Call-to-listen Podcasting: Connecting the Forgotten Audience

Photo by  Taylor Grote  on  Unsplash

Picture this: You heard an amazing podcast episode and want to share it with your grandma (or dad or aunt or boss). Do you explain how to use that purple app that’s been sitting on their iPhone since they got it or tell them to download Spotify or Stitcher? Or…do you give them a phone number to call?

Share Your Genius spoke with the Co-Founder of the first call-to-listen podcast app — Bullhorn.fm. Sam Petralia, who works for telecom company CarrierX, a cloud-based voice, video and messaging network, first fell in love with the podcasting medium in 2012.

“We noticed people were using CarrierX to broadcast content like Sunday church sermons and radio shows,” Sam said. “We honestly thought it was a little strange and inefficient.”

In 2015, he started working on mockups surrounding podcasting. With the call-to-listen technology already in existence thanks to parent company CarrierX, Bullhorn.fm was born. Now, Bullhorn is extending to reach the “forgotten audience.” (This is where your dad, grandma, aunt, and boss come in).

Sam says the app had its soft launch at Podcast Movement 2018 in Philadelphia. It got some good traction, but what about this year’s Podcast Movement in Orlando?

“That’s when we were like OK, we’re here to play,” Sam said.

Here’s how Bullhorn works: Download the app (Bullhorn: Podcast App) and search for your favorite podcast. Once you find it, there’s an option to play in the app or to add the show to your contacts.

Go into your contacts and call the podcast (yep — the podcast is literally named ‘Armchair Expert Podcast’ in your contacts). It will automatically start playing the most recent episode but you can use your keypad to fast forward, rewind, play another episode, etc.

The obvious benefit of calling in to listen to a podcast is that you’re not using any cellphone data. You can be connected to the show without using Internet connection. You don’t even have to open an app — you simply go into your contacts and call ‘Armchair Expert Podcast.’

But the other (less obvious) benefit? Reaching that forgotten audience. Imagine sending your grandma a contact in a text and all she has to do is call it to listen. No downloading any apps. No confusing directions.

“People who currently listen to podcasts are typically college-educated and they have smartphones. It’s kind of this young, exclusive bubble — it hasn’t really broken out to everyone,” Sam says. “But it’s natural for older people to pick up a phone, call a number, and settle in.”

So far, Sam says about 20 percent of the app’s users use the call-in feature while the rest stream shows directly through the app.

With more than 10,000 active users per day and 30,000 per month, Bullhorn.fm is taking its app to the next level with a beta “listen with friends” feature.

The goal is to make podcasts more social and interactive. In the coming months, Bullhorn plans to roll out a feature where listeners can send a link of an episode to several people so a group can call in and listen to a specific show.

From there, you can pause the show during the phone call and discuss with the other people on the line. Instead of it being a one-way street, you can now listen to your favorite reality show-based podcast with a friend or an inspirational career episode with a co-worker.

“We’re trying to break the mold of the typical podcast experience,” Sam says.

Another interesting metric the Bullhorn team, led by Sam and David Erickson, Co-founder of Bullhorn and CEO of CarrierX, found? The average listening time on shows are higher when people are calling in to listen to the show.

If someone is streaming from the player button on the Bullhorn app, they listen for around 25–30 minutes on average, but if they call in, the average jumps to 45 minutes.

“I really like the podcast industry because it’s the wild west right now,” says Sam. “There’s no union or committee making sure people are doing anything ‘the right way.’”

If you want to learn more about Bullhorn, click here.