Mara Schiavocampo, Katie Couric, Paris Hilton Invest in Startup App Podz

Podz, a startup whose app auto-generates highlight clips of podcasts to create what it touts as the industry’s first “audio newsfeed,” has recruited a trio of female investors and advisers for its launch: investigative journalist Mara Schiavocampo, former TV news host Katie Couric and influencer Paris Hilton, reports Variety.

Podz operates by using machine-learning algorithms to select the top 60-second highlights from podcast episodes, then arranges those into a personalized feed for users based on their expressed interests and listening history. The Podz app also features links to the full podcast episodes.

Mara Schiavocampo, ABC/Ida Mae Astute

Couric, Hilton and Schiavocampo, themselves podcast creators, expect Podz will assist in drawing more listeners to their own episodes.

“I come to this both as a content creator and consumer,” Couric told Variety. “I’m hoping it will get more people interested in my podcast, but selfishly I also want to use it for myself.”

Couric, who launches the next season of her interview podcast “Next Question” later this month, compared Podz to channel surfing. “Like most people these days, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of content out there — it’s the tyranny of choice… I am attracted to this whole idea because I’d like to have a sampling of interesting podcasts that are out there without spending 45 minutes figuring that out.”

Podz initially is available for Apple iOS devices, with an Android version in the works, according to co-founder and CEO Doug Imbruce. Out of the gate, Podz provides 60-second highlight clips for about 5,000 of the biggest podcasts. The company doesn’t have commercial deals with the podcasters or publishers; Imbruce likens Podz’s approach to the way Google’s search engine indexes websites.

“We imagine a world where podcasts effectively compete for attention with 100-character tweets and 10-second stories,” Imbruce said.

To set up the app, users indicate interest areas (e.g., “sex & dating,” “news”) and can optionally let the app access podcasts to which the user has subscribed in Apple Podcasts. Podz then displays a TikTok-style vertical feed that autoplays the audio excerpts of shows it has selected for the user; accessible by swiping up to advance to the next clip. Overall, the experience is like flipping through a bunch of talk-radio stations.

To train its system for picking out the best 60-second bits from a podcast, the Podz team hired freelance editors who listened to more than 100,000 hours of audio to identify the audio highlights from each episode. “It’s always improving,” Imbruce told Variety.

The Podz app also lets users save clips for later listening, as well as connect to Apple Podcasts to get access to podcast subscriptions (with support for Spotify podcasts on the road map). Podcasters and other users soon will be able share Podz highlights on social channels with one tap.

Down the line, according to Imbruce, the Podz app will allow users to record their own audio, create their own highlights and share those on the service and other networks.

Right now, Podz is not selling ads or using other monetization features, but Imbruce pointed to in-feed advertising models used by apps like Instagram and TikTok as one of its potential revenue streams.

New York-based Podz has raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by venture-capital firm M13 along with Canaan Partners, Charge Ventures and Humbition. Currently, the company has 10 full-time employees.

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