Parviz Parvizi and David Silverman started an audio tech company together after they figured out they were the slowest readers at Yale Law School.
It wasn’t quite as simple as that, but Clammr, which launches today with offices in Boston and L.A., has roots in the two co-founders’ practice of sharing audio clips from books-on-tape versions of case law made to serve students who were completely unable to read. With funding from Jeff Karish (an investor in Vice, Re/code and Square), Clammr is a tool for sharing short audio clips.
“It’s tied to something we fundamentally give a shit about, which is sharing audio,” Parvizi told me over a slice and a beer at Za in Kendall Square. “We’re slow readers.”
Parvizi is based in Boston. The other three co-founders, including Silverman, are based in L.A. After leaving Yale, the two worked in consulting (McKinsey) and investment banking (Morgan Stanley), respectively, before quitting to start a company with a “low-end demand media” model, basically engaging in impression arbitrage between advertisers and publishers. That little venture now throws off enough money that they don’t take salaries at Clammr.
Audio’s growing: Monthly podcast listenership in the U.S. is near 50 million, according to a report out earlier this year from Edison Research. But most people share entire, lengthy podcasts. If they need to point to a relevant segment they do it by pointing to a time where the good bit starts. I do this all the time, not just with podcasts, but with video. It seems to be working fine, but Parvizi and Silverman think we can do better.
“Every other form of media has a micro form of social sharing,” Parvizi told me.
So, Clammr provides a way to tie into whatever podcasting app you’re using and share 24-second clips from your favorites. The shared clip shows up with an image and an animated waveform display, something like what you see when an audio player is running. Click on the tweet or Facebook post, and the audio starts playing.
— Don Shah Le Sapeur (@aalikes) December 7, 2015
I can see a problem with this. I’m always looking for ways to excerpt the best portion of a story, but even in text that involves some careful thinking about length and content. In audio, that means timing is important. Is a 24-second window really going to be the one-size-fits-all to capture the quotes and clips that convey that sharable idea?
Whether it is or not, Clammr has identified a gap. Radio’s roughly $17 billion advertising market still runs on the old school ad buy, Parvizi said. Ads on podcasting haven’t got very far beyond that. Much of the radio ad market right now depends on the assumption that people are listening in their car, where their ability to control and select what they listen to is limited, Parvizi said. He’s betting that will change as cars hit the roads with more sophisticated in-vehicle entertainment systems.
Not everyone who participates in that industry loves the idea of changing how audio is shared. WTF’s producer, Brendan McDonald, told New York Observer: “We definitely kind of view these episodes as kind of a whole thing. So the desire to bifurcate content is not in our priority. I get it and I wouldn’t shy away from it, but it’s not in my areas to focus on.”
Jenna Weiss-Berman, who leads audio efforts at Buzzfeed, actually doesn’t like the idea of freeing up audio clips from the entire podcast: “I’ve always been against the idea of viral audio, because it is this special medium and people engage with it in a special way.” Both quotes were in an earlier Observer post, in which the writer reviewed a beta version of the app, prior to Clammr’s launch.
Clammr formed in September, 2014, and spent a little time in Panos Panay’s music entrepreneurship program at Berklee College of Music. The founders started out testing it with music students, before deciding to focus on spoken word. It doesn’t have a revenue plan yet, but Parvizi said he’s considered a “next listen” recommendation engine. Sponsors would pay to have their content featured in that way, he said.
For now, the company is focused on reaching users. To that end, it’s raised $1 million from Karish and other investors. Its launch partners are PodcastOne, Midroll, Sideshow Network, and Westwood One.
Why is Parvizi staying in Boston, when his co-founders are on the West Coast? Being close to New York is good for a media business, but there’s another reason: “I don’t like L.A.,” he said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mis-stated Parvizi’s characterization of the radio advertising market. He was talking about radio ads, not podcast ads.