Scout.fm wants to change the way people listen to podcasts. Instead of scouring through the over 500,000 shows in your current podcast app, this startup’s new curated podcast service will just ask you a few questions to find out what you like, then create a podcast station customized to you. The experience is primarily designed for use on smart speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices, but is also available as iOS and Android applications.

The company was founded just over a year ago by Cara Meverden (CEO), previously of Google, Twitter, Indiegogo, and Medium; along with Saul Carlin (president and COO), previously head of publisher development at Medium, and before that, Politico; and Daniel McCartney, (CTO) previously an engineer at GrubHub, Klout and Medium.

At Medium, Meverden explains, they saw an explosion of people creating great written content; but now those publishers had begun to create great audio content, as well.

But unlike on Medium, which helps to guide readers to topics they like, people today have to seek out new podcasts for themselves. Scout.fm wants to offer a better system, and hopefully bring more listeners to podcasts as a result.

“We want to take podcast listening mainstream,” she says. “We think the key to that is making podcasts as easy to listen to as the radio – and we think that’s even more critically important, as we enter the smart speaker era.” 

The Scout.fm service began as a series of experiments on Alexa.

The company launched over 30 Alexa skills, including a “Game of Thones”-themed podcast radio that was popular while the show was airing on HBO. The goal was to test what worked, what topics and formats drew listeners, and gain feedback through calls-to-action to participate in user surveys.

The result is Scout.fm, a curated podcast service that’s personalized to your listening preferences – and one that improves over time.

Here’s how it works on the Alexa platform. You first launch the app by saying “Alexa, open Scout fm.” The app will respond (using a human voice actor’s voice, not Alexa’s) by explaining briefly what Scout.fm does then asks you to choose one of three types of talk radio stations: “Daily news, brain food, or true stories.”

The first is a news station, similar to Alexa’s “Flash Briefing;” the second, “brain food,” focuses on other interesting and informative content, that’s not day-to-day news; and the last is a true crime podcast station.

The voice app will then ask you a few more questions as part of this setup process to find out what other subjects appeal to you by having you respond, on a scale of one to ten, how much of a history buff you are, or how much you’re interested in culture, like art, film and literature, for example.

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