Changelog Interviews – Episode #589

Castro leans into indie

with Dustin Bluck

All Episodes

This week we’re joined by Dustin Bluck to discuss his acquisition of the well known (and beloved) Castro podcast app to take it indie-focused once again. As previous users of Castro, we were excited to dig into the details behind this popular podcast client to see what’s next, how the deal was done, a peek into the code, and where exactly this indie and creator focused podcast app can go.



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 Disclaimer.
2 00:09 This week on The Changelog
3 01:18 Sponsor: Sentry
4 02:39 Start the show!
5 03:58 What is Tiny?
6 06:07 Why did Andrew/Tiny sell?
7 08:09 Why buy?
8 10:19 The right time, right moment
9 12:06 How do you value this?
10 14:35 Sponsor: Cloudflare
11 16:56 What is your ambition?
12 21:05 Did you see the source code?
13 22:43 The acquisition process
14 23:51 Are you bleeding users?
15 25:04 Any regrets?
16 25:33 Lean into indie. Tell your story.
17 29:52 The indie roadmap
18 32:38 Sponsor: Notion
19 34:12 Podcasting 2.0
20 39:31 Discoverability / YouTube algorithm
21 41:59 The money path
22 43:17 Serving Android
23 45:02 Will this be open source?
24 46:24 Where is the money?
25 50:28 Selling to the listeners
26 54:11 Closing thoughts


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

Well, we are here with Dustin Bluck, the new owner of the Castro podcast player. Dustin, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me on.

Excited to have you. Castro fans… Not just saying that. Adam, you’re a user, or was a user for a while…

Prior user.

I have it on my phone.

You know, what made me initially try it was the fact that Tiny had bought it. And I’m a fan.

So you’re not the second owner, Dustin, you’re the third owner? How does this work? Tell us a little bit of history.

Well, I can tell you what I know. I don’t know as much – I’m sure that some users of the app know a lot more than I do, to be honest. No, there were two founders. They sold the app to Tiny, or –

Andrew Wilkinson. Yeah.

Tiny has a very confusing corporate structure, which I could never really wrap my head around. But they worked there for a while. I think one of them went to Apple… And yeah, they ended up selling it. Officially, I did not buy it from Tiny, I bought it from Andrew Wilkinson personally. They want me to say that I did not buy it from Tiny, so…

So you’re saying that.

…I will say that.

Okay. Well, you two obviously know what Tiny is and who Andrew Wilkinson is. That name rings a bell, and I think I’ve heard Adam talk about Tiny before… But I’m not familiar, so one of you tell us more.

I will try my best to describe Tiny in regards to what I know about Tiny. I’m gonna say Tiny at least three more times. I believe it is And so Andrew Wilkinson - Andrew was one of the co-founders. I believe he and his brother created the company MetaLab, which was pretty prominent, I would say… I’m not sure they’re not prominent now, but I know that they were the early days of Slack. So Slack I think hired them because they were phenomenal graphic designers, phenomenal interface designers, brand designers etc. And so Andrew goes back to the day of MetaLab. They were the original folks who made the initial design for Slack… And Slack was groundbreaking when it first kind of came about. And somehow, Andrew got really interested in Warren Buffett and some of the investors out there, and I think he took a couple of playbooks from Warren Buffett and began to invest, because he became successful. He had free cash flow, so when you have free cash flow, you make it flow into things that create assets, then obviously gain cash etc, to become an investor. So I think Tiny was this thing that got born out of his way to buy tiny companies that have certain profitability ratios. And he kind of looked at these different investments like Warren Buffett might, but he kind of stuck into the tech sphere.

I think he’s originally from Victoria BC. Tiny was his investment company/acquisition company. I think he had some partners, I’m not sure the full details, but they have acquired several businesses, Dribble being one of them. They’re the owners of Dribble. And also the owners of Designer News.

Okay. So those things are definitely ringing bells. So they bought Castro from the original founders…

Castro and iOS Podcast app… Is it iOS-only, Dustin, or is there an Android?

It’s iOS-only. I mean, I have a separate Android app though…

You have an Android app as well, which kind of ties these stories together, why you’re interested in that. We’ll get to your story as well. But on the Castro side, do you know why Tiny sold it, or – sorry, sorry, sorry. Andrew Wilkinson personally sold it to you. [laughter] Was it not working? Where they bored? I know that it went into some sort of state of quasi-disrepair. I mean, the users were kind of mad, they were leaving… Tell us that side, like what you walked into.

[00:06:29.17] One more layer though for you, Jerod, before he answers this, is they’re also the investors behind Supercast, which you know of.

of I do.

So they kind of got into this podcast movement…

Okay. I remember talking about that with the Supercast folks. Okay, cool. Alright, Dustin, go ahead.

I mean, I can only speculate exactly what the deal was… I mean, I know they redesigned the app in - I think it was January of 2023. So they were definitely working. I think that Castro has never really been able to decide what it is. Is it like more indie, or is it like an actual company, with real employees? Is it like a larger thing, or very small? And I don’t think – like, they had a larger operation, they had expanded, they had employees, they had like a whole thing. It’s actually pretty niche. It’s like a very specific thing. The app is – it’s boutique. It’s like people who are really into podcasts, and really see it as like a productivity thing, like “There’s all these things I want to listen to, I’ve gotta get through them.” So it really appeals to a certain type of people. And I’ve read all their emails… Like, this app works the way my brain works, in terms of like just powering through this stuff. But it’s not – like, it doesn’t really have a path to be like this billion-dollar company, right? It’s not that kind of thing. It’s very much like a creator-friendly, like 1,000 true fans type thing.

So I think it just didn’t really make sense… Because I think what they wanted to do was make it bigger. And at a certain point, it’s like “Well, it’s pretty big.” It was decently big at one point, but it’s kind of like, I don’t think there’s necessarily a path to a billion more people on the app, you know?


I think they just weren’t sure what to do with it at the end of the day.

Okay. So the tagline is “The player for heavy listeners.” So that plays into what you’re saying; very much a power users thing. Known for having great design, Castro… In the iOS indie podcast scene it’s very much the Yin to Overcast’s Yang. I mean, people will say “There’s overcast, and there’s Castro”, and they kind of even went back and forth feature for feature for a while. I’m a longtime Overcast user, I used to listen to Marco Arment’s podcast, so I know some of that history as well… And then here comes Dustin Bluck and Bluck Apps… Where are you coming from? Why are you the buyer of this thing? What’s your history?

Right. Why are you buying this thing?


Well, I mean, it’s all about timing, right? So Castro is known to people like you because it was a big app in like – some of the code is like 2013, even older than that. I don’t know how many podcast apps have come out on iOS in the past 10 years, but you probably don’t know the names of many of them. So where do I come in? Buying Castro is not like a great financial decision for me…

[laughs] Already. You already know that.

…compared to alternatives… So I worked for Instagram for a long time, and I’ve been self-employed the last few years. So one thing I could do is just go back to Instagram; that will pay a lot more money than Castro will pay me, right? So why did I buy it? I was working on a podcast app on the side, sort of just for my listening. I used it for a year before I released it. And then I do like mobile consulting for eCommerce companies, which pays the bills, but isn’t the most exciting thing in the world… Working on the podcast app was a lot more rewarding. I saw some posts about it that it was not doing so well, and then I think they actually posted it was going to be for sale. So yeah, it just sort of fell into my lap. I think I caught the guy at the right time, and I just did it. It makes a lot of sense for me to run an app, it makes a lot more sense than opening a restaurant, or doing whatever; going to a farm, whatever the alternative to like going back to big tech would be. It makes a lot more sense for me to run an app. So yeah, I’m able to do it, it’s interesting to me, it’s a space I really like… Yeah, so it just kind of made sense.

[00:10:18.22] Take us to the right time, right moment, exact moment. Did you email Andrew, did you DM him on X/Twitter? I know he’s prolific on X quite a bit… So how did this happen?

I’ve actually never spoken to Andrew.

I emailed some public-facing emails on Castro. People that would make sense to – and I had an initial short conversation… I guess he acted like a broker on the transaction, but someone who works for Andrew in some capacity. Very nice guy. I think people imagining this stuff is like a little more interesting than it is, but he was not like an expert on Castro, he didn’t know that much about the app. He’s like “I just have to sell it.” So it was very business-like.

“I just had to sell it.”


More like real estate than like someone’s business, insofar as the person selling it is like a real estate – what do you call them?

Like an agent. A real estate agent. And they’re just like “Well, it’s a house. Here’s the [unintelligible 00:11:09.12] Here’s what I know. I don’t know anything else. You better do an audit.”

Well, did you buy the asset? Did you buy the LLC? I think it was a Canadian company… Can you kind of reveal a bit more of the particulars, even if it’s not that interesting?

Yeah, how does it work?

Yeah, it’s an asset, so I bought their source code there, their domain names…

All the pertinent things. Brand…

Yeah. AWS account…

IP… Yeah.

You assumed accounts…

Outstanding debts… [laughs]

Did you assume the email assets as well, like archives?

Oh, sure.

Yeah, Google [unintelligible 00:11:49.13] They don’t want you to take over and read everyone’s email. It’s not designed to work that way, but–

But you could if you wanted to. You could change passwords, and stuff.

Yeah, yeah. So I took over the G Suite account. I took over AWS, the [unintelligible 00:12:00.21] I just started running the business.

Right. How do you value something like Castro? How does the negotiation work? Who names the first number? Because I think the rest of it’s kind of boring in terms of “Yeah, you transfer accounts, and there’s DNS, and there’s this and that.” It’s like a checklist. And we all know how to do that. But for me, if I was going to buy a business like this, I wouldn’t know if I should offer $100, or 100 million dollars. How do you get into a range? Was there a price tag on it when you emailed, or did you have to come up with a price? How did that work?

So the first time we spoke, he gave me a higher price, but he said he had another buyer. And then we talked about a week later, and he said he didn’t have another buyer, and he gave me a price that was about half of that. So…



So easy.

[unintelligible 00:12:49.11] hard bargain.

“I’ll wait a week to get a half off…”

Yeah. You should have waited another week, and see what it costs…

Yeah, good point. No, I mean, they wanted to move on, and I made it clear that I was very serious and I would just do it… So I made it as painless as possible for the other party. And they have another app, they’ve actually released it now. It’s called like Atomic Habits, I think…

Okay, I’ve heard of that… As a book, but not as an app. Isn’t there a book?

Yes. I think it’s like the app for the book, or… I don’t know if it’s an app; it might be like a desktop app, or something. I don’t know what it is.

So they wanted to get that out and not deal with Castro anymore. So I guess it’s more just timing. In terms of how you would actually value it - I mean, Castro makes money, so you could do like a three to five revenue, or however business people value companies… But for me it was like “This is an app that people know, and that’s where something, right? And the price tag is not so high”, so it kind of just seemed like that obviously makes sense, even if it never makes that much money, right?

How many digits in this price tag? Can you can you reveal, like, six figures, seven figures, five figures?

I mean, it was six. But it’s more of a restaurant size than big tech company size…

It could have been a steal then, basically. Especially if you do it right…

Well, it’s 50% off.

That’s right. [laughter]

That was price perception, really? That was like Walmart…

Right. “Here’s the price”, and then…

Falling prices, for example.

Yeah, exactly.

Break: [00:14:26.12]

Well, when you said “Okay–”, regardless what the number is you paid for it, what is your ambition? Let’s just start with the business. Let’s set aside the cool-looking application, the brand name, the awareness… Let’s focus on just simply the big business mechanics, the business model. What is your hopes and dreams in the next year, and then I would say long term?

Well, I do think I think the brand is very related to that, but I’ll tell you how I think about it. I think the internet is moving – I’m sure you guys talk about this a lot… A lot towards more like creator, peer-to-peer… All this stuff has a lot of momentum, and paying people directly for things that you use. And a lot of people would rather do that than be on the big, ad-supported platforms. And I think the way Castro works is like very much geared – not only is it like a connection between creators in terms of podcasters and their audience, but it’s very much like people who use it see that as an extension of – you know, it’s a very important place, this intermediary between podcasts that you really like and this sort of intimate thing in your ears, and like people listening. And people also having a real affinity for the app, even though a lot of them are angry over the past year or so. It’s like “This is the app that I use to get all the people that I really love. It’s very important to me.” It’s unique… Even though we don’t do a lot of things as well as a lot of other apps, we do some unique things really well, and I think that’s really valuable to people. And just that brand, and that people know that, and people really care about that does have a lot of value, I think.

And I think despite the fact that it’s been around a long time, and seen lots of ups and downs, it’s still really well-positioned to do really well, in a world where a lot of people are paying a couple of bucks a month for the podcasts that they love, and they want to use it in the app that they love… And you know, you’re paying two bucks a month for that; probably less than you pay for some of your shows. I don’t know if I answered your question…

I mean, you didn’t say exact numbers, but you did.

I think so. So you want to lean into subscriptions… So Castro has Castro Plus. That’s a subscription, correct? That’s like premium style…

Yes, sir.

Is that Pro features, or what does that get you?

That gets you no ads in the app, and then speeding up playbacks, and artwork… But yeah, it’s premium features around your playing. I think skipping silence, or heightening voices…

Do you paywall chapters? I feel like there’s an app that paywalls chapters.

I don’t think we paywall chapters, but I could be wrong about that.

Okay. I would take that out of the paywall, if I were you. Or I’d suggest that you do. But I understand, you’ve got to put a wall somewhere, and you’ve got to make some money somewhere. I think chapters is a little bit – it should be a regular feature. But –

I think there’s a couple of things we could take out of the paywall.

I think you might, actually, because I’m on chapters and our thing it says “Preselect chapters as a heading?” And it says “Subscribe to Castro Plus to preselect which chapters to play, and have Castro skip the others automatically.”

Oh, you can skip chapters automatically.

Yeah, you do like a choose upfront thing. Yeah. I’ve never seen another app do that.

Yeah. But when I click the X, the chapters all go away. So it seems like it’s hidden behind something.

[00:20:07.27] Is that based on a regular expression that you write, or how do you actually pick which chapters? Not you, Dustin, but you the end, the power user. Do I say – I’m just thinking you could skip all of our sponsorships with the right title Regular Expression if you want it to. Is that how it works? Because that’s a cool feature.

Yeah, you could definitely skip your ads, the way yours work.

We’ve gotta mix them up then, Jerod.

We’re gonna start putting hidden characters in there… Cat and mouse with our listeners.

That’s right.

Arguably, you should not put the ads in the chapters, right? That’s just inviting people to skip them.

It is. But you know what? Our ads are so good that people don’t skip them anyways.

It’s true.

You laugh, but only for now. [laughter]

Dang, Jerod…

Till you hear them. Then you’re like “Dang, this guy’s got a real point.”

Extreme confidence here. I love it.

I think if you don’t want to hear our ads, we aren’t gonna fight you on that. We’re gonna make your listening experience as best as we possibly can, and a chapter for our sponsorship just make sense.

Fair enough. Castro wants to do the same thing.

Cool. I’m still stuck on the acquisition. Can we go back there for a moment? Because here’s what I’m thinking… I’m acquiring assets. How much knowledge of the assets do you have going into it? Specifically, do you get to see the source code before you make the purchase? Because gosh, you could really buy a dumpster fire of code, right? If you’re getting the assets, and it’s unmanageable, that’s gonna drop the price quite a bit. Did you get to see the source code?

Yeah, so we did like a pay half, check everything, and then sort of pay the other half. If it had been a total disaster, I could have backed out at that point. So I did get to verify the source code. I didn’t see the source code till I paid, but prior to that I’d seen all the numbers, all the accounts, I’d sort of poured through everything. I don’t know, I probably still would have done it if the source code was completely unmaintainable. I think you could just start from scratch.


Yeah, I don’t know…

Really ambitious.

That would have been a whole different thing, but [unintelligible 00:21:58.06]

Is it Objective C, is it Swift? It’s going back a decade.

Yeah, it’s a little bit of everything. There still maybe 40% Objective C or something, which is a lot more than I’d like.

Yeah. So you’re rewriting page by page, or what are you doing? Are you personally coding this up?

Yeah, so I’ve done more backend. I’ve definitely done some of the iOS. I have another developer helping me out with that… Yeah, we’re definitely going to have to rewrite a lot of stuff. But it’s okay, a lot of things need improved; as we improve it, we’ll redo a little bit. Some of the views are still in storyboards, which I think would surprise a lot of iOS developers… It definitely surprised me. I didn’t expect that. So a lot of that stuff needs redone.

How old is this announcement, this purchase? Is it 2024?

Was it January?

Late 2023?

So I announced this on January 31st, I think. A couple of months.

And I imagine it’s probably at least a couple months, so maybe October, November last year as a process to acquire?

No, not that long. I think it was around Christmas. So less than a month.

Dang. So you inquired and acquired within 30 days.

I think about 30 days, yeah.

That’s quick, man. wow.

He’s all business.

I like it. I mean, that’s good stuff. I mean, sometimes lawyers can get in the way, they can go back and forth, they can delay things… Did you have a lawyer? Did you navigate this so low?

I had a lawyer work on the contract. I was looking for something – I was looking for the right thing, and it kind of fell into my lap, and then I was just like “Okay, we’ll do it.” And I think that’s part of the reason they were happy to go with me, as I was just like “Okay, let’s do it.”

Yeah. Well, everybody likes speed, especially “Do you have cash? Can you do it now?” “Yes. Yes.” “Okay, let’s do it.” I mean, that’s the best world.

[00:23:49.10] That is nice. Okay, so where do you go from here? I mean, you started with the servers… I tried to think of what would a takeover look like. I would definitely get into the source code, I would make my announcements… You did that. Because you’re bleeding users in the meantime. People are angry at Castro, because they love Castro, and Castro is falling by the wayside… So literally, podcasts aren’t being downloaded… I mean, I’m seeing some of the Twitter threads from back at the turn of the year, it wasn’t great. So I’m sure that was your priority number one, was “We’ve got to get it functional.”

And that’s mostly server side stuff?

So the app is really server-driven, to an extent really surprised me. You really can’t do anything if the server is not functioning well. And it wasn’t functioning hardly at all when I took over. And I don’t really have a huge background in server side, especially like Ruby on Rails. I’ve never written any Ruby code before. So the first two weeks was very stressful. It was just like – I’ve worked in apps for a long time, I know I can figure it out… But if the server goes down, the app doesn’t function, there’s nobody to call; it’s just me, you know? So that was a very stressful period. A lot of learning how things worked. I had to understand it well.

Do you have any regret? Are you regretting this decision? Are you still excited? Be honest.

No. I have less regret now than I did like a month ago… We’ve just turned on some ads. I’ve been talking to some podcasters, I’ve been doing so some calls with companies… So it’s gotten a little more fun the past couple weeks. I’ve definitely had moments where I was like “Ugh, I don’t know if I can do this.” But no, I think it was sort of an obvious decision, and I’m very happy about it. Yeah, I don’t have any regrets.

Would you like some unsolicited, I suppose, feedback?

Adam’s good at this. Here it comes.

Well, I just think about story, right? We folks – like, even Jerod and I, the reason you’re on this call is because you had a conversation with Jerod, he took a liking to you… I’m a fan of Castro, prior user, and I think we all buy the Why, not the What. And if I go to the Castro website right now, there is no Why happening here. It’s the same old Castro. There’s no announcement of your story, there’s no mention of really you… Even if you go back to the blog post that was what Jerod just asked about, which was this bleeding user scenario, “The future of Castro podcasts”, December 2023 - like, you could have gone back and updated this blog post to say “There’s new ownership here. See this new posts. We’re so excited.” That’s why I asked you if you had regrets, because it seems like you’re not telling your story. You need to tell your story.

Yeah, someone else emailed that to me, that I’ve been very corporate in the post… I don’t know, I didn’t really see it about me. The way I thought about it was –

Well, I think there is a story here though. There’s Bluck Apps, there’s a reason why you got it… You’re on this show, sharing your story… There is a story.

Well, yeah. Okay, fair enough.

We found it interesting. Are you leaning into the indie side, or are you gonna lean into the corporate site? Because it seems like you’re going small. It’s you and a dev.

Yeah, I hope to bring on at least one more dev… But yeah, it’s definitely gonna be small. I mean, we’re not gonna hire a big team, or anything. No, I think Castro only makes sense right now if it leans into the indie side, right?

Yeah. So then therefore it should be about Dustin and his ragtag group of devs, who took over this thing that was dying, they saved it… “Here’s why we care about it.” Now you also get to cross-promote your Android app, which is great… I’m not saying the app is great. I haven’t used it. I’m saying the fact that you have two apps is awesome, because they both will feed each other…

The Android app is great, just so you know.

There you go. Yeah, well, I assume so… But I haven’t used Android, so I couldn’t vouch for it. And I think that – yeah, I mean, people like people. And they like software written by people. And if you’re not going to be a corporate borg, and you’re gonna be small, indie, Dustin and his team, then you have to actually embody that. And I mean, this podcast is a good step in that direction, right? Like, you’re telling your story…

For sure.

I like Castro now more than I did when we first started this call, just because. now I know, Dustin, I know what he’s up to. I understand his plans; even though the app doesn’t quite get to where I want it to be right now, I know he’s working on it, and I can send an email to support and they’ll reply right away… That kind of stuff goes a mile, on goodwill and on subscriptions, and all the things. That’s what Adam was getting at, right?

Yeah, fair enough.

I mean, I think you’ve got the post that was not from you, then you’ve got the post that says “A fresh start for Castro”, which is great. So I would say go back to the future of Castro Podcast, which is from the prior administration - let’s just you use political terms; prior administration - and points to say “This is not true anymore. We have a brand new beginning here. Here’s the first of many that will illustrate where we’re trying to go.” And you have one that’s called Pricing Updates. So I would just say lean into the love. Wrap your arms around the entire indie podcast community, creators and listeners…

Squeeze us.

…and just show them some love.

I see you’re doing a Reddit AMA. That’s a good step.

I am, yes. Yes.

It was funny, because I came across that by happenstance… And I thought “He set up this Reddit AMA, and he didn’t answer any of the stinking questions.” And then I realized it hasn’t happened yet. [laughter] The questions are just queuing up… I’m like “Who does an AMA and doesn’t answer any of the questions?” Then I was like “Oh, it’s Friday. Okay.” [laughs] That was funny. So that’s a good start… Show your face, talk to the people, be a human, and be indie.


Because unless you’re gonna try to go big, and corporate, then you might as well be who you are. And I think people like that. I like indie podcast apps. Always have, and probably always will. And I think a lot of people do, especially power users, people who want to have a connection to what they’re doing. Like you said, not just to the podcasters, but to the app that gets them to the podcasters.

So I guess if you’re focusing to some degree, or fully, on the indie realm, let’s just say - whether it’s a listener, a creator - what are some of the ways that you think you can improve that relationship between a listener or a creator to the… I mean, let’s face it, a podcast app, a client like yours is the distribution. Jerod and I, our businesses, our livelihood can flourish further if you put the right features in place that attracts users to listen to podcasts more regularly. And I think chapters is a big deal. We pour so much effort into chatters, titling, we pour a lot of effort into even our ad production; not just crappy ads, but ads that actually tell a story and connect… So I’m full long about story and connection. What are some of the things y’all have planned in terms of a roadmap, or just whatever it might be to lean into the indie?

Well, I’m talking to podcasters, so if you guys have ideas, I’m definitely all ears. I’m open to it. I mean, the first thing for Castro to do is to come to feature parity with some basics. You should be able to search episodes, you should be able to sync across your devices… The roadmap kind of writes itself, because the app just needs to be better and more reliable. So those are the big things we’ve been focused on.

But I mean, I really do – I’ve tried very hard in my other app just not to get in the way, and to show as much as you can of the actual… Whatever you put in the feed, that’s what matters. And I think the user should see as much of that as possible, and we should not get in the way of that. And I think what you’re gonna see with a lot of other apps is a lot of getting in the way. You’re already seeing this with some of the AI stuff, and things that are generated, artwork and transcripts and things like that. And we definitely want to go the opposite direction.

So if you put transcripts in your feed, I want to show that to the user, but if you don’t, I’m not necessarily sure I want to do that. I mean, that’s a tricky one, because that is like an accessibility thing, but… I think we want to be the opposite. We want to be the Yin of the current trending Yang, in a lot of ways. That’s something we’re definitely gonna focus on.

But things Castro could do a lot better, things like season, and episode, and trailers and bonuses, these basic things that are in the feed, Castro [unintelligible 00:32:11.08] 500 characters, I think, which is really not enough. I mean, I want to do a lot better job of like really showing the user what the owner of the feed has put into it, you know?

Break: [00:32:13.02]

How much do you know about the new podcast namespace and a lot of the podcasting 2.0 features that people are building? These are indie apps… I mean, Apple just adopted their first tag from podcasting namespace, which was podcast:transcript, I think… But Spotify supports none of it. Apple supports none of it. And then a lot of the indie people support a lot of these features. There’s things like the social interact, where it’s trying to get cross-app comments… There’s a lot of stuff that people are trying, and they have some support from certain indie apps, but not other ones, and I’m just curious, are you plugged into that with your Android app, or what are your thoughts on the new podcasting features via the feed?

Yeah, I’ve talked to [unintelligible 00:35:03.09] I follow that stuff pretty closely. I’ve been in the GitHub repos a little bit. But you know, some of that makes sense for us and some of it doesn’t. But yeah, I think that leaning more into that is definitely a route Castro would like to go. It makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, things like the transcript tag I think it’s like a no brainer, and we should be supporting that yesterday.

Yeah. And podcast:person I think is another one that’s great, where you can actually have person objects in your feed, versus just a name. And so you can provide rich information about the people on the show, whether they’re a host, whether they’re a guest… And then your user can say “Oh, this is an interesting person”, they click on the guest, and it takes them to probably some sort of search customized where now all of a sudden they’re seeing all the shows this person has been on. I long wanted - I think some podcasts do this - a way to subscribe to a person. Because a lot of people who don’t have podcasts, but they’re on a lot of podcasts - and I don’t want to track around to know what podcasts are on this week… But when they’re on a show, I’d like to know about it. I may listen to it. So being able to follow a person across different podcasts is kind of a cool thing. Does Castro do that?

Castro does not do that.

Okay. I just didn’t want to be telling you about a thing that you already do.

It’s a great idea, though. Do you guys use those features in your feed?

We do them all.

Yeah, our feed is very rich. If you want to feed to us as an example, of people adopting new technologies… And we’re not like 100% in on them. Like, we use the podcast funding one, but we don’t use like all the value for value stuff. And we use the social interact, but it’s just a Mastodon URL. But our feed is like – we’re just trying to take advantage of everything that’s out there in order to make our feeds as best as we can, in order to make our podcasts look and work as best as they can everywhere.

And so yeah, we support all that kind of stuff. And it’s easy for us, because we have our own platform, and we just author all of our own stuff. And so we’ve been just incrementally adopting all that stuff. And so yeah, we have it.

So as a user, I would definitely like to see all that, too. I guess the only thing I would say is nobody’s ever emailed me and asked me for that. I don’t think those features are really out in the ether very much.

Yeah, people don’t know about them. I mean, it takes the app developers to really get these things out there… Because a lot of times people don’t even know they want a feature until it’s sitting there, and like “Oh, that’s cool.”

Absolutely, yeah.

“I didn’t know I could subscribe to Gary Vaynerchuk”, for instance. I know he probably has his own show, but… Or somebody who’s like a thought leader that doesn’t have a podcast. “I can just subscribe to this person inside of Castro, and whenever they’re on whatever show, I’ll know about it?” People don’t know they want that until someone tells them they want that. And a lot of times, [unintelligible 00:37:33.04] what their app offers. And so that’s why it’s tough. You have so many parties involved. You have the listener, you have the podcaster, you have the platform, you have the apps. And who is going to get the word out? Well, we all kind of have to get the word out about the things that we think are cool or interesting. And so being the podcast app, you have a lot of power and a lot of influence in that way.

Being the measly podcasters… We just try to get a hold of the app owners and say “Hey, this is cool. You should try it.” And most of them ignore us. So Pocket Casts has been very receptive, it’s awesome now that we know you, Marco Arment at Overcast, he takes feedback and feature requests… He says no to lots of stuff… But then there’s the big apps that we just have no – we have a public email address that we can use. And so we don’t really have any chance influencing them. But I think as an app owner now, you’ve got a lot of cool power you can wield, for the better.

You are literally a web browser for podcasts.

Yeah, exactly.

That’s what I tell people.

And you have the chance to embrace or create standards, right? Like, you can push the ball forward, or you can stagnate and just be something that lets people subscribe, and do all the basic feature parity scenarios… Which I’m not knocking necessarily, but like this is an opportunity to innovate, and maybe even like really gain critical mass if you can do that. There’s lots of things - like, for example, we as podcasters compete with the likes of TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. While we’re not directly competing - we also put our shorts there, our clips there, whatever… There could be an option where inside of your actual podcast client, Castro could feature shorts. We can have a separate URL of just clips, that kind of thing, where people could subscribe to it. And you can have a different interface based upon the length of the show. There’s lots of stuff you could do for discoverability. Not just “Oh, you listen to this, you like that” and do basics, but a lot of what I like about YouTube and its algorithm for me as a user is that it helps me discover, once I like get into, let’s say, my new kick… Jerod, you love these things… It’s the Mediterranean diet. I just love all things Mediterranean. So easy to cook with the Mediterranean diet. And now I have my feet littered with like various things. I was into picanha for a bit, which is a particular cut of the beef on a cow. Very popular in Brazilian restaurants. It’s basically a sirloin roast tip. It’s got a big ol’ fat cap on it… But I love all the recipes around picanha. Well, YouTube didn’t just say “Well, here, user, go and find all the people.” No, it helped me find the interests, because of me sharing with it, I suppose with my awareness and my activity, “Hey, Adam is searching for picanha. He wants to cook some picanha. Surface some stuff up.”

You’re one of the only people that continually praises the YouTube algorithm. I mean, I hate that thing.

I hate/love it. I mean, I love it in the fact that it doesn’t – as a user, I don’t have to go and find all the things. It helps surface things to me based upon my interests, and I kind of like that.

I do one – I’m trying to fix a dishwasher, so I searched for like Bosch dishwasher. Now it’s like “Oh, you’re a dishwasher aficionado.”

You love dishwashers.

“Let me play you all these –” No, I don’t care about dishwashers.

You can tell it no…

I do tell it no, and it keeps coming back. And then all of a sudden I’ll get a recommendation, I’ll be like “This is great.” And then I’ll remember “Oh, 18 months ago I subscribed to this person, and this is the first video of theirs I’ve seen.” I would love to see all their videos, but no, I don’t want to hit the Subscribe bell.

I agree with that, too. It’s weird that – well, there’s a lot of folks I’m like “Well, I haven’t subscribed to this person yet”, and I watch it frequently. It’s a strange conundrum.

It’s a weird deal.

The point I’m trying to make is not that it is the best. There are certain things that can be borrowed.

Don’t turn Castro into YouTube.

It’s not gonna happen. [laughter]

Yes, there are things you can do. You can do it the cool way.

I totally agree. There’s a [unintelligible 00:41:39.23] and there’s a lot that’s not happening, and there a lot of things that Spotify and Apple are never going to do, so that’s our opportunity.

For sure.

[00:41:48.14] Yeah. And you can thrive through it, obviously, as Castro gets better, more subscribers, then you get this cool new feature, it can go premium etc. And so it’s not just us that benefits, but everybody who does. Do you have a roadmap - not feature roadmap, but do you have like a path on some whiteboard somewhere, to zero, or like to profitability? Like breakeven? Do you know what that looks like in like years, and months, or…? What are you thinking?

We have a roadmap. We have a product roadmap. Financial projections - I mean, not so much. I have a rough idea… When we turn on ads today - so that’ll help; that’s basically going to be another developer. So that helps.

That helps. So that’s one thing. So you’ve got ads, and then you’ve got Plus. Are those your two revenue streams? Are there other ways that it makes money?

No, that’s it. Open to other ideas though… Selling T-shirts? [laughter]

We do sell merch, but it’s not gonna put food on the table, unless you get up to MKBHD size. Okay, so are you continuing to consult? In the meantime, how do you make a living?

Yeah, I work two days a week now. It’s been a lot; I’m probably going to stop doing that. But yeah, I’m gonna take a little time, get Castro into shape, and then kind of figure out what that looks like. There’s a lot of stuff that I do now that I’m not necessarily the person… I don’t have to answer every email long term. So taking a lot of that off my plate at some point would be good, but right now I want to see what the people are saying, you know…

What about the Android side? Are there plans to unify the brand and just have Castro for Android and Castro for iOS? Or do you like to have the other app? Is it successful? Does it have its own thing going? How does that work?

Yeah. The Android app is called Aurelian. A lot of people don’t seem to like that name, but I like it.

What’s that mean? Where does it come from?

It’s like a Roman Emperor.

Oh, Aurelius.

I think one of Mark Zuckerberg’s kids is named Aurelius. So…

Okay… [laughs] So it’s like an homage to Zuck.

I didn’t know that actually when I made it. [laughter]

“You bought Instagram. I love you.”

He put a lot of food on your table.

Yeah, that’s right. No, so I think we will just call IT Castro. Personally, I think my name is better than Castro, But Castro has the brand, So… but I can’t do that right now, Because Castro is so specifically the inbox and the queue, And Castro is really server-driven and Aurelian is like very client-driven. In some ways they have similar ideas, but they work in technically opposite ways. And I wouldn’t want to call it Castro if we don’t have that core inbox queue. That flow is like what people think of as Castro. So I think that is probably what we’ll do, but it’s just not as important right now as making sure Castro is good.

Well, to be continued. I mean, I love it. I think this is exciting. It’s cool that it didn’t die. I mean, when indie apps die, it’s a sad day. Somebody, probably many people out there, love Castro to death, and they were probably just worried that their favorite thing was going away. And now it doesn’t have to go away, assuming that you succeed at all of your plans. So we’re rooting for you. Adam, do you have any other thoughts or questions for Dustin?

Nothing’s coming to mind right off the top.

When’s the open source version coming out?

I mean, I’m not that opposed to doing that, I just don’t know what that would benefit me. I think Pocket Casts is open source, and it’s like, who’s looking at that source code? I don’t know.

Goodwill. Goodwill is probably what they’re getting out of that. I do know that some of the people who are implementing things like Podcast Index, they go look at the Pocket Casts source code from time to time in order to implement things, or know how things work, and just to get an idea of “Okay, here’s at least how one client is treating this particular thing.” So it’s all the developers, it’s people that are pushing things, not so much the users or the podcast creators. Maybe some users, it depends. I mean a podcast app can be a pretty complicated beast, especially one that’s stratified across client and server… And so it’s like, if I could add my own pet feature to Castro, maybe I would participate. But if that’s prohibitively complicated, it’s not going to happen, you know? And so, I don’t know if it would benefit you much, but I think it might benefit the world a little more than it is closed source. And I don’t think it’s going to be a drawback on you whatsoever, but… That’s just my two cents.

[00:46:12.24] No concrete plans at this time. I mean, it makes a lot more sense to me to open-source maybe podcast parsing, or some libraries, or…


There are a lot of things that we do that would be more reasonable.

Where exactly is the money yet? Literally. Is it in your pocket? I’m just kidding.

[unintelligible 00:46:27.05]

Where’s the money at? When you look at this business – like, there’s some businesses that I would never do b2c.You’re kind of like in a b2c world, in a way. You’re a business to a consumer. And then you have some business to business opportunity, which could be the promotion, the ads… Which is kind of like back to the consumer in a way, because most podcasters tend to be indie, so it’s kind of like you’re really just getting money from the people who produce, which probably make okay money… And then I’ve gotta imagine there’s an opportunity to maybe become an ad marketplace to some degree, to attract the larger brands, the ones like Casper, and Factor, and Squarespace, the ones that are really well known to do that, to connect them with the right kind of audiences, and that kind of thing. Where is the money at for this, if it’s beyond just simply a client, the long-term ambition of the money? Where’s the money at when it comes to this business?

Well, peak Castro, I think, from the records, was about half and half subscribers… But I think the money right now is with the users who really care about Castro. There are some people who have been using Castro for six years, even through periods where it didn’t function at all… So for now, our focus is on making sure that they have a good experience, and they keep paying for it, so we can keep making it. I mean, we have a nice product, and it’s going to make money, but for it to make very much money, we will have to have a lot more users. And to have a lot more users, we’re just going to have a very good app. So I don’t know…

Yeah, those are gonna happen in tandem. You’ve got to keep improving the app, and you’ve got to keep improving the ad experience. And those are gonna grow together. And they may grow incrementally, as one leapfrogs the other, vice versa. That’s an iterative process. You’re gonna have to iterate to greatness on that front.

Yeah. So when we’re five times the size, maybe that question looks a little bit different. But for now, it’s very focused on making the core users as happy as possible, and growing.

Did you describe in detail your ads platform, what your hypothesis is, at least in the initial, while you are in the iterative state? Is it simply like an Overcast? …not so much copy-paste, but is it a version of what Overcast does, which is primarily “Hey, if you want to promote the Changelog to the technology audience, pay us 350 for a couple days or whatever, and we’ll guarantee you X” kind of thing. That’s, I think, for the most part what Overcast’s ad product is. How does yours compare?

Yeah, so you guys are on our Discover page right now, as an ad. I saw the Practical AI show is doing a little better than the Changelog, so I guess AI is hot right now…

Well, that’s actually pretty typical right now… Those guys are showing us up.

Yeah, AI.

Yeah, exactly. No, I mean, you have banner ads, and you have sort of an ad on the Now Playing screen… But Castro is really tilted towards our premium users. I think it’s like 25% premium. And they can hide those. Whereas the Discover ads - they can hide those too, but they’re not hidden by default. But yeah, you pay for a week, you get on those screens… It’s pretty basic. Castro’s Explore section is just not very smart right now. It’s like very naive. So there’s a ton that we can do, sort of very low-hanging fruit just to make that smarter and better.


25% premium is high.

Yes, yes.

So I do think that that’s where your money is gonna be, if that’s the kind of user that you draw in.

Yeah. It’s [unintelligible 00:49:54.25] and I have people who email me every couple days. Just –

[00:49:59.03] “Hey, Dustin. How are you doing…?”

“I really like the app. Here are all my issues with it.”


That’s good.

Well, that’s a good problem to have.

Yeah, yeah. I was really surprised when I went through – I got access to the support account, and I could read all the emails… And when the app was not functioning in November, so many people emailed, and so much of it was just saying how much they love the app. And they were sad. So I was really surprised, just like how strongly people felt.

So you’re obviously talking to two podcasters here, and also two podcast listeners, because we are not – we’re two sides of a coin, basically. But we’re also talking into microphones and people are listening to this. Those are the listeners, if you didn’t know, Dustin. Now, let’s give you a chance to like – if you haven’t already sold our listenership on the opportunity to become their potential podcast client of choice, what would you – why should they even care? Give me the sizzle, not just the steak.

I mean, there’s a certain type of person who’s really attracted to like Mac productivity apps, who really like – their brain works a certain way, they want to get through things. And this really appeals – Castro really appeals to a certain type of person. The biggest shows on Castro are very Apple, tech-driven; the Changelog is pretty big, but like Daring Fireball… If you read Daring Fireball, you’ll probably like Castro. I doubt that’s one of the top shows on Apple podcasts. I’m sure it’s up there, but it’s top 10 for Castro. But if you’re in that demographic and you haven’t tried it… It’s like, you know who you are. The techie tinkerer… It’s very data-driven, I think… But if you’re that type of person, you should probably try it. It has a very specific appeal.

You should try it. Like I said before, I was a user, I was like “Wow, Andrew bought this thing. Maybe there’s some reason I should check it out.” Overcast at the time was not giving me the kind of love I wanted… And so I felt free to install something else. Now, I did not uninstall Overcast, I just simply moved it off my homescreen. Bye.

“Bye…” [laughs]

But then Castro went away, and Overcast is back, and I think the thing I love most about Overcast is how unhidden the chapters are. Like I said before, Jerod and I, Changelog proper, all of our shows - we put a lot of attention to detail into our chapters… I think they’re the way of the future, honestly, to help a listener find their way through a show. They’re not just there as bolt-ons; they to us are like first-class citizens in our workflows. And we put a lot of work into naming our podcasts. So I would say the more you can feature those kinds of things, the better. But I’m a big fan of Castro, again. I have a higher outlook given our conversation here. I think there’s a lot of opportunity; a lot opportunity. I just would encourage you to just dig into what your story truly is, as you do shows like this, or you do your AMA’s on Reddit, or other podcasts… And just dig into your story and do whatever you can to be a little vulnerable with the community, and invite them into your world, and help them be a part of that world, and help them enjoy it and create it with you. Because I think that’s what the dividends are in the indie market.

I appreciate it.

Alright, I’ve got nothing else to say. Thanks for coming on the show, Dustin. We appreciate your time, and sharing with us.

Yeah. Thank you for having me on. I’m pretty nervous. You guys have a very big show. It’s up there on Castro.

Nothing to be nervous about, man.

Nothing to be nervous about. Glad to have you here. I think really it’s just about being present with the community. And I think this is one of those many steps you can take. And we’ll have you back on the show six months from now, a year from now. There you go. Beautiful. When things are different, and the [unintelligible 00:53:58.26] are going to like “Yes…! I conquered this thing. I’ve climbed the mountain, and here’s all the people with me.” Because that’s what you’re gonna do.

Thank you. I appreciate it. I hope so.

Alright. Thanks, Dustin.

Thanks, guys.


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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