1. Who built Listen Notes?
A one-person team built Listen Notes.
I am Wenbin Fang
and I live in San Francisco.
Feel free to drop me a line and kick around ideas at [email protected]
I quit my day job from Nextdoor 978 days and 19 hours ago
(Dec. 2016). I've already incorporated Listen Notes, Inc.
2. Why do you build Listen Notes?
Listen Notes was birthed out of a personal need. I'm an avid podcast listener. I listen to 5+ hours podcasts every day.
However, even when I subscribed to only 10 or so podcasts in the past, I still couldn’t listen to every single episode.
Besides, not all episodes are worth hearing. I longed for a tool that allowed me to search across plenty of podcast episodes surrounding a specific topic,
without the need to subscribe, scrub, and scroll through hours of audio.
The bad news was that I couldn’t find a good podcast search tool in early 2017.
The good news is that I know how to write code.
Listen Notes began as a side project.
It is yet another "I can
build this in a weekend
But the more I work on Listen Notes, the more I'm convinced that podcasting has a bright future —
and Listen Notes may play an important role in the podcast movement.
3. Why there are Ads on this website? Why do you need to make
If ads turn you off and you’re an avid ad blocker, I’m sorry. I get it.
From a bus driver to a hospice nurse to a website developer, everyone needs to make money from a job in order to survive.
The hours upon hours spent creating Listen Notes are well worth its value, so if you find Listen Notes useful,
please buy me coffee or donate some
time to Listen Notes
If you have better ideas for monetization, or you want to advertise on this website, email me:
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, and would like it listed, 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]
Please note that if a podcast is deleted from our podcast directory,
it will also disappear from
all apps that use our API
-- You may lose many listeners who use those apps.
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?
7. What's next for Listen Notes?
I'm focused on improving three things right now:
a) The podcast database and search engine; b) Listen Later
c) Listen API
If you want to support the development of Listen Notes,
please donate some server time
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 a top priority for decision makers,
they just send a B team or C team to work on it. So usually small startups are not competing with the big company.
They are competing with the B teams or C teams inside the big company.
Currently, podcasting is a small market for Apple or Google. When they begin viewing podcasts seriously,
the podcast market is already vast enough to allow multiple players to exist.
It's a healthy market if there are multiple choices for customers.
Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Whole Foods exist alongside tons of mom and pop grocery stores.
I built Listen Notes on my own, because I had no patience to wait for other companies to build a great podcast search engine.
And Listen Notes became useful to other people
If Apple or Google builds a better mousetrap, that’ll be a good thing for the podcast industry and listeners.
Until that sweet day, I hope Listen Notes serves you well.
9. Can we do phone call, Skype, Google Hangouts, coffee...?
Honestly, I prefer asynchronous communication.
If you have anything specific to discuss, let's do email first: [email protected]
I reply to most emails, oftentimes in minutes.
By writing specific topics that you’d like to discuss with me via a short email message,
we'll be more likely to have a productive exchange prior to a phone call or in-person conversation.
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 they are not technical enough to be called by a fancy-schmancy, futuristic-sounding artificial intelligence label that "AI" wannabes like to toss around.
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?
No, thanks. But "for real, for real" good luck with your business.
"We are not a large House, we are a proud one"
You may think these questions are jokes. But they are real! (More like surreal).
I open emails like these every week from real human beings, according to their profiles on LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Twitter, etc.
Certain knowledge workers are just 10x (or even 1,000x) more competent than others.
Instagram had just 13 employees when they were acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.
Craigslist has only a few dozen employees while making more than $1 billion dollars annually.
PlentyOfFish was a one-person business when it generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
As knowledge workers, we oftentimes create value by knowing which button to push
not by piling up tons of time. It's not like doing manual labor.
You cannot hire 10,000 writers to work together and hope they can magically write a book like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Not everyone in the world realizes that intangible software or data has value.
I read a Chinese book about Tencent
In 1999, Tencent was running out of money.
They tried to sell their company for ¥3M (~$444k US dollars).
All potential acquirers refused to buy Tencent.
Some were ignorant: Tencent had only a few servers, some chairs and desks,
so would-be suitors figured it wasn’t worth much.
Some were arrogant: Our engineers can easily build Tencent's software in a couple of months.
Now, Tencent has a market cap akin to Facebook.
12. I'm a podcaster. How can my podcast rank No. 1 in search results for keyword "XYZ",
"shopping", "insurance", "sports", "business", "dog", or other 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 a podcast’s metadata (title, publisher, show notes...) and some audio transcripts.
Ranking is a complex topic. For any good search engine in general, ranking of search results is done in an automatic & objective way. As described in
Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
- a very good resource to learn SEO, by the way -
your content needs to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and 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,
since we don't want people to game the system and force a podcast to the top spot.
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" or "I like that") and is therefore tough to rank highly in the search results.
This may be a general SEO issue across different search engines.
Try searching for your podcast name on Google, and see what results you get.
By default, we sort search results by relevance. But you can choose to sort by published date.
Please note that most people don't search for your podcast name on Listen Notes.
They may not know that your show exists.
People often search for individual names, companies, or topics.
That’s how they often find individual episodes from unknown podcasts in the search results.
It’s the same logic as not Googling for "New York Times" but instead querying "Tyler Perry" and discovering an article about him (maybe from unknown blogs).
14. How can I browse ALL podcasts of a genre?
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 doesn't Google allow you to browse all websites of a specific genre?
The answer is that there are too many sites!
15. I'm an investor. Are you raising money now?
No for now.
Yes. I'm raising a small seed round to build a small technical team.
If you are interested (and are serious) in investing, please answer these questions via email as proof of work:
1) Why did Facebook buy 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?
6) What were Microsoft's products between 1975 and 1980? If you were an investor in 1975, would you invest in Microsoft. Why or why not?
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.
We’re well into the 21st century, so it’s not too difficult to discover how an online service such as a search engine works.
Inquiring minds can uncover the well-documented technology of a search engine by reading a
the PageRank paper
or even the search engine Wikipedia entry
For any Listen Notes specific things, you can read our blog
our monthly newsletter
17. I'm a podcaster. Why should I put my podcasts on Listen Notes?
Listing your podcast on Listen Notes is beneficial -
the same logical reasoning that listing podcasts on iTunes or other podcast directories helps provide visibility.
It can help you gain listeners and give them one more avenue to find you.
The Listen Notes website draws ~1,480,000 pageviews/month.
More and more people use Listen Notes to search podcasts by topics,
where they may discover your podcast. This is similar to how people discover new websites on Google.
A greater amount of podcast apps and services
use our API to access our comprehensive podcast database.
Any podcasts listed on Listen Notes are immediately available via the apps and services that use our API.
In other words, if your podcasts are not listed on Listen Notes,
then your podcasts will not be accessible on a growing number of podcast apps and services.