Podhero launches a $5.99 subscription app where you can support your favorite podcasts

Podhero is offering listeners a new way to pay their favorite podcasters.

The startup behind the app is led by Pete Curley and Garret Heaton, who previously founded HipChat (sold to Atlassian) and launched Swoot last year, which was focused on helping you find new podcasts through sharing.

In a Medium post published today, Curley wrote that despite Swoot’s “great retention and passionate users,” the team realized that podcasters faced a bigger problem: “It’s really hard to make money,” with 97.2% of podcasts not monetizing at all.

You’re probably used to hearing ads in some of your favorite podcasts, but Curley said only 1.4% of podcasts have ads. Meanwhile, he suggested that “subscription services are the most fair and predictable way for creators to make money,” and that “if 50% of podcast listeners paid for ad-free shows — creators would make $3.7 billion/year, nearly 6x more than ads made in 2019.”

So Podhero has launched its own subscription podcast app, but unlike Luminary — which has been criticized for taking a more closed approach to the previously open podcast ecosystem — it’s not trying to lure listeners to pay for exclusive content. Instead, it’s taking something closer to the Patreon approach of financially supporting creators.

Of course, podcasters can already ask for support via Patreon, but Curley argued that the service isn’t right for many podcasters, due to the extra work involved, the 8% cut taken by Patreon, the pressure to create bonus content and the fact that they simply don’t like asking for money.

Podhero is supposed to make it easier for both the podcaster and the listener, who pays a $5.99 subscription fee every month. That includes an optional $1 fee for Podhero, plus $4.99 that’s divvied up among podcasts.

Podhero will automatically create a list of podcasts based on your listening activity, but you can adjust the list and the percentages at any time. And Curley isn’t fully giving up on sharing as a discovery mechanism — listeners can also recommend podcast episodes, which affects their payouts as well.

While Podhero is launching today, the company says it’s already populated with more than 1 million podcasts. Most of those podcasters don’t work with Podhero — for example, TechCrunch’s podcasts are in the app even though we don’t have a business relationship. Curley told me via email that if a podcaster isn’t working with the startup yet, any money contributed by fans will be saved for whenever they claim their Podhero profile.

“We may have to do something with unclaimed money at some point, but [that’s] not a problem we’ll be worrying about for some time,” he said.