Automattic Acquires Pocket Casts

Automattic has acquired Pocket Casts, a popular podcast listening, search, and discovery app for Android and iOS. Australian co-founders Russell Ivanovic and Philip Simpson are staying on to continue leading Pocket Casts as a part of the acquisition.

The app allows users to keep all of their podcast subscriptions together in one place and sync between platforms. Previously a commercial-only app, Pocket Casts has been free since it switched to the freemium model in September 2019. Its creators have been monetizing the app through its Pocket Cast Plus tier, which gives users access to desktop apps, cloud storage, watch playback, and themes and icons for $9.99/year.

In May 2018, Pocket Casts was acquired by public media organizations NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago, and This American Life. BBC Studios also held a small ownership stake in the platform prior to Automattic's acquisition.

Despite being widely regarded as one of the best podcasting apps available, NPR's financial statements and auditor's report from 2020 shows a net loss of more than $800K. The board governing the company met in December 2020 and agreed to sell Pocket Casts.

No financial details of the acquisition were disclosed but Automattic may have gotten a bargain on Pocket Casts if its other owners were also losing money. After acquiring Tumblr and Day One, Automattic is starting to gain a reputation for buying up apps that people love to use and giving them a fighting chance at financial stability and longevity. The company has also demonstrated a growing interest in podcasting-related technologies with its recent investment in Castos and partnership with Spotify's Anchor podcast creation platform.

Acquisition announcements often include assurances of no changes for current customers but Automattic's post made no promises and did not share many details regarding its plans for Pocket Casts. Integration with .com may be on the horizon but it's currently in the exploration stage.

“As part of Automattic, Pocket Casts will continue to provide you with the features needed to enjoy your favorite podcasts (or find something new),” Automattic's Head of Apps Eli Budelli said. “We will explore building deep integrations with and Pocket Casts, making it easier to distribute and listen to podcasts. We're thrilled that we can continue to give our users a multitude of ways to tell and engage with stories that matter.”

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