🚧 Podcast as a Product: Mindful Voices

🧘🏽 New Project: Mindful Voices

🔗 Website: mindfulvoices.co

🗓️ Build time: 4 weeks

💰 Build cost: $100USD

💻 Tech Stack: Jekyll, Now, Zeit, Stripe, AWS, Zapier, Mailchimp, Soundcloud

What is it?

Mindful Voices is a website that sells and delivers mindfulness meditations and nidras through private RSS feeds.

Mindfulvoices.co is an example of a cart-less JAMstack ecommerce solution. The website is built with Jekyll, deployed with Now on Zeit, and integrated with Zapier. The payments are processed by Stripe Checkouts and the files are self-hosted with AWS.

Total build cost was approximately US$100 with ongoing monthly costs of US$55.

An image from Notion

How does it work?

1. An order for a meditation album is placed on mindfulvoices.co using Stripe Checkouts.

2. A Stripe charge triggers an order confirmation email from Gmail, handled by Zapier.

3. The customer receives the email which contains the private podcast link. They can copy the link into their favourite podcast app and immediately access the tracks.

What issues have you faced?

In terms of the website build and the tech stack, there have been several issues—many of which are unresolved. Version 1 of the site is by no-means a long term solution. The point of the current site is to test the viability of the products and to see if the business can make money. The ecommerce component of the site is straightforward. The main issues relate to sharing and consumption of private podcasts.

At this time, most podcast apps still allow private podcast links to be shared. This means that a customer can order and share their link with all of their friends and family and there is nothing that can be done. While we can kill an RSS feed on a regular basis, we still cannot track whether a feed has been shared. This is something that I hope to resolve in the near future. Ideally, a custom customer feed will be generated once an order is placed and you will be able to track the link to determine if it is shared. If it is shared more than a few times, the link can be automatically killed.

On the consumption side, the challenge is to get customers to download the tracks rather than stream them. The bottom line is that AWS will be our main expense. If we can encourage customers to download the tracks, we will save a lot of money. While we are testing things, we will allow both downloads and streaming, but we will likely make it compulsory to download once the feeds are custom generated.

Why not create an app?

Ignoring the development cost for a second, the main reason is that I did not want to compete with the current meditation apps on the market like Calm and Headspace. It is impossible to compete with their value proposition. In my own experience, the paradox of choice presented by these apps creates more anxiety than it quells.

My theory with delivering audio through a podcast app is that there will be less resistance to trying a product when people already have an app on their phone - like Apple Podcasts. It was also our intention to knock "meditating" off it's pedestal. No tracking your streaks. No daily reminders.

What improvements do you hope to make?

This is version one. I want to rebuild both the ecommerce site and the private podcast site with Next.js in the near future.

In general, I am less interested in Mindful Voices as a concept and more interested in creating an effective JAMstack solution for small creators.

In a dream world, I would like to roll out a solution that will allow small creators to sell back-catalogues and continue to make money after they have finished creating. What if a musician could use this technology to sell and distribute their music? What is a podcaster with 300 episodes is able to sell access to their past episodes? What if a lecturer is able to sell access to past lectures?

Why don’t you use a subscription model?

I wanted to move away from the monthly subscription model and give customers the feeling of ownership again. Customers will own the tracks and will not have to pay ongoing subscription fees to listen.

The challenge is that private podcast solutions are focused on future content and making money from active subscribers. This model works as long as a creator continues to make and release content. What happens, however, when a creator stops? Overnight, that creator will lose all of his or her subscribers and an entire revenue stream. It makes sense, once someone stops releasing content, they stop making money. However, almost everyone in this space seems to ignore or overlook the value of back-catalogues. Not everything is conducive to a subscription model—meditations are one of those things.

What next?

I will post a more detailed overview of how everything works in the coming weeks. I am thinking about breaking it into two posts:

  1. Building a JAMstack alternative to Shopify for digital downloads
  2. Using podcasts to monetize content and mobilize an audience

If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @alishadaya or email dotalisha@gmail.com.

Related Reading

🔗https://a16z.com/2019/05/23/podcast-ecosystem-investing-2019/

This post by Li Jen @ Andreessen Horowitz touches on a lot of beliefs that we held when we started Mindful Voices. My main takeaways are: