Seems like he regrets keeping Instapaper a paid app and not making it free to go after marketshare and take on Pocket. He seems to conclude he "lost" against Pocket, and now doesn't want to make the same mistake with Overcast.
I personally don't think the patronage model will go very far. I think he's doing more to make the full app free and gain marketshare, and any money made by "donations" is just bonus. If he can grow his marketshare and get a lot of users, then it looks like he's going to try to raise funds. So, this business model makes sense for now... at least until he's able to raise outside funds.
Overall, Marco seems to be insinuating that the podcast market is bigger than people think, and VC money is going to enter the space; thus, he wants to prepare for that and maximize the potential for his app and the possibility to raise funds and go really big.
It does seem that when VC funds enter a market it presents a challenge to existing indie developers who are making a living with a paid app. The VC-funded company will provide a great app (usually) for free, since they don't need a monetization stream right away. They usually are aiming to build a big audience and then monetize later.
Indie developers are then faced with a decision. How do they compete with VC funded companies? They likely are going to have to either make their app free and go head-to-head with these VC funded companies (and maybe raise money themselves to do so). Or they can narrow their scope and become more niche apps appealing to a more limited audience with high-end (hard-to-copy) features that might not appeal to the masses but to the minority who might pay.
But overall, Marco's blog post does bring up the challenges indie developers face when VC funded companies enter their space.
Would love to hear more thoughts on this.
Right now, every podcast listener hears the exact same ad regardless of where or when they are listening. It seems obvious that at some point soon, podcasts will include a custom code for "insert ad here" and an ad exchange will bid on that 30 second spot and put a targeted ad there. Currently, the MP3 + RSS format of podcasts doesn't support this degree of sophistication which is what Marco is alluding to with it's walled gardens comment. There's a goldmine for whoever can figure out how to move podcasts into a vertically integrated format and define the platform.
The best business model is still: make rich people afraid of you so they'll do anything to shut you up or control you.
I believe Marco got at least a couple million dollars from the ~$1B sale of Tumblr (dilution, not clear how much he started with, etc.). That's actually a lot of padding, and means that he can get by for a year or so to try out this free + patronage model. Someone that needs an income, doesn't have that luxury.
I think the patronage model is interesting, and I'm curious how he or other developers will make it work within the confines of the App Store.
This is a guy whose tech podcast I stopped listening to partly because he and some other dweeb wouldn't shut up about their brand new BMWs.
If you work alone and you have a few million dollars of fun money to burn, that changes people's perception of you. Now you're not doing it because you have to. Where's the struggle? Now you're just entertaining yourself.
It's like saying Bill Gates is an "independent charity volunteer." Doesn't quite get the point across.
Topping the charts for a day amounts to tens of thousands of dollars. To most people that's a non-trivial amount of money to toss away to maintain one's sense of morality.
Who cares if other devs. or companies don't like his business model? Does that affect his users or potential customers in any real way? I don't think so.
Also - the patron model is super interesting and I'm excited to see people continue to play with and test it...but I'm not sold that it's a sustainable solution either.
The question to me is: Do people care enough to pay for podcasts? And for those that do, in their mind are they actually paying for the content or the experience/environment? What pain is this specific app itself actually fixing or removing compared to my alternatives?
Marco has proven he's amazing at building experiences and environments people love...and I think he can continue to do very well down that path...but without owning/controlling/providing the content or the 'talent' on the client side he'll never break out of being just one of the middle-men in that part of the ecosystem (and thereby evaluated and paid by users as such).
That aside, I agree with him that the small circle of podcast devs have much more to fear from oncoming train of podcast success. That success is bringing money, and money is attracting media conglomerates with money to burn. If they spend their time bickering with each other they will be a smear on the tracks. App markets develop and business models mutate, regardless of how much developers like it or not.
My point was just that when people do pay, in their mind I think they are paying for the podcast itself...and don't really care all that much about the middle men (same basic thing with music really -- there are, of course, exceptions)
Maybe it does now, this was a while ago
His situation only applies to him. Not anyone else.
He wrote "They’re coming with shitty apps and fantastic business deals to dominate the market, lock down this open medium into proprietary “technology”, and build empires of middlemen to control distribution and take a cut of everyone’s revenue."
Well, what if they are coming with _better_ apps and fantastic business deals.. ?
Being an indie dev (or a small indie company) does not automatically make you a better developer / software maker than anyone else. Part of that may be lack of resource, but maybe just maybe you're competing with someone better.
Sounds like the Castro 2 dev(s) made a bad bet if their success hinges on the available of a free alternative :(
edited to add: rather, after people assuming the quote was from them, the developers of Castro issued a statement of "Castro 2 is coming along wonderfully and we're not worried about Overcast going free. <closes twitter, gets back to work>"