One of the beautiful things about podcasting is that absolutely anyone can start a podcast with minimal outlay, and this has led to a thriving independent podcast scene. This also applies to hosting platforms, and while a couple of big names can often dominate the conversation, there is a rich market of providers catering to different use cases.
Mark Steadman is the founder of two of these platforms: Podiant, which was acquired by Castos in 2021, and Bramble, which was recently launched in beta. Rhianna Dhillon and Adam Shepherd spoke to Steadman about his relaxed approach to user growth, why he’s so focused on supporting independent podcasts, and his long-term plans for Bramble.
Keep the human touch
I've spent the last couple of years really helping a lot of people start their shows, and one of the things that I've realised that prevent people from starting shows often is that sense of someone actually holding them; of being that safety net, of making sure that they're not going to look silly, or that things are well conceived and well thought out, and I wanted to take those ideas and bring them through to Bramble as well, so make sure there's absolutely the human support behind the creator as well as the technical infrastructure.
On its face, you've got the digital aspect and the helping people with the infrastructure and the moving pixels and bits of audio around the internet. But then there's also very much the human aspect, which is why I picked a name like Bramble, because I wanted something that really spoke to the organic nature of what I wanted to do.
Don’t chase growth for its own sake
I want to be tweaking the platform and making little changes, and occasionally maybe slightly breaking something for five minutes - and doing all those things for a long time. If I became the CEO of BrambleCorp, um, I, and, and paid developers to, to do all those things, I would be spending all my time running what would feel to me like a generic business.
I want to be doing the stuff that I care about, and I wanna be able to spend my time between tinkering in a productive way, in ways that add features for people and add usability; working with people one-on-one, or in small groups, because I really enjoy that…. if that's what my life looks like for the foreseeable future, then I'm a success, and Bramble is a success.
Focus on the MVP
The initial build was from May to where we are now, in early October. There's still lots of bits that are still yet to build - so all the functionality that I've shown in the videos and things that I've put out is all there, but there's more interface things that need to be built, to just make it easier for users to be able to do certain things.
The AI stuff was probably one of the things that took the least time to build, but that's going to be one of the things that is going to take much longer to finesse, because it's all about what they call the prompt engineering. Because essentially I'm using off-the-shelf AI tools… it's all about how you ask the robot to do certain things. There's still plenty more to build, but the initial process was five-ish months, I think.