Today, I’m introducing a new recurring Hot Pod Insider feature that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. So, as with any industry in the universe that has needs and wants and holes to patch over, Podcast-land is home to an ever-expanding gallery of product-oriented startups, often venture capital-driven but not always, that are trying to do anything between solving a specific problem and ~disrupting~ the entire way the ecosystem has been doing a specific thing.
In the past, I had been fairly content with just dropping press releases in the Tracking sections and occasionally building stories around certain startups, but as my Tuesday stuff have increasingly towards single 30,000 ft pieces (partly by intention, partly by reaction), I figured I should construct a different way to feature interesting products or companies as they pop up.
Which brings me to this new feature: Startup Spotlight, in spirit a kind of sweater vest-wearing cousin to the Career Spotlight. Here’s the first edition of these, a Q&A with Dave Zohrob, the CEO of the podcast analytics company Chartable.
Let me know what you think. Jumping in…
Hot Pod: At fortune cookie length, what does Chartable do?
Dave Zohrob: Chartable offers podcast analytics and attribution tools to help creators understand, grow, and monetize their audience.
HP: Who is the service for?
Zohrob: We solve a few different problems with our suite of products.
Chartable Analytics automatically collects downloads, engagement, charts, reviews, and more from major distribution channels like Apple Podcasts and YouTube — all in one easy-to-use dashboard.
SmartLinks are shareable, trackable URLs that automatically route listeners to podcasts in their favorite apps, collecting both clicks and downloads — allowing marketers to finally understand which channels really drive new listeners.
SmartAds connects podcast downloads to actions on advertiser websites, so publishers and advertisers can understand the effectiveness of their ads.
HP: Could you talk about Chartable’s underlying technology? Seems like there are few different components going on.
Zohrob: Our analytics and attribution platform sits behind all of our products, and allows us to solve analytics and attribution problems by combining data from multiple sources like:
Public data, like Apple Podcasts charts
Private data, like downloads from our Trackable analytics prefix
Clicks on SmartLinks
Actions on sponsor websites
We can then use the data to answer questions like:
Did someone who clicked the link you posted to Twitter then download an episode of your podcast?
Did a listener hear an ad for a mattress, then buy the mattress online?
Did the promo I exchanged with another podcast actually drive new listeners to my show?
For the nerds out there, the platform is a mixed stack — web frontends on Heroku running Ruby/Rails, AWS API gateway, lambda functions, and Kinesis for event ingestion, and Postgres and Citus Data as the primary data stores.
HP: Let’s say all goes well on the product roadmap. What does Chartable look like in two years?
Zohrob: Our goal is to build a sustainable company that helps creators grow & monetize their shows.
We think there’s a set of problems we can solve well around analytics and attribution — and we’re going to continue to refine our solutions to those problems. We’ll leave the rest to the amazing (and growing!) ecosystem of companies that serve podcasters.
We can’t share too much about what’s coming down the road but we’re super-excited about some features we have coming up. The biggest is our promotional marketplace, where podcasters can buy, sell, and trade promos on other shows. We’re also building a FeedBurner replacement that will integrate with our other tools like SmartLinks for better subscriber stats.
There’s many more improvements in the works — we’re always learning about new problems to solve from our users. I’m personally really excited that I have the opportunity to continue serving the creative people in this industry.
HP: How big is the team right now?
Zohrob: We’re currently at four full-time employees. My cofounder Harish and I built the site from the ground up and continue to lead product and engineering efforts — and we recently made two amazing hires: Karo joined us from Wondery as our COO to connect with folks in the industry and help them understand the value of the tools we’re building. He’s been an amazing addition to the team. And so has Ruchi, our first engineering hire — she’s been helping us improve the product. Her first major feature was getting YouTube data into the dashboard. We’ve also got a couple other contract engineers solving specific data problems.
We’ll stay small for as long as we can, but given the problems we want to solve and the growth in podcasts worldwide, we’ll certainly be bringing more talented folks into the company soon.
HP: What are you listening to these days?
Zohrob: Good Q! The truth is that my listening goes up and down because — and this is sad, but true — sometimes it’s hard to listen to podcasts without thinking about analytics.
That said, I’ve been nerding out on Conversations with Tyler (especially the Margaret Atwood and Karl Ove Knausgård episodes), Against the Rules, The Turnaround with Jesse Thorn (so I can be decent interviewer for my own podcast), and Switched On Pop. l also check out the podcasts of folks who are signing up for Chartable, and recommendations I see on Twitter, in newsletters, and other rabbit holes.