1. Who built Listen Notes?
A one-person team built Listen Notes.
I am Wenbin Fang
and I live in San Francisco.
I quit my day job from Nextdoor 855 days and 23 hours ago
(Dec. 2016). I've already incorporated Listen Notes, Inc.
Please feel free to reach out to me to say hi or bounce ideas:
2. Why do you build Listen Notes?
I'm an avid podcast listener. I listen to 5+ hours podcasts everyday.
I used to subscribe to only a few podcasts (10+), but I still couldn't listen to all episodes --
not every episode is worth listening in the same podcast.
I wished there was a tool that I could use to find a lot of episodes about a specific topic without subscribing to any podcasts.
Bad news: I couldn't find any good tools. Good news: I know how to write code.
Listen Notes is yet another "I can
build this in a weekend
"-ish project. It was started as a side project.
The more I work on it, the more I'm convinced that podcast
has a bright future and Listen Notes could play an important role in the podcast movement.
Podcast search engine is a humble start. You have Search first, then Maps, Docs, and Translate,
then self-driving car.
You know what I mean :)
next big thing will start out looking like a toy
big, start small, act fast
3. Why there are Ads on this website? Why do you need to make
When you become a grown-up, you will understand that we, as human beings, have to make money to survive in a civilized society.
If you have better ideas for monetization, or you want to advertise on this website,
email me: [email protected]
4. I'm a podcaster. I don't see my podcast on Listen Notes / I want
you to delete my podcast from your site...
If you don't see your podcast on Listen Notes,
please submit your podcast here
If you don't want your podcast to be listed on Listen Notes,
send me the url and I'll remove your podcasts within 12 hours: [email protected]
5. What technologies do you use to build Listen Notes?
You'll figure out there :)
6. Do you sell the podcast database? Do you provide API for developers to use?
We provide Listen Notes API
. But we don't sell the database.
7. What's next for Listen Notes?
I'm focused on three things right now:
a) Improve the podcast database and search engine; b) Improve Listen Later
c) Improve Listen API
I will explore more monetization ideas in a couple months to make Listen Notes financially sustainable as a company.
Again, if you want to support the development of Listen Notes,
you can donate some server time to Listen Notes
8. What if Apple or Google builds their own podcast search engine?
I'm always wondering why Yahoo didn't build a search engine in 1998,
or why Dropbox is better than Google Drive. Do you know why?
These big companies seem to have infinite resources and they seem to be able to build anything and crash anyone.
The question is, should they? The fact is, if a project is not on the top priority list of their decision maker,
then they would just send a B team, or C team to work on the project.
So usually, small startups are not competing with the big company. They are competing with B teams or C teams
the big company.
Podcast is a small market for Apple or Google for now. If they start to take podcast seriously,
then the podcast market is already big enough to allow multiple players to exist.
It's a healthy market if there are multiple choices for customers. There's Trader Joe's, there's Safeway, there's Whole Foods, and there are tons of mom and pop grocery stores.
As I said before, I initially built Listen Notes for myself.
I had no patience to wait for other companies to build a proper podcast search engine,
so I just built it on my own. It turns out that Listen
Notes is also useful for other people
If Apple or Google ever builds a better podcast search engine, then it's a good thing for the podcast industry
and podcast listeners. Before this happens, I hope Listen Notes can serve you well.
9. Can we do phone call, Skype, Google Hangouts, coffee...?
But I prefer asynchronous communication (why?
If you have anything specific to discuss, let's do email first: [email protected]
If you can't write down specific topics that you want to discuss with me in a short email message,
then it's unlikely that we'll have a productive conversation on phone or in person.
10. Do you use AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, NLP, Blockchain, or other
buzzword-fancy-tech in Listen Notes?
I use a few machine learning algorithms here and there. But it's not technical enough to be called "AI".
Most companies who brand themselves as "AI" companies are actually not technical enough.
It's just a shortcut to fool investors, customers, and journalists who don't know tech.
11. I'm building a similar podcast service now.
It's meaningless for both of us to build similar things at the same time...
Could we collaborate / merge / work together / combine our efforts / join forces?
Or could you stop building Listen Notes and join us?
Or could you be my CTO / lead engineer?
Or could you share your source code / database with me?
You may think this question is a joke. But it's real (or surreal). I get such emails every week.
People who sent such emails look like real human beings (from their LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Twitter...).
Some knowledge workers are just 10x (or even 1000x) more competent than others.
Instagram had just 13 employees when they got acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.
Craigslist has only a few dozen employees while making hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
PlentyOfFish was a one-person business when it generated tens of millions of dolloars revenue.
As knowledge workers, we oftentimes create value by knowing which button to push
, not by piling tons of time.
It's unlike doing manual labor. More people are not always more efficient.
Not everyone in this world considers that intangible software or data is valuable.
I read a Chinese book about Tencent
In 1999, Tencent was running out of money. They tried to sell their company for ¥3M (~$444k).
All potential acquirers refused to buy Tencent. Some were ignorant:
Tencent had only a few servers, some chairs and desks, so it won’t worth much.
Some were arrogant: Our engineers can easily build Tencent's software in a couple months.
Now, Tencent has similar market cap as Facebook.
12. I'm a podcaster. How can my podcast rank at top 1 in search results for keyword "XYZ",
"shopping", "insurance", "sports", "business", "dog", or whatever generic keywords?
tl;dr version: Keep up the good work of 1) producing awesome content, 2) writing informative show notes,
and 3) getting more listeners.
For Listen Notes, we index podcast meta data (title, publisher, show notes...) and some audio
Ranking is a complex topic. For any good search engines in general, ranking of search results is done in an
automatic & objective way.
Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
(btw, very good resource to learn
SEO) describes, your content need to demonstrate Expertise / Authoritativeness / Trustworthiness.
Ranking changes dynamically on Listen Notes, as we get new signals over time, e.g., # of clicks / plays on the
website, # of clips
/ listen later
# of estimate downloads from various external sources, recommendations on
blogs/online media... Just like other search engines, we can't reveal the exact ranking algorithm, as we don't
want people to game the system.
13. I'm a podcaster. I search my podcast name, but I don't see my episodes in the search results / the episodes are out of order / only a few episodes show up.
Your podcast name may be very generic (e.g., "You are welcome", "I like that"...) and is tough to rank high in the search results.
This may be a general SEO issue across different search engines.
Try searching your podcast name on Google, and see what you get.
By default, we sort search results by relevance. But you can change to sort by published date.
Please note that most people won't search your podcast name on Listen Notes.
Most people in the world don't know the existence of your show.
People search keywords like people's names, company names, topics...
They happen to come across individual episodes from unknown podcasts in the search results.
This is like we don't search "New York Times" on Google.
Instead, we search a person's name and we may find a web page from New York Times or some unknown websites.
14. How can I browse ALL podcasts of a genre?
No, you can't. There are just too many podcasts in the world. You can't browse them all.
That's why we provide a search engine for you.
Have you thought about this before: Why Google doesn't allow you to browse all websites of a genre?
15. I'm an investor. Are you raising money now?
Yes. I'm raising a small seed round to build a small technical team.
If you are interested (and are serious) to invest,
please answer these questions via email as proof of work -
1) Why Facebook bought Instagram for $1B in 2012, given that Instagram had only 13 full-time employees?
2) "The podcast market is too small and too crowded". What do you think?
3) If you were an investor in September 1998, would you invest in the 2-person Google with all the knowledge you had in 1998?
Please listen to this podcast
first, then explain your reasoning.
4) What's your Anti Portfolio
(you should be a decision maker)?
5) There are many other interesting podcast startups out there. Why Listen Notes?
16. Can you tell me how Listen Notes works? I'm an entrepreneur, and I want to build a competing product of Listen Notes /
I'm a VC, I want to invest in the podcast space. I want to pick your brain, but I can't tell you anything from my side.
It's 2019 now. It should be very straightforward to figure out how an online service works for people who know how to read.
Specifically, search engine is a well-understood technology in the 21st century.
You can learn how a search engine works by
reading a textbook
the PageRank paper
or even just the search engine Wikipedia entry
For any Listen Notes specific things, you can read our blog
our monthly newsletter