Stitcher Smart Radio, the mobile app that helps mobile users find and listen to quality talk radio content, which Director of Product Colin Billings described broadly as “any audio that isn’t music,” today unveiled an update to their app that introduces a number of new features. The most interesting, however, is probably Stitcher’s new Smart Stations, which automatically line up content and create playlists based on what kind of content a listener has already expressed interest in and engaged with.
When Stitcher first launched back in 2008, it was designed to alleviate the pain of having to sync podcasts and other pre-recorded talk radio content to a user’s iPhone at home before going mobile. But the game has change: Apple has improved its own podcast support in iTunes on iOS, and there are a number of other apps dedicated to podcasts that have found favor with users. As Stitcher evolved, it saw more and more value in making intelligent content recommendations, to help users with the discovery aspect of talk and podcast content.
“We learned from our users, and lots of people were telling us that when they come to Stitcher they know maybe three shows,” Billings said. “But they were asking, ‘What else do I listen to?’ We realized that the crucial part on top of mobile accessibility, which, to be frank, is probably easy to replicate, is to learn how to help users discover content.”
Last fall, Stitcher launched a new feature called “Listeners also liked,” which is now generating about 10 million recommendations a day. Whereas before, Stitcher’s recommendations were based largely on broad category similarities, and also what others listened to who also liked your chosen content, Smart Stations take into account a whole wealth of information.
“More than a third of our listeners engage with recommendations every month, and new users it’s more than half, and they’re discovering close to five new shows each month,” Billings said. “Building on that, Smart Stations is really about the population. Based on what you listened to on Stitcher, what you thumbed up, what you shared, what you stopped listening to very quickly, instead of one-to-many, it’s one-to-one recommendations.”
For Stitcher, the future is recommendations. And that’s a smart bet to make, because despite the fact that the app has managed to catch on, maintain user interest and even build engagement with its audience (average listening time is up an average of an hour per month since May’s Election Center launch, for example), the future is uncertain. Rumors of Apple developing its own dedicated podcast app loom, so Stitcher is smart to be putting in the time and effort now to make its service stand out. Plus, we’ve seen with Apple’s acquisition of Chomp that it’s interested in companies that can make discovery of content available on its devices easier for consumers, so Stitcher’s unique perspective on that aspect of non-musical audio sources could serve it very well down the road.