would find out that Blinkist also did this for fiction, which I feel would defeat the point of reading it. After all, the idea in fiction is not to learn some core ideas and see them demonstrated or evidenced, but to experience a story — and the pacing, language, and dialogue are critical to that. Fortunately, Blinkist understands this as well, and that is the very reason the team has not attempted it. Nonfiction is just a much more logical choice.

I must admit here that I don’t read a lot of modern nonfiction — none, really. But that doesn’t mean none of these books sound interesting to me. Blinkist seems to cater to types like myself: readers with more curiosity than time.

It’s reassuring to see a modern startup relying so heavily on the human element. Blinkist costs $50 a year to start, which sure isn’t free, but you could think of it like a “feed the humanities PhDs” fund.

A look at 42 women in tech who crushed it in 2017

What a challenging, exhilarating year it has been for women everywhere, starting from the women’s March on Washington to former Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s eye-opening and now famous blog post to the #metoo movement that has swept the country, washing dozens of sexual predators out of their powerful roles in the process.

All the while, women in tech have been driving their tech companies to new levels of success, including reaching difficult product development milestones and, in many of the cases you’re about to read, raising meaningful follow-on funding.

That’s not always an easy task, as many will tell you. In 2016, companies with at least one female founder raised 19 percent of all seed rounds, 14 percent of early-stage venture, and just 8 percent of late-stage venture rounds, according to Crunchbase.

Herewith, just 42 of the many women who defied the stats this year — and who are posed to kick more ass in 2018.

Learn Spanish with this innovative podcast

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you’ll know how important listening can be. 

That’s why Duolingo has launched the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, for English speakers who are learning Spanish. The first episode is available for free on Duolingo’s website, iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. New episodes will roll out every Thursday. 

Each 15-minute episode is a narrative nonfiction story, similar to an episode of This American Life. Though they take place all around the world, the episodes feature Latinx characters, and discuss Latinx culture. 

The podcast is hosted by Martina Castro, co-founder of NPR’s Spanish language podcast Radio Ambulante. She is also the founder and CEO of Adonde Media, a bilingual podcast production company. 

Castro narrates the stories slowly in clear, intermediate-level Spanish. A paragraph is read in Spanish first, followed by an English translation, with segments clocking in at about a minute long. 

The English translations make it easy to check how much of the preceding segment you understood. They can also pull you back into the story if you got lost, or zoned out, during the Spanish section. 

Don’t expect the monotonous listening exercises from your high school Spanish class (or those you might hear on the Duolingo app itself). The stories are interesting, unnerving, heartwarming, and a unique portrait of Latinx culture.

Having taken four years of high school Spanish many years ago, I was able to get the gist of each section if I focused hard (though the English translations were certainly helpful). That said, you’ll want to listen at a time when you can focus — my intermediate-speaker’s brain had a lot of trouble translating if it was also doing something else. 

The first episode features the story of Rodrigo Soberanes, a Mexican journalist, who builds a friendship with a disgraced soccer player and makes a documentary about it. 

Upcoming segments will document a Chilean journalist who unexpectedly meets her future (Chilean) husband on a trip to China, and a woman’s journey to build a life in Buenos Aires after her boyfriend (whom she moved there for) leaves her.  

Duolingo told Mashable that it hopes the podcast will motivate intermediate and advanced Spanish learners to keep up with their studies throughout their daily, while communing, exercising, etc. (But as I said, for speakers as inexperienced as me, this is probably wistful thinking). 

It also hopes users who have completed Duolingo’s Spanish course will maintain their grasp on the language (and, incidentally, their involvement with Duolingo) by listening to the podcast regularly. 

The company also noted that Spanish speakers who are learning English could benefit from the podcast. 

If you want to learn Spanish, and you love a good story, check this podcast out. 68d8 b4a2%2fthumb%2f00001