Podcoin was a failed app, but there is a bright side
I love listening to podcasts. I even have one of my own on this site. Podcasts are an explosive new medium of communication that will continue growing in the years to come. That’s why I was disappointed to hear Podcoin, an app that awards points for listening, is about to close its service on September 24. Podcast apps come and go all the time, but Podcoin’s operation model made it stand out, and also likely caused its failure. The app allows listeners to build up points in exchange for gift cards, prizes and charitable donations. If it sounds too good to be true, for the most part, it was.
As soon as you start using it, you realize that you have to listen to podcasts a lot just to get the smallest prizes. For example, a measly $2 Amazon gift card could be redeemed for 1,200 podcoins. Listeners earn 1 podcoin every 10 minutes, so 200 hours of listening is required for $2 on Amazon, not to mention that $2 doesn’t get you very much on Amazon. There are opportunities to get more points for daily listening and sharing podcast on social media, but even the staunchest podcoin users like myself had a long way to go to getting a worthwhile prize. Gift cards to Amazon, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Google Play, Target, Athleta and a few more required much more effort than going out and spending a couple bucks anyway.
Now, the main argument was “you listen to podcasts anyway, so why not earn points.” But the fact remains that earning points required too much time for what ended up being very little reward. The highest prize (Bose Quietcomfort Headphones) required 120,000 podcoins, or 20,000 hours (833 days total). Combine this with the fact that it was free to use, it looks like Podcoin still could not afford to financially support its platform. The lack of ads made the app a nice alternative to other free podcatchers, but the tiring reward gimmick, along with the lack of playback speed adjustment, silence trimming, playlist making, and many other features that made it less attractive to podcast fans.
With all my complaints above, you might guess I hated trying out podcoin, but interestingly, I didn’t. I was glued to Podcoin for most of my podcast listening over 2 months. This wasn’t because it was a great podcatcher. It wasn’t because I really wanted those headphones. No, no, no. I simply liked earning points and tracking my listening.
Podcoin had elements of video games. This made earning points addicting and satisfying, even if they were meaningless in the end. I listened to more and more podcasts because I liked seeing my score and my daily total rise. The same feeling I get from earning a high score in video games is similar to the strange satisfaction of Podcoin. Unfortunately, it was all just a temporary experiment, and I have to move on to other apps as this one shuts down. Podcoin’s earning gimmick and zero-profit model made it destined to fail, but failure is always an opportunity for growth.
If anything, I’m glad I realized how much I love listening stats for my podcasts. I’ll surely be looking for this in the future. I didn’t get much from the app’s intended mission, but I know I didn’t waste my time. The same can be said for the developers, who I hope will learn from Podcoin as they venture onward.