Personalized News Radio App Swell Raises $5.4M

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Swell, the app that brings a Pandora-like experience to news and talk radio content, is announcing that it has raised $5.4 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, with participation from Google Ventures, InterWest Partners, Correlation Ventures, and Draper Nexus Ventures. Concept.io, the startup that built Swell, previously raised a $1.8 million seed round from Google Ventures, Charles River Ventures, DFJ, Andreessen Horowitz, Inspovation Ventures, and various angel investors.

Swell launched in June with content from NPR, American Public Media, ABC News, the BBC, TED Talks, and others. That content is all available through free podcasts in the iTunes story already, but through a combination of technology and human curation, Swell streams a mix of programs that become personalized to the listener’s interest over time.

Once you start the app, you can just let it run (particularly using Swell on your commute or while exercising), but you can also skip tracks that you don’t like, identify broad topics (such as technology) that you want to focus on at the moment, and bookmark programs for listening later.

It sounds like the app has succeeded in engaging its initial listeners. Swell said that when users first try out the app, they usually listen for more than 30 minutes on average. Returning users usually listen for more than 110 minutes per week and more than 40 minutes per day.

On a personal level, I can say my prediction last month has turned out to be pretty accurate: “I don’t think Swell is going to replace my subscriptions to my favorite podcasts, but it could become my go-to app whenever I don’t have a particular podcast in mind, but I want to catch-up on the news or hear something thoughtful.”

Here’s video demo that we recorded for the launch.