Product Fail #1 Audio Comments? DEEZ NUTZ!!!

Yeahh!! Let's celebrate our first significant #productfail moment at

When we set out to design our MVP, we purposely built it around the audio comment. For the first time, we thought, we could allow listeners to become co-creators of their favorite show. But the more we experimented in this direction, the more we ran into a problem: just because audio is increasingly popular doesn't mean everyone wants to be heard.

Of course it's important to design for extremes, and indeed our focus so far has been on the "super listener" — that audience member who wants to be part of the conversation, doesn't mind using their voice to speak up, and has self-confidence in spades to do so. We LOVE this kind of listener. At his best, his mere presence can make a podcaster feel seen. (Look! A a super fan! He exists!)

At his worst, though? That hypothetical audience member can seem more or less like a super brazen neighbor: the guy who has no problem walking straight through your front door, grabbing a beer from your kitchen, and hollering throughout the house while you’re still putting your pants on.

Not every "deez nuts" joke is a welcome interruption

We still believe strongly in the potential for audio comments for deepening engagement between podcast hosts and their listeners. Call-in radio shows have shown the value of this symbiotic relationship for years. But depending entirely on audio comments for engagement — especially without context, guidance, and a bit of handholding — is our first major #productfail.

Here's just a few problems with audio comments gone wild:

  • Unless they choose the right moment for engagement, listeners risk being ignored or feeling like they're speaking into a void.

  • It's not always clear who the comment is for.

  • They can be more of an interruption and distraction than anything else.

  • Listening is like Russian roulette: without voice to text transcription, you never know what you're going to get. After a few bad ones, people stop listening at all.

  • Leaving an audio comment can feel like giving a speech. There's a fear of getting it right/perfect which leads to people not doing it or canceling their comment after having tried.

The fact is: the majority of people are NOT that brazen neighbor! The median podcast listener might be closer to a good dinner guest. She RSVPs and shows up on time (e.g. to listen), she brings dessert when asked (e.g. leaves a review), and even laughs at your stupid jokes (e.g. reacts with an emoji.) As a host, you wouldn't want to make her feel like the party's success was dependent on her contributions alone. Most likely, you'd want her to feel both nourished and entertained. (Aren't you the charming host!)

That rush of recognition is somewhat an ego trip — but who doesn't love a mutual admiration society? And... who doesn't need to at least take a shower and check their hair in the mirror before they host a party?

To that end, we're re-thinking how we solicit engagement from a podcaster's audience — i.e. how we help him or her prepare to welcome guests into their home. We're focused on helping hosts augment their content for a deeply engaging experience: one where they can provide context to episodes, enhance the listening experience and solicit feedback at just the right time.

If done correctly, we're hopeful this will help hosts more elegantly engage even the most passive listener.

Because really, who couldn't use a wingman?