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The App Making Communities for Podcast Fandoms

Podcast fandoms have been growing fast, and listeners are looking for community—this app wants to be the one-stop spot for them to interact…


In recent years, young listeners have been fueling the podcast industry. YPulse’s  most recent entertainment survey found that 62% of 13-39-year-olds listen to podcasts, with 26% reporting that they listen to podcasts every week. We also found that 44% of 16-34-year-old podcast listeners listen to ads on podcasts, and more and of course, more brands have been tapping into the space as a way to market to young listeners. 

A lot of podcasts have become so big that they’re releasing their own merch to build on their popularity. According to Wall Street Journal, popular programs like “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “Crime Junkie,” and “Stuff You Should Know” have “robust social media followings,” garner tens of millions of downloads per week, and sold out of live records pre-pandemic—and now many of their fans have been showing off their support through t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, or mugs. Stitcher reports that merch sales for their shows like “WTF with Marc Maron” and “Freakonomics Radio” are “doubling” every year. They compared some of their coffee mug drops, which sometimes sell out in hours, to “the frenetic hype around the release of Air Jordan sneakers.” 

It’s clear that fandoms around podcasts have formed, and they’re of course finding ways to connect: Fans have created Facebook groups devoted to podcasts as a way to connect with other fans—and make new friends. Now, a new venture wants to create a space devoted to podcast fandoms, and make the experience of listening to the podcast itself more communal. Shuffle is an app trying to bring fans together to discover and connect over some of the world’s best ideas and stories found in podcasts. In the app, users can listen to their favorite podcasts and discuss them in real time with other fans, as well as react to them with comments and “crazy emojis.” Podcasters and fans alike can also join communities and share viral, short clips from long podcasts. After launching their public beta mode last October, the app has been backed by top investors in Silicon Valley including executives at Instagram, Facebook, Uber, and Coinbase. 

We spoke with Shuffle Co-Founder Ada Yeo about how the app is bringing together podcast lovers, whether young listeners really are tuning into podcasts more during the pandemic, and more: 

YPulse: How did Shuffle get started?

Ada Yeo: Shuffle was started from the simple problem of loving podcasts and having no easy way to share and discuss them with others. I tried everything between me and my co-founder, Gilbert, including emailing time-stamps and trying to have a podcast discussion on Google Docs. We looked around and realized there was a huge opportunity to unbundle passionate podcast communities from places like Reddit, Discord, and Facebook groups where they are currently happening, and bundle them into a podcast player where they should be taking place.

YPulse: How does Shuffle work?

AY: Shuffle’s mission is to make podcasts more fun by listening and reacting to a podcast as part of a community. Think thoughtful comments, funny memes, GIFs, and flying emojis—right in the player experience itself. No more chuckling to yourself or wondering who you can discuss something you just heard with—just use Shuffle to check out authentic reactions from the community.

YPulse: What made you want to target the podcast listeners market?

AY: We believe audio is going to be a trend over the next decade given the emergence of new hardware like airpods, smart speakers, etc. At the same time, the podcast experience has not evolved since Steve Jobs announced it in 2005. Every single podcast player today is just a glorified skin over a play and pause button. We think it’s time for a new social experience in this golden age of rich media.

YPulse: Are you seeing that more young consumers are turning to podcasts during the pandemic?

AY: Absolutely! The Infinite Dial 2021 said that 56% of the U.S. population aged 12-34-year-olds listened to a podcast last month in 2021 compared to 34% just four years ago. And this is backed up by user data. We’ve talked to hundreds of podcast fans who’ve said that podcasts have helped them feel like they’re hanging out with friends again.

YPulse: What are some trends you’re seeing when it comes to what young listeners are looking for in podcasts?

AY: This isn’t surprising, but many younger people are looking for a sense of community online. We all want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and podcasts are an especially great way for people to connect over shared ideals, interests, or just inside jokes. Podcasts are something that’s also deeply personal, given that the host spends a couple hours a week talking directly to you — and one of my favorite things is seeing fans bonding on Shuffle.

YPulse: What should brands know about Shuffle?

AY: Shuffle’s mission is to make podcasts more fun by listening and reacting to a podcast as part of a community. We believe in the power of community and people connecting with each other over shared interests. If it’s not already top of mind, brands should know that podcast advertising is a great way to tap into a highly engaged audience.

YPulse: What’s next for Shuffle?

AY: We’re just getting started. We’re building a lot more features to help fans express themselves around podcasts —think flying emojis, custom stickers, and inviting your friends to a room (i.e. episode). We’re also getting a lot of interest from podcasters who’d like a really easy way for their fans to gather, without having to set up a separate place they have to maintain like Reddit, Discord, etc.

Ada Yeo is CEO and Co-founder at Shuffle, where podcast fans listen to and react to their favorite podcasts. Shuffle is home to hundreds of active podcast communities and authentic reactions from fans.