If it seems like everyone is listening to the same podcasts, that’s probably not a coincidence. Audio-based entertainment and social media is more popular than ever right now, but the medium is still plagued by discovery issues. While hit podcasts soar in popularity, expand their media empires and secure major brand deals, it’s difficult for up-and-coming shows to find an audience.
Racket is interested in figuring that out. Out in the App Store now on iOS, Racket provides a TikTok-esque endless vertical feed of audio snippets that are all 99 seconds or less. Anyone can easily edit audio in the app, pair a recording with relevant tags, add a cover image and publish it — a process that can take less than a minute.
The company is also announcing a $3 million round of pre-seed funding from investors including Greycroft, Foundation Capital and LightShed Ventures. Angel investors including YouTuber LaurDIY, Jason Calacanis and Steve Schlafman also contributed to the funding. Racket plans to put the funds to use to hire more engineers, fine-tune its design and expand its trust and safety resources.
Racket’s team has been together since 2019 after working previously on a software review company Capiche, which sold to SaaS-buying platform Vendr in April of this year. After that, the team stayed intact, started experimenting with audio and came up with Racket.
Racket CEO Austin Petersmith believes in the untapped potential of user-created audio. In a conversation with TechCrunch, Petersmith compared podcasting to other genres of content creation, arguing that if 100 million people make videos on TikTok and right now we’ve only got 1 million people podcasting then audio is nowhere near maturity.
The Racket team believes there are barriers to entry in audio that hold the medium back. "Having this really, really narrow set of people making this content is kind of strange,” Petersmith said. “It’s nearly impossible for new podcasts to break through."
Racket aims to reduce that friction by shortening the format, making the editing process dead simple and building around discovery from the get go. By capping Racket’s audio snippets at 99 seconds, the app hopes to encourage more people to tell jokes and share their stories without worrying about crafting a lengthy, produced audio show.
“We've tried to lower the stakes so people feel more okay with imperfections and not having fancy equipment,” Petersmith said, likening Racket’s format to a tweet-length podcast.
You can find and follow people you know, but Racket is mostly about stumbling onto stuff you didn’t know you were looking for. Users can search “Rackets” for relevant tags or just throw the dice and swipe through to see what turns up. "We believe we can increase the top of the funnel for people who have really interesting, insightful things to say … that otherwise might not have been shared,” Petersmith said.
Like any social platform, Racket’s success will live and die by the content people wind up making there. The app just went live, but during its testing period the team saw a small subcommunity of comedians taking interest in the format and inviting one another. Petersmith expects that other communities interested in the unique format will spread the word organically.
People often listen to podcasts while doing something rote like laundry or commuting, but depending on how you want to use it, Racket has a bit more of an active feel, again akin to TikTok, but for audio. You can actively swipe through to find stuff you’d like and hop into a comments section, but you can also just stick your phone in your pocket and let the feed play through whatever comes up. For now, that content will feel pretty random, but if podcasts are too long-winded for you that might be a good thing.
"We want to provide a platform for people who aren’t just interested in staring at their screen all the time,” Petersmith said.