Ask an expert: AI and user engagement
As co-founders of Entale, Claire Roberts and Hannah Blake are at the forefront of exciting changes in podcast user engagement. Voted by Apple as the number one podcast app, Entale is changing the game by incorporating artificial intelligence into its platform to take listeners on a voyage of discovery.
We sat down with Claire and Hannah to learn:
- How podcast interactivity radically improves user engagement
- Tips for increasing customer retention rates in the podcast world
- What it looks like for a startup to compete with the big players
Can you give us an overview of what Entale does?
Hannah Blake: What we do is provide a more interactive listening and discovery experience for podcast consumers. Anyone that uses Entale can interact with content that’s relevant to what’s being spoken about within the conversation and use that as a starting point for finding other podcasts. For example, if a movie is mentioned, we provide you with the trailer that you can view as well as the IMDb rating and information about who’s in that movie. If you’re really interested in a book or a movie, you can click on the entity that we’ve surfaced within a podcast, and we’ll show you relevant conversations in other podcasts that are discussing that topic.
It really takes you down a rabbit hole of discovery, allowing you to move much more broadly through the podcast network. Say you’re listening to a movie review podcast and they’re talking about Tiger King. You can then use the extra content to discover podcasts that talk about big cat conservation, and in turn, that could take you to a podcast about leopard print fashion, and then a podcast that talks about Louis Theroux because he put together documentaries similar in style to Tiger King.
For us, that is really transformational in terms of allowing people to discover podcasts. Something that makes us different to everyone else in the market is that by linking to external sources, we’re creating this unique knowledge graph that allows people to better understand how conversations relate to other conversations. It takes you on a more interesting discovery journey.
So who is the target audience for Entale?
HB: We have over 1 million podcasts on our app so there’s something for everyone. Given our interactive approach we tend to appeal more to millenial/gen z audiences who are used to having everything at their digital fingertips. We particularly appeal to students and those with curious minds who use our collections feature as a way to curate the things they’ve listened to in order to supplement their academic studies. They can choose a specific topic and build a collection around it, whether it’s just snippets or interesting episodes.
What are the biggest business challenges you’re facing right now?
HB: When you’re a small startup, it’s very difficult to scale quickly. You have constraints around team size, funding, etc. So that would be our main challenge, particularly since the podcast market is moving very quickly and large companies such as Apple and Spotify are becoming increasingly interested in the space. We actually see this as a benefit though: being small and relatively constrained, we have to be laser-focused. And by being that focused, we’re able to deliver a unique proposition that the other larger companies just aren’t really thinking about.
Can you share a little about the roles you’re in? What does your day-to-day look like?
Claire Roberts: My title is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, and the “product” part really involves managing the entire conception, design and build process for a whole suite of products. I’m involved with anything from the “old-school” editor tools that we were originally developing, to the native iOS app, to the AI suite.
On a typical day, we have a stand-up at 10am where we catch up with the whole team. We’re a team of nine, so it’s small enough that we can go through the tech stuff in detail. Everyone’s able to ask questions, and we have a team understanding of what everyone’s up to.
The rest of my day will be a mixture of digging through Mixpanel to measure performance of a recent release, internal meetings around new AI projects, planning and testing new features, and looking at long-term strategy so we can constantly differentiate what we’re building.
HB: My role is Co-founder and CEO. I am focused on finding ways to raise awareness of what we do at Entale and to grow the business via strategic partnerships and broader marketing channels.
Like all founders, no two days are the same! Some days I’m working with podcasters and helping them to create shows for our platform, and on other days I’ll be working with publishers, influencers, and content creators to help them understand how they can get the most from Entale. I will also work with digital platforms like Facebook or TikTok to get effective paid marketing campaigns going.
The way that Claire and I work together is that I look externally for audiences and users, figure out the best channels with which to acquire them and what brand message we should be conveying to appeal to our target audience. Once they come into the app then Claire’s role is to figure out how people move through and interact with the product and most importantly how we ensure they stay with us. We work together to figure out the best way of getting users on the platform and then figuring out their behavior, how we can retain them, and what methods we can use to make that cycle efficient. And that’s where we use Mixpanel a lot in our conversations. We use it to communicate what’s going on and start off conversations between team members.
What metrics are you currently using to track business health, and what are the key metrics that you’re reporting on?
CR: Retention Rate has always been our north star, but as we’ve been more focused on growth metrics, Activated Users has become a very important metric to us. We look at new user funnels every week, and we keep an eye on the percentage of people viewing presented content versus how much we’re generating. And then there’s the percentage of listening time where people are interacting with the content as well, just to make sure we’re generating valuable content for an episode. We might think what we have is good, but if someone only engages with one piece or flags anything, then we need to ask “what’s wrong with it?”
And how are you seeing some of those core metrics change over time?
CR: Fluctuations in retention have told us some interesting things. For example, we might have a successful show, and the people that like it will come back again and again, and their retention stats will be very good, but that might actually mask some underlying changes. One of the most interesting things lately has been around the Collections feature that we’ve launched. It’s a key feature for us–with cohort analysis we’ve found the people using it have a much higher retention rate. So now we’re really trying to push people to use that feature. Mixpanel helps us see those rates by cohort and has been really helpful.
Growth is something we’ve recently started to focus on, as historically we really wanted to get the feature set right before we pushed too hard on our user adoption strategy. By monitoring New Users and our Activated User funnels each week, we’re gathering info that will help us determine that course in the future.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
HB: We’ve got loads to be excited about. Despite the obvious challenges over the last year, what it has allowed us to do is to be really focused on building out our technology in order to deliver on our USP. To see that hard work reflected in our growing user base is really exciting.
CR: I’m a little closer to the AI side, so for me, pushing us down this route of being right on the cutting edge, that’s where we’re headed — to be respected as a serious tech company in the podcast space.
HB: Yeah, and as two women in an audio company, there’s never been a better time to do it. I think when you’re in a small company, you’re always aware of the challenges, but there’s never been a better time to build a tech audio AI startup.
Finally, what’s something a little different in your work that you’re excited about?
HB: We just wrapped up a project with the Alan Turing Institute, which was a collaboration to develop new recommendation pipelines using some of our data. They’re an incredible institute to work with, and we’re excited to reveal more about our work with them soon.
One other thing would be just how useful it is to work with a platform like Mixpanel. We were able to create some totally new metrics that we didn’t have an industry marker for, and so creating a new benchmark category has been really exciting.