Late last week, startup Tiny Garage Labs launched a new audio app 60dB (get it on the App Store), aimed at creating a “smarter” radio experience. While it’s tempting to describe the new platform as “the Netflix of podcasting” (especially since two of the three co-founders come from Netflix), Pandora is probably the closest comparison from a user perspective.
The app serves up a stream of short-form audio stories—a combination of original and syndicated content—that is tailored to your personal interests and listening behavior. You can tag stories that you like, share them, skip them, etc., and the app learns what you want to hear. Again, Pandora for podcasts. But while Pandora can learn your preferences based on fairly objective musical attributes—melody, harmony, rhythm, etc.—we’d be interested to understand how 60dB categorizes and compares audio stories. We imagine it’s some sort of combination of metadata and analysis of the form (number of voices, complexity of the sound design/mix, etc.), as well as a Netflix-like ability to understand the actual content.
Like your radio, you can just turn on 60dB and listen when you hop into your car in the morning. No need to plan ahead and program it. No need to hunt-and-peck for stories or shows you care about. With 60dB, good stories find you, whether you have 10 minutes to listen, or two hours.Tiny Garage LabsThere’s no doubt that there’s currently a strong desire for curated, personalized entertainment. Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, etc. have all convincingly proven that point. And while Stitcher and Audible will suggest podcasts based on your listening behavior, there’s currently no one other than 60dB offering a timely, personalized stream of audio stories from a variety of sources that you don’t have to manage. (NPR One comes close, but is obviously limited to NPR content.) Plus, focusing on short-form audio is a great way to cater to people who are commuting to work, cooking dinner, or doing any number of activities where they don’t have an hour and half to dedicate to one lengthy podcast.
Essentially, 60dB works like a news/talk radio station that knows what you want to hear.
The question is whether, in the long run, that’s what people really want out of audio stories. To use Netflix as a comparison, it’s great that they can suggest other movies based on what you tend to watch, but sometimes it drives us nuts when the platform is so hellbent on its own suggestions that it makes it nearly impossible for us to search for something different based on our own criteria.
With audio stories, the “smart radio” approach would seem to work well with entertainment like comedy, sports or narrative fiction, where there’s a specific sub-genre or style that you enjoy. But we wonder if the same applies to broader news or information-based programming. The idea behind a real radio station is that there is a real live human editorial staff that scours the world for information, determines what is interesting and newsworthy, and reports those diverse, interesting stories to you. (At least, in theory that’s how it works.)
As our current election season careens toward the finish line (hallelujah), there has been much discussion of how current methods of news and information gathering have led us all to be siloed in our own personal realities. Our Facebook and Twitter feeds, favorite websites and TV networks, etc. all deliver to us the messages that we want to hear, not necessarily the messages that we ought to hear. Our concern here is that the same could be said for what 60dB provides, and that it will continue this trend of siloed news and information. Whether it’s through a complex algorithm, simply offering users the ability to create multiple stations, or exerting some good old fashioned human editorial control—we hope that 60dB will figure out a way to deliver short-form audio stories that appeal to people’s interests while continuing to expand their information universe.
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