Like many serial entrepreneurs, JJ Ramberg had been kicking around some startup ideas and was actively working on one in particular — an app for podcast fans — before the pandemic started.
Now that 95% of the country is stuck at home, she and her co-founder, brother Ken Ramberg, have decided to launch the app, dubbed Goodpods, which acts as both a podcast player and a social network where you can see the podcasts that friends, influencers and podcasters are listening to.
Ramberg, the former host of the show “YourBusiness” on MSNBC, says the timing just seemed right. A beta version of the app has been available for a few months, and the two were planning an official launch in the not-so-distant future. But with shelter-in-place rules in effect — she is currently holed up with her husband and three children — people are actively searching out reliable sources of information and entertainment.
So without further ado, Ramberg launched Goodpods in an Instagram post last Thursday, asking followers to spread the word and sending a “big hug” to all. She even asked her kids to create a Goodpods commercial as a homeschooling project. “We changed our marketing message because the ones we had written before had lots of exclamation points,” she says. “We’re talking to a different world now.”
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Making Podcasts Discoverable
Ramberg says she was inspired to create the app because she knows — as a former podcast host herself — how difficult it can be for people to discover podcasts. There are an estimated 900,000 shows and 30 million podcasts episodes as of January 2020, according to research.
During her 12-year run on Your Business, which went off the air in December 2018, she had her own NBC News-distributed podcast, but still found it difficult to get the word out. “It’s not traditional media. It’s a whole different thing,” she says. While she would mention particular podcast episodes on her TV show, “by the time you’re going out for a run, you’ve forgotten the name of it.”
Enter the app, which allows a user to check out other people’s profiles to see which podcast series or episodes they like, and then listen to them right then and there via the app’s player. A user can also share favorite podcasts, with comments, on a feed — something akin to a “Twitter for podcasts,” according to Ramberg. She and her brother have used connections to sign up a number of high-profile users, including Kim Karsdashian, ABC News’ Dan Harris and popular author Rachel Hollis.
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The venture is not the first for the brother-sister team. In 2005, the two launched Goodsearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine that raised money for charity. They ultimately expanded it into a socially conscious coupon aggregator called Goodshop, a 30-employee site whose day-to-day operations is now managed by a CEO.
Goodpods is self-funded, and the Rambergs have relied on a team of internal and external designers and engineers to build the platform. “I wish I were able to do it myself, but that is not my strength,” Ramberg says. “We’re still in Version 1.0 — every week we’re adding new features.” They are also still working on Goodpods’ Android app, which they expect to release in coming weeks.
In the past, Ramberg has juggled a television career with startup life. After her MSNBC show ended, she spent a chunk of 2019 hosting a BBC documentary series called “Follow the Food.”
But these days, she is no longer working in TV. As a mom, Ramberg jokes that her current job during the coronavirus quarantine is “homeschooler and short-order cook” but other than that, it’s Goodpods all the time.
“I am 100% focused on making this work,” she says, in part because she is a user herself. “There is so much going on in the world right now – so many sad things, so many heartwarming things. When I’m desperate for information or some sort of entertainment, it’s useful to me to see what friends are listening to. It is super helpful.”
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