Growing Player FM in 2017 and beyond: Gold Plan is coming

Player FM has continued to grow since its initial launch as a website in 2012. The app set out to do a lot of things differently from traditional podcatchers – a new kind of interface, an independent catalogue, sync between web and native. With over 2 million Android installs, a 4.5-star rating, and a ton of iterations, we’ve demonstrated these things were possible with just a couple of developers, but there’s still much more to do, and turn an app into a sustainable business.

In an ideal world, you’d slap on a price tag of few bucks and watch the cash roll in, but that’s not how apps work in 2017, nor how it worked when the app launched in 2013. Too many free options, they may not be the best available, but are “good enough” to bury newly launched paid apps into the netherworld of app store discovery. Furthermore, a one-time payment makes little sense for a product that relies on server resources 24-7 and aims to provide helpful human support, ongoing.

We will be introducing revenues with a recurring Gold plan subscription and limited advertising for free users.

Gold Plan

While we’re grateful to users have offered to donate to the app, it’s hard to build an app at scale purely from donations, especially one-time donations. For this reason, we are building a subscription-based Gold plan at $9.99/year [1]. It’s still a way for engaged users to support ongoing development, but will also work as a genuine premium experience.

We want to build a real premium experience with this, and we have a wide array of features in mind which would be too niche or costly to produce as part of the free version. Whether people will pay for this, we will find out, but one thing we do know is many people are happy to use the app daily in the absence of these features. That bodes well for the Gold plan, as it’s only viable to charge users who are happy, returning, users of the free app.

It’s still an important goal to keep producing a great free app. This is pertinent to the original goal of making podcasts easier and more accessible to a wide audience, and serves as the backbone for any in-app subscription model. The Gold plan will not be taking features away from the free app. It will be introducing new features. There are many genuine (i.e. “not contrived”) enhancements possible which aren’t present in the free version of the app, we hear about them every day. Some of these will become Gold features, some will become new free features, and the free version of the app will continue to be supported and improved upon.

“Cut to the chase, what are the Gold features?”

We’ll be sharing our plans for these in the beta community in coming months and building them out. Custom, cloud-sync’d, playlists will be first out the gate. This is a way to build a list of episodes in any order and optionally keep it offline. It may also be made public. Building and viewing these lists will be supported on both web and Android.

Also in the initial Gold plan will be local file management. This has been another often-requested feature, the ability to import media from the file system and manage and play it in the app. It’s convenient for people to keep their media within the one app, and will support the advanced audio controls – volume boost, silence skip, etc – for personal media.

The app’s most requested feature is full play position and play history sync, and this will also be delivered as part of the Gold plan later this year. Also in Gold plan will be the ability to import private/premium feeds. Both of these are examples of features which would be prohibitively expensive to operate for millions of free users – they entail significant storage and processing costs – but they are feasible for paid subscriptions. A lot more along those lines will be possible in the future.

Gold Plan will soft-launch as an early beta in a few weeks and we’ll be posting individual feature ideas and previews for feedback in the beta community.

Ads

We’ll also be experimenting with some advertising. Yes, ads can obviously be a terrible experience if not done carefully, and we’ll do what is possible to avoid annoyance or get in the way of the app’s main functions. The sad reality is that these kinds of ads don’t pay anywhere near as much, but we’d sooner delete the app from existence than make an app that spams users senselessly. Needless to say, we wouldn’t introduce ads without a way to turn them off, which Gold plan will make possible.

Player FM aims to make podcasting fun, intuitive, and personal. This next chapter should help us take more steps in that direction.

  1. The Gold plan was previously planned, but with limited subscriptions. We eventually decided that was too restricted, and put it on hold.

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