Pocket Casts podcast app is under new ownership once again
Pocket Casts is one of the most popular podcast apps on Android and iOS, with a history stretching back years. However, Pocket Casts eventually had to figure out how to make enough money to support the ever-increasing development costs — or find a new owner willing to pay the bills. The app was purchased by a consortium of public radio groups in 2018, but only three years later, the group was looking to sell Pocket Casts. Now the app has been purchased by Automattic, the company best known for WordPress.com and Gravatar.
Automattic announced on July 16th that it had acquired the parent company of Pocket Casts. The app’s co-founders, Russell Ivanovic and Philip Simpson, will continue to lead development. Automattic said in its blog post, “As part of Automattic, Pocket Casts will continue to provide you with the features needed to enjoy your favorite podcasts (or find something new). We will explore building deep integrations with WordPress.com and Pocket Casts, making it easier to distribute and listen to podcasts.”
Pocket Casts was previously purchased in 2018 by a group of public radio organizations, including NPR, This American Life, WNYC Studios and WBEZ Chicago. Around a year later, Pocket Casts became a free app and introduced an optional paid subscription with 10GB of cloud storage for audio content and desktop/web apps. In December 2020, the radio group decided to sell off Pocket Casts by September 30, 2021.
Pocket Casts’ new owner is Automattic, an American internet company that is best known for its WordPress.com blogging service (Automattic also contributes code to the self-hosted version of WordPress), Gravatar cross-site avatars, and several popular WordPress plugins. The company has been on a buying spree recently — Automattic also purchased Tumblr from Verizon in 2019, and acquired the Day One journal app just last month.
Automattic isn’t planning any drastic changes to Pocket Casts right now, at least publicly. The company’s existing revenue streams (and its status as a private company instead of a publicly-traded entity with lots of investors) means Automattic shouldn’t need to squeeze every penny possible out of Pocket Casts users. However, the app will likely need to experiment with more premium features — NPR alone lost $800,000 on Pocket Casts when it owned 34.6% of the app in 2020.