WGBH, one of Boston’s two National Public Radio affiliates, has made an investment of an undisclosed amount in podcast app maker RadioPublic.
RadioPublic, a Boston-based startup founded by public radio veterans, announced on Wednesday that it raised a new $1.2 million seed round with WGBH as the lead investor. Other new investors include former Groupon CEO and founder Andrew Mason and local investment firm Companyon Capital. The startup’s original group of investors — which includes The New York Times, American Public Media and Slate.com publisher Graham Holdings — also participated in the funding round.
Jake Shapiro, RadioPublic’s CEO and co-founder, told BostInno that the startup raised the round after proving it could build a podcast app for iOS and Android that could attract hundreds of thousands of users — largely through organic growth — with the first $1.6 million in funding it raised in May 2016. Shapiro declined to disclose specific user numbers.
“We feel like we’re in a great place to help publishers who have a direct membership or crowdfunding model.”
What also encouraged investors was RadioPublic’s ability to help podcast publishers reach and expand their audiences in ways they haven’t been able to before, Shapiro said.
For example, the company integrated a crowdfunding campaign for Radiotopia, a podcast network run by public radio program distributor PRX, into RadioPublic’s app. This materialized in a few ways, including push notifications and call-to-action messages that displayed on the pages of Radiotopia shows. Shapiro declined to say how much money Radiotopia raised through the app, but he said it was a high response rate.
“We feel like we’re in a great place to help publishers who have a direct membership or crowdfunding model,” Shapiro said. “We think we’re the most effective channel.”
These kinds of features could benefit WGBH, which carries out fundraising efforts for itself and 205 other public radio and TV stations across the United States through its Contributor Development Partnership, according to WGBH COO Ben Godley.
With CDP’s large database of donors, WGBH could integrate that data into RadioPublic and use it to personalize the app for individual listeners, Godley told BostInno. This could help public radio stations not only with fundraising but also with promoting podcasts and events.
“It’s a way for stations, including WGBH, to enrich the audience experience on the RadioPublic player,” said Godley, who is joining RadioPublic’s board as an observer.
The other reason WGBH invested in RadioPublic is simple to understand if you follow NPR or any affiliate: podcasting is the future of the industry. Even Frontline, the flagship investigative journalism TV show WGBH produces for PBS, has its own podcast now.
“We generally make investments where there’s a strategic alignment.”
“It’s starting to become a commonly used platform for on-demand listening, and it certainly meets all the criteria of what audiences want,” Godley said.
Goldey said this isn’t WGBH’s first tech startup investment: six or seven years ago, the company made a strategic investment in roundCorner, a Philadelphia-based company that provides a customer relationship management system for nonprofits and universities.
“We generally make investments where there’s a strategic alignment,” Godley said. “The real point is to improve our service to audiences.”