Apple is close to acquiring Swell, a personalised radio and podcast application, in a deal worth about $US30 million. The news was first reported by Re/code early Monday morning.
While the $3.2 billion purchase of Beats Electronics in May was more about music and acquiring industry talent, Swell is more focused on talk radio. The app lets you listen to unlimited personalised audio news and podcasts from sources like iTunes, NPR, ABC, ESPN, BBC, CBC, TED, and more.
Based on the news and podcasts you listen to on Swell, the app can then create personalised playlists based on your tastes.
Though Re/code says the app doesn’t have many users, it had previously raised $US7.2 million from investors including Google Ventures, DFJ, and InterWest Partners. The company was previously working on a version of Swell for Android, but that will no longer happen.
The app is still available on the App Store, but Re/code says it will be shut down this week “as part of the deal.”
Apple will reportedly invite much of Swell’s team to join the company. Apple will likely borrow Swell’s audio recommendation technology, or perhaps even its simple UI centered on swiping left and right, for its own Podcasts app, which has a paltry rating of 1.5 stars out of 5 stars among App Store users. In contrast, Swell has 4.5 stars with more than 400 reviews on the App Store.
With the rise of streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify, Apple’s iTunes has been struggling to grow. Part of that has to do with digital downloads, which are on the decline, as users prefer the ability to stream their music as opposed to purchasing it outright. Apple’s iTunes revenue has actually suffered because of companies like Pandora, which let users listent to streams for free. And iTunes Radio has never really challenged Pandora in audience size. That’s why Apple bought Lala, another music recommendation engine, in 2009: to help build iTunes Radio, which also offers streaming music and personalised stations.
With the purchase of Beats earlier this year, and now Swell, it looks like Apple is still building a music platform that molds itself to its users, rather than the other way around.
Swell is going to be shut down this week, so here’s a quick tour of the app’s features on iOS:
Before you get into the app, you select the topics and channels you’re most interested in.
Once the app boots up, it will immediately play you a channel based on the topics you previously chose. And if you want to listen to something else, simply swipe right.
Dave Smith / Business Insider