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Helping indie podcasters get paid

Castbox CEO Renee Wang has developed a new way to reward content creators

Helping indie podcasters get paid
Former Googler Renee Wang is using blockchain to allow fans to fund creators directly. [Photo: Chris Callaway]

The Problem

When Renee Wang’s three-year-old podcast listening platform, Castbox, began producing original audio content last year, the former Google advertising executive was introduced to every podcaster’s struggle: Ad revenue alone usually isn’t enough to fund a show, even if it has millions of listeners. She set out to develop a seamless way for subscribers to fund their favorite shows, while rewarding them for their loyalty.

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The Epiphany

Wang considered using a service like PayPal to let consumers back their favorite creators directly, but she decided that the process of leaving the app and going through a middleman would be too cumbersome for users and would undercut the podcasters’ profits. But blockchain, she realized, is decentralized, meaning users could send and receive money directly in the app, without linking out or going through a third-party service.

The Execution

In June, Wang equipped Castbox, which now produces 25 original shows, including the popular true-crime documentary spoof This Sounds Serious, with a custom-built payment system that allows consumers to purchase a premium subscription without leaving the app. She also hired four engineers to expand the payment system’s abilities by creating a blockchain ecosystem called Contentbox that’s now in beta.

The Result

With Contentbox, users are able to send and receive tokens from their in-app digital wallet. Those coins, which they can purchase and, eventually, earn by consuming and sharing podcasts, can be donated to participating creators (who, in turn, can exchange coins for cash). “I want to incentivize and compensate creators who make great content, whether that’s podcasts, music, or videos,” says Wang. She hopes to eventually partner with digital media companies so that they can use Contentbox’s payment system on their own platforms.

Castbox Podcast Originals

Don’t Mess With Christine Sydelko: A weekly pop-culture talk show hosted by the viral video star

Livin’ Large With Mark Dohner: YouTuber Dohner interviews people about what it takes to make it in Hollywood

Be.Scared: Weekly horror stories—some fictional, some not—from contemporary writers

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