An all-star cast
Luminary has corralled some of the biggest names in podcasts... but can they get fans of the medium to start paying to listen?
PODCASTING is a booming business and has been for some time – almost 20% of people in the UK have listened to one in the last month and all the stats are growing.
This growth has almost gone under the radar – most people are surprised when you tell them there are more than half a million podcasts available on Apple’s podcast network alone, perhaps half as many again if you take other platforms into account.
Podcasting is the indie kid in the room, despite many of the big broadcasters – like the BBC and the New York Times – featuring in the top 10s regularly.
And the best podcasts have thrived… making a lot of money for those that produce them. This money has always been made through advertising. Until now. Yes, someone wants to make you pay for podcasts.
Luminary is a new service that launched this week, backed by $100m of venture capital cash, and is one of the first podcast networks to ask you to pay a monthly fee to listen to its exclusive shows.
There are two parts to Luminary – the first is an app. It’s available for iOS and Android, and works like any of the other podcast apps, pulling in feeds of available podcasts from across the internet that you can subscribe and listen to in the app.
There you will find a lot of your favourites waiting for you including a small selection of the BBC’s, and the big hitters from across the Atlantic like This American Life and Serial.
I expect the range available to increase as the app begins to populate its feeds over time.
What you won’t find are podcasts from Spotify’s growing network, or The Daily from the New York Times (which is one of the most popular podcasts across the planet). That’s because they don’t like the second part of Luminary’s business plan.
The premier tier of membership, which costs £6.99-a-month, offers access to around 40 shows that are exclusive to the Luminary network.
These include some that were already out there – like the excellent Hollywood & Crime, which tells the
stories of some grisly episodes in Tinseltown’s murky past – and some new ones commissioned especially for Luminary.
These 40 will be accessible only through the premier tier of Luminary’s service, and therefore only on the Luminary app.
The new podcasts look quite compelling – there’s a show from The Daily Show presenter Trevor Noah, one from Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, a musical podcast called Anthem: Homunculus that stars Glenn Close, and an exclusive from podcast veteran Russell Brand.
How will it all work out? Well, a short test of the Luminary app proved a little frustrating. It was a bit buggy and confusing, as well as being plastered with lots and lots of suggestions that I sign up for the subscription (the first month is free and you can cancel at any time).
I think it unlikely that anyone who likes podcasts enough to want to pay for them will want Luminary to be their main podcast app in its current form – there are lots of great podcast apps out there (try Overcast, or Castro).
And the lack of some of the real big hitters might put people off, too.
But it’s an interesting attempt to try something new, and with deep pockets Luminary might be able to stay the course long enough to evolve into something more compelling.
Luminary will both curate existing pods and offer fresh content