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Pocket Casts acquired by NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life

NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life have joined forces to acquire podcasting app Pocket Casts. The app was launched in 2010 by Shifty Jelly, and is a well-regarded program for podcast listening. Owen Grover, formerly executive vice president and general manager of iHeartRadio, will join Pocket Casts as its new CEO. Founders Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic will remain in leadership roles, and the new board will be composed of public media representatives.

The quartet of new owners is responsible for more than 170 million podcast downloads per month according to the press release. Jointly acquiring the podcasting platform is an interesting and significant investment in podcasting for public media. NPR already owns and operates NPR One, a discovery and listening app for its network content. Pocket Casts hands over a key distribution point (especially on Android phones) to NPR, two of its flagship stations, and one of its leading programs.

New York Public Radio (WNYC and a few other stations) received financial assistance from Cynthia King Vance and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“Public radio has been at the vanguard of audio innovation and podcasting, bringing in new listeners, experimenting with new forms and topics, fostering engagement and community, and cultivating new talent in the industry,” said Laura Walker, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC Studios. “And yet despite this remarkable renaissance, the listening experience – particularly around discovery – has remained virtually unchanged. Pocket Casts will enable us to forge a closer relationship with our listeners, provide audiences with more ways to enjoy audio programming, and create a more tailored discovery experience that helps listeners find their next must-listen podcast.”

“As the leading producers of podcasts in a rapidly growing market, we’re linking arms to embrace new opportunities for the distribution of audio and the engagement of a new generation of listeners,” NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn said. “Pocket Casts is a terrific app and will be a great complement to NPR One, the NPR app and the other outstanding products in public radio’s portfolio of innovation. We want to continue serving and delighting its large and passionate audience through wide access to the world of powerful podcasts, from public radio and beyond.”

“Thanks to the mission-driven nature of this partnership, and of public media overall, we’ll put the needs of producers and listeners at the heart of everything we do with Pocket Casts,” said Goli Sheikholeslami, CEO for WBEZ Chicago. “We plan to work with producers to find new and broader audiences, which will enable creators to better connect with fans and potential audiences and build a sustainable business for their podcast.”

“For months now, I’ve been using Pocket Casts and recommending it to friends,” said Ira Glass, the creator and host of This American Life. “It’s a great app – with a super-intuitive interface – and I’m excited for the things we’re hoping to add to it.”

Anna Washenko

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