Podcast startup RedCircle is officially launching today with a focus on helping small shows grow. Its first step is releasing a feature that assists podcasters in setting up cross-promotions with other podcasters, agreements in which two shows promote each other. It promises there’s more to come.
RedCircle raised $1.5 million in its seed round and offers free hosting, analytics access, distribution help, and other features designed for smaller creators. The company’s cross-promotion feature allows RedCircle to automatically insert promotions into shows once both podcasters have agreed.
“The short story [of how we got started] is that there’s not a lot of interesting technology that’s being built for the small podcaster,” Mike Kadin, co-founder and CEO, tells The Verge. “We saw a lot of space for the independent podcaster who’s taking their work seriously, but doesn’t have a five-person ad sales team to take care of them. There’s a lot of room for work there and just a massive long tail with podcasts.”
The team is focusing on independent podcasters who are in the semi-pro phase and want to grow their show. That’s why the team is launching with this cross-promotion feature. It’s a way for creators to grow their show without the clout of a bigger network behind them. Larger networks often cross-promote their own network shows, which is a benefit of having a bunch of popular shows under the same umbrella company.
To find a cross-promotion partner, podcasters can browse RedCircle’s show catalog on its website and sort by category, audience size, or name, although shows have to opt into being available for cross-promotion requests. If both shows agree to run each other’s ad, they’ll send each other the audio ad, and RedCircle will automatically determine how long they’ll have to run it so that both shows get a mutual benefit from the deal. A show with a smaller following will likely have to run an ad for a longer period of time to reach a certain number of listeners than a larger show.
A show can only run two RedCircle-inserted ad spots per episode, but it can have its own ads built in as well. The company wouldn’t say how many shows it has signed up for its service, but Kadin said it numbered in the “hundreds,” and that shows from competitor platforms had switched over. Kadin also says it has “some podcasts” on the network that generate tens of thousands of downloads.
Apart from its cross-promotion feature, RedCircle says it’s going to keep designing features for the small creator. The company says it doesn’t claim copyright over any works on the service, and creators can distribute a RedCircle-hosted RSS feed on any platform that accepts them.
RedCircle’s effort reminds me of Anchor, at least in its creator focus, but Kadin says it’s not planning to make tools for creation. It’s going to look at podcast monetization as a focus area, not only for creators but also for RedCircle’s business. That’s its main business goal, as it would give the company a cut of the ad revenue. The team says it’s already negotiating ad deals for its biggest podcasters in a more informal capacity. (They’ll make calls in the industry to arrange ad spend.) Still, it’s easy to see how creating a dynamic cross-promotion service could lend itself to the eventual insertion of sponsored ads through the platform itself.
Free hosting is tempting to creators because hosting providers, apart from Anchor, charge for their services. But in return for that hosting, Kadin and the team want to eventually build an ad network that’s comprised of all its hosted shows.