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?

Llanelli Star - - TECH NOW - With Justin Con­nolly

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

Glenn Close

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