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Spotify is launching Apple-like ratings for podcasts

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If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you’ve probably heard a host ask you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts in their end credits. Now, that script might flip to “leave a review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.”

Spotify announced today that it’s implementing a five-star rating system, similar to Apple’s, in an attempt to improve podcast discovery. The company said this feature will roll out in the coming days in nearly all markets where podcasts are on Spotify.

Spotify told TechCrunch that unlike Apple, this feature will only support star ratings at this time — you cannot yet write a written review of a show.

Spotify wrote in a blog post that it’s intention is to “give listeners an opportunity to support their favorite podcast shows and enable a two-way feedback loop between creator and listener.” But, after seeking out five-star Apple reviews since the advent of the podcasting medium, podcasters are wary about how much star ratings actually help them promote their shows.

It’s a welldocumented myth in podcasting that getting lots of ratings and reviews in your first few weeks after launch can improve your chances of getting listed on Apple Podcasts’ coveted “New and Noteworthy” chart, which could jump-start your show’s growth. Besides, professional podcasters have pointed out that Apple itself says that ratings and reviews don’t influence charting.

A representative from Spotify told TechCrunch, “Ratings are a great way for prospective listeners to quickly gauge a show’s quality, but at this point (as we’re in early days for this feature), a show’s rating is not factored into podcast charts or personalized recommendations.”

So, this is a tool to show what fans think of a podcast, but as of now, not something that can help shows get on Spotify’s charts or curated lists.

Anchor, the podcast creation platform that Spotify bought in 2019, offered suggestions in a blog post about how podcasters can encourage listeners to leave a rating“Do you like this show? Let us know by leaving us a rating on our Spotify show page,” one example says. 

“As a creator, I can see this feels like a marketing move,” said Eric Silver, Head of Creative at Multitude Productions, an independent podcasting collective. “I don’t tell people to rate and review on Apple Podcasts at all because I know it doesn’t do anything other than make me feel good.”

It’s a similar marketing tactic to Spotify Wrapped, which trended across social media earlier this month — it’s fun to share your music and podcast listening habits with your friends, but at the same time, it’s a big PR success for Spotify.

Even though Spotify’s new rating system won’t impact distribution, Silver says that he will probably encourage listeners to rate Multitude shows on Spotify, at least for a few weeks. Spotify recently surpassed Apple Podcasts in US podcast listenership — so if a large portion of potential audience members are going to see that rating right when they navigate to your show’s page, it makes sense to ask fans to rate your show.

YouTube, TikTok, and other creative platforms show potential audience members, right off the bat, how many followers you have. But you don’t know how many downloads and subscribers a podcast has unless the podcaster tells you. Even though ratings and reviews are an indication of popularity, this differentiates the podcasting industry from other more algorithmically-driven media, like video.

“Theoretically, the algorithm is supposed to help you. But isn’t this the tech conversation of our age?” said Silver. “It’s so complicated. It’s not just like, ‘Well, I wish there was an algorithm so there’s more discovery,’ but then the opposite is when you have an issue like YouTube and TikTok.”

Creators on platforms like YouTube and TikTok are incentivized to make content that they think the algorithm likes, perhaps more so than what they think their audience will like. But even in media, that’s less algorithm-dependent, like podcasting and even Twitch streaming, there are still inherent biases. Earlier this year, when Twitch payout data was leaked, it was revealed that the highest-paid woman streamer, Pokimane, is only the 39th highest paid on Twitch. Podcasting isn’t known for its diversity either.

Even though Spotify isn’t using podcast ratings for algorithmic recommendations yet, it could be part of a larger plan to make it easier to find podcasts. Spotify acquired Podz earlier this year to try to promote podcast discoverability.

In the short term, this is a clever move from Spotify to get podcasters to tell their audiences to go on Spotify, since they will need to make their show look good through ratings. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but as Spotify and Apple compete for the greater share of the podcasting ecosystem, creators can feel like their livelihoods are caught in the middle of a larger tech race.

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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