How This New Podcasting Platform Pulled Off The Perfect Product Launch
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
In the world of technology startups, it seems many people look to a few select sites to figure out what products are new and exciting. Product Hunt is one of those sites. At the time of this writing, Product Hunt has 4,007 products listed, 15,795 comments, 71,842 upvotes, and 29,021 subscribers from around the world. So I was fascinated to see a company called Zula generate as much engagement as they did during their launch of their new product called ZCast.
Why was I fascinated?
ZCast is a podcasting product. It enables anyone to podcast live with friends and let anyone listen and interact in real time. In other words, it removes the barrier to podcasting.
With the world moving towards augmented reality and virtual reality, it seems like sometimes we take for granted tried and true mediums that people are accustomed to. According to the Washington Post, podcast downloads passed the 1 billion mark in 2014, and monthly podcast listeners reached as much as 75 million per month. By mid-2015, ad marketing spend on podcasts reached $50M. Several new podcasting services launched in the past two years, each promising new and exciting ways to allow users to broadcast themselves.
I sat down with Hillel Fuld, the CMO of ZCast, who recently led their launch to gain some insights into their product, their space and into their product launch.
Dan Reich: This ZCast launch was pretty nuts. Most upvotes on Product Hunt, tons of press, and from what I can see, tons of traction. I opened the app and there were tens of upcoming casts. How did you pull off this launch?
Hillel Fuld: Yes, the ZCast launch was bonkers. I mean the team worked for months preparing for it and we hoped it would be good, but definitely exceeded our expectations. I’d like to offer some magical answer that anyone can just do and pull off a launch like this but the truth is, it was a whole lot of hard work. Building relationships for years on Twitter and other platforms, writing content myself so when I ask friends and followers to support the launch, most people were happy to after reading my content daily for years. I mean, there are definitely some useful tips I can offer like to coordinate the Product Hunt aspect of your launch way in advance. Choose the tag line, the person who will hunt it for you, write your first comment in advance, and make sure to spend time on Product Hunt for months before the launch. I wrote many more tips on Medium the day after launch. Read that post here.
Reich: I actually want to focus on Product Hunt a little more. It has become quite a central platform in product launches and you nailed it. I’d love to know five things you would recommend to anyone launching a product on Product Hunt.
Fuld: Sure. Here we go.
A: Spend a lot of time on the platform well before you intend on launching. Give back to the community there because without that, you can’t expect them to support you during your launch. By the way, apply this rule to all aspects of marketing. Give a whole lot more than you take.
B: Before you decide on your one liner, write 20-30 options down, gather feedback from people, team members, colleagues, and anyone else who will offer their opinion. The tag line should obviously talk to the Product Hunt community so be geeky but also make sure the tag line says clearly what your product does.
C: Make sure your graphics stand out. Whether it is screen shots, a video, or any other visual assets, remember that all people will see when determining whether to upvote is the name of your product, the tag line, and the visuals.
D: Find the right person to hunt it. In theory, you, the maker of the product should hunt it but if you don’t have a large audience there, then find someone who does and can hunt it for you.
E: Here’s something I learned the hard way. Coordinate the Product Hunt launch time with the press. In other words, if you sent out your release under embargo till 9:30 AM, then don’t launch on Product Hunt any earlier than that. If you do, the press can and probably will see the product on Product Hunt and write about it before, which might annoy other reporters and prevent them from covering the launch. I made this mistake and almost paid the price.
F: Bonus: Never ever ask for upvotes. Sharing the link to your page on Product Hunt? Totally fine. Asking for Upvotes in a Facebook post, tweet, email or any other way? Not ok.
Reich: So tell me about ZCast.
Fuld: ZCast is the most exciting product I’ve ever been involved in building. I can tell you that over the last five years, I’ve tried many times to podcast. I’m a big believer in content of all kinds and audio content is no different. The problem is that creating a podcast is super challenging. Either you sit in a studio with your guests and record the podcast with high-end equipment or you need to use some serious software to record the conversation then edit it after the show to make it into a podcast format.
With ZCast, choose a topic, invite your co-hosts and go live. That’s it. You’re podcasting. Approximately ten second setup time. The goal with ZCast is to do to audio content what YouTube did to video. Make it accessible to anyone. For now, it’s iOS and a full-fledged web app that enables you to listen, interact, and cast from your web browser. On Android, you can use the browser as well but an Android app is obviously on the roadmap.
Reich: What are your next moves with ZCast and what are the challenges?
Fuld: The launch was the “easy part”. Now getting content flowing into the platform is the challenge. The amount of casts we had on the first few days is astounding but now we need to take this momentum and leverage it to build out the community. Of course, there is also the fund raising, which is an essential part of building out a vision as ambitious as ours. Finally, we will be working closely with some strategic partners on ZCast. Think entertainment, think podcasting networks, and think different types of content creators who always wanted to podcast but simply couldn’t.
Reich: What was the most exciting part of the ZCast launch?
Fuld: Well we haven’t spoken about this publicly yet but we had many, many visually impaired individuals interact with their audience while ZCasting. Taking questions, answering them, and just literally hosting their very own interactive podcast. I am not talking one or two people, there were many. It was inspiring.
Reich: So I’ll just ask what many people want to know. What does being number one in terms of votes on Product Hunt, getting countless positive reviews in the press, and endless social promotion do to your download numbers? How is that going?
Fuld: Well, obviously it is too early to talk numbers but what definitely matters to us most is the amount of time each user spends on the platform. Downloads are less important to us since the web app has all the functionality needed to ZCast. Having said that, the numbers both in terms of downloads, average ZCast time, and just overall ZCast sessions are super exciting. We didn’t expect them to be this high and that’s an understatement. The retention, in other words, the people that start a ZCast, then come back to do another one? That is the number we are most proud of!
Reich: What’s the stage of Zula, the company? Are you raising capital now? Tell me about that.
Fuld: Zula is a small company with 6 team members. Two marketing, one iOS, one UI/UX, and The CEO. Super lean. Yes, we are talking to a few investors now about raising a round of financing primarily to be used to build out the ZCast platform and make it available to more people, starting with Android users.
Reich: If you had one wish for ZCast, one goal, what would it be?
Fuld: I think our dream here is to offer users everything they need to create high quality engaging audio content. My dream? To have ZCast accompany talk radio shows, sports events, and other less geeky and more mainstream events. We see ZCast as sort of the next-generation talk radio.
Reich: And you? What’s your end game?
Fuld: Well I am super excited about the future of ZCast and I think there is tremendous potential here. I can’t wait to start my own weekly podcast. Soon we will add recording in ZCast and I’ll be hosting my own show. The topic? Stay tuned. Other than that, helping push the Israeli ecosystem forward. It is exciting times for us with ZCast and exciting times here in the Israeli startup ecosystem!