Podcasts are pretty popular these days, and there are a lot of different ways to get your fix. One of the most well-known apps on Android (and iOS) is probably Pocket Casts. The app's days of independence have ended, though. Just earlier today NPR has announced that it—as part of a larger public radio group including WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life—was acquiring the fan-favorite app.

Pocket Casts likely needs no introduction—it is the #1 top paid app on the Play Store in the News & Magazines category, after all. NPR and This American Life should also be familiar to most modern occupants of the internet, while the two regional broadcasting studios are well-known for producing a variety of content, including some for NPR, as well as podcasts including 2 Dope Queens, the "Making" series, and Serial.

Owen Grover is pegged to be the CEO of Pocket Casts going forward, having previously served as a high-level executive at iHeartRadio and Clear Channel. Pocket Casts founders Philip Simpson and Russel Ivanovic will hang around in currently undefined leadership roles. According to a statement received by The Verge, Ivanovic is optimistic about the purchase. The developers have received other offers for a buy-out in the past but turned them down. NPR and co seem to have made the right promises, though, with Ivanovich saying, "the unique thing about this opportunity is the mission driven nature of these organizations. They want what’s best for the podcasting space, they want to build open systems that everyone can use."

NPR affirmed in its press release that users of the app will continue to enjoy many of the features they previously did, and the new app won't serve as a replacement for NPR's existing NPR One or NPR apps. Financial details for the purchase weren't mentioned, and Pocket Casts' existing staff and developers will remain in place.

Pocket Casts, in its recent blog post on the subject, re-iterated that it believes NPR and its fellows' non-profit mission and passion fit in the framework the developers envision. Nothing about the app is changing in the short-term. It will remain a paid app, and it will still be built for the use of the entire podcast industry.

We'll have to see what sort of impact the purchase has on the app, but with the disclosures made so far, I'm optimistic that the influence of public radio on Pocket Casts should be beneficial. With the extra resources its purchasers can provide, the already wonderful cross-platform app may even improve.

Pocket Casts' creators have dispelled some concerns from users on their blog. They address the questions about selling and collecting user data, ads, and pushing content from the four networks instead of independently curating content.

Press Release

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

This collaboration furthers public radio's leading role as an innovator in audio discovery and distribution, while ensuring the continued support and growth of one of the most popular listening platforms on the market.
Courtesy of Pocket Casts

Four of the top podcast producers unite to own and operate a platform to improve podcasts discovery experience for listeners and to connect producers with new audiences

Former iHeartRadio General Manager Owen Grover named CEO of Pocket Casts

May 3, 2018; New York, NY – Today, four of the top podcast producers – NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life – announced the acquisition of Pocket Casts, a leading podcast app. This unprecedented collaboration furthers public radio's leading role as an innovator in audio discovery and distribution, while ensuring the continued support and growth of one of the most popular listening platforms on the market.

Audio veteran Owen Grover will serve as CEO of Pocket Casts. Grover previously served as Executive Vice President and General Manager at iHeartRadio, and before that as Vice President of Programming and Marketing at Clear Channel Music & Radio. Pocket Casts will operate as a joint venture, with founders Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic in leadership roles and the existing staff and developer team remaining in place. To ensure development aligns with the mission-driven ethos of public radio, the board will be comprised of representatives of the public media leaders.

Created in 2008 by Australian mobile app developer Shifty Jelly, Pocket Casts is one of the highest-rated mobile apps for podcast listening by users on Android, iOS, the web, Sonos, and other platforms. Pocket Casts has been recognized as "The podcast app every iPhone user needs" (WIRED) as well as "The best podcast app for Android" (The Verge).

NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life are responsible for more than 170 million downloads per month thanks to some of the most popular, industry-shaping podcasts, including: This American Life, 2 Dope Queens, Making Obama, Making Oprah, Planet Money, Radiolab, Serial, and Up First. Coming together for this acquisition reflects their shared vision: a commitment to reach a new generation of listeners and to serve the needs of audio producers across public radio and beyond. Pocket Casts is an enormous opportunity to improve discovery for listeners, provide podcast producers with better insights, and to enable creators to connect with audiences around the world.

"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," said Jarl Mohn, President and CEO, NPR. "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 of 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, 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."

Pocket Casts users will continue to enjoy:

  • A wide variety of podcasts from hundreds of national and international producers;
  • Filters that include user-friendly options like 'episodes you've already started' or 'downloaded but not heard' and the option to create custom filter categories;
  • An easy-to-use-playlist that can be instantly reordered;
  • Special settings to improve your listening experiences: playback speed, trim silence, and volume boost;
  • Web-based version that synchronizes with your devices so listeners can have podcasts at the tip of their fingers, even on desktop.

New York Public Radio's investment in Pocket Casts was made possible, in part, by Cynthia King Vance and a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

About NPR
NPR's rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans everyday—on the air, online, and in person. NPR strives to create a more informed public—one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures. With a nationwide network of award-winning journalists and 17 international bureaus, NPR and its Member Stations are never far from where a story is unfolding. Listeners consider public radio an enriching and enlightening companion; they trust NPR as a daily source of unbiased independent news, and inspiring insights on life and the arts. Learn more at npr.org/about or by following NPR Extra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About WNYC Studios
WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, including Radiolab, 2 Dope Queens, Nancy, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Death, Sex & Money, Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Note To Self, On the Media, and A Piece of Work with Abbi Jacobson. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Their programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, interviews that reveal, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit wnycstudios.wnyc.org.

About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ, Chicago's NPR news station, serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information. WBEZ is a publicly funded news organization, WBEZ's award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. WBEZ Chicago is home to two daily local programs, The Morning Shift and Worldview, and a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including the "Making" series of Making Obama and Making Oprah; Nerdette; and Sound Opinions. WBEZ Chicago has a legacy of innovation as the birthplace of nationally acclaimed programs such as This American Life, and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! and the ground-breaking podcast, Serial. Learn more about WBEZ Chicago and its award-winning programming and on-demand digital content at wbez.org or on Facebook or Twitter.

About This American Life
This American Life is one of the most popular podcasts in the world, downloaded each week by 2.5 million people, and heard on public radio by another 2.2 million. Since 1995, it's been a champion of a style of narrative journalism that's been adopted widely by other programs. www.thisamericanlife.org