Let's agree on one thing -- podcasts are great, but there are just too many of them. For that your friends at National Public Radio have a solution: earbud.fm, a podcast recommendation tool that compiles the favorite episodes of podcast fans, creators and celebrities.
The free site and app, which launched Tuesday, gives people the chance to explore and browse individual episodes of podcasts based on their tastes and sensibilities. The episodes, which have been recommended by fans and listeners, are curated by a team at NPR and others.
“Podcasts as a form of mainstream journalism and entertainment have reached a level of influence in our culture that deserves the kind of editorial attention our cultural news department gives to books, movies and music,” Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director, said in a statement. “So, we devised a system to use audience recommendations vetted by a team of external and internal reviewers to come up with the most interesting and impartial recommendations.”
The public radio giant put out a call for recommendations of the best podcasts and their best episodes. After getting more than 6,000 submissions spread out across 800 different podcasts, a team at NPR’s arts, books and culture desk worked with a team of podcast aficionados to pick the featured episodes.
Earbud.fm also includes the recommendations of a few people known outside of public media, including actors Matthew McConaughey, Neil Patrick Harris and Gabourey Sidibe, astronaut Chris Hadfield, astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson and pop star Pink.
Users can listen to episodes inside the app.
After spending years on the fringes of U.S. popular culture, podcasts have begun to surge into the mainstream. U.S. residents listen to 21 million hours’ worth of podcasts every single day, and some of the format’s most popular programs, including shows like “Serial,” have driven more than 100 million downloads over the past couple years. A number of the top podcast producers, including NPR, held their first upfronts for podcasts; top broadcasters, including Hubbard, have bought their way into the format in the past six months; large publishers, ranging from Esquire to Buzzfeed, have gotten in on the act; and some companies, including the podcast advertising network Midroll, have rolled out paid subscription services for podcasts.
But amid all this momentum, podcast supporters feel the medium has a long way to go. Those 21 million hours go into the ears of just 17 percent of Americans, the vast majority of them on one mobile operating system. There is also a serious glut problem. There are nearly 300,000 different podcasts available in iTunes, which makes life difficult not just for listeners but for advertisers, who have trouble figuring out which shows are on their way to the top.
It should come as no surprise that the first company to attempt to build one was NPR; over the summer, six of the top 10 most popular podcasts on iTunes were made by NPR or its member stations.