How this audio guy’s desert epiphany brought about a podcast analytics startup

by Kelly O'Halloran
August 22, 2017


Not everything hosted online is high tech.

Take podcasts, for example. Despite having been around for 13 years, the technology powering podcasts hasn’t come very far. Podcasters record their bit, and users download it to listen on their own time.

Measuring a podcast’s success, and by extension its value to advertisers, usually comes down to the number of times it’s downloaded.

Jonathan Gill hopes to change that with his latest startup, Backtracks. Gill, an audio engineer and software developer, has worked on more than 30 albums and voted on the Grammy’s as a teenager. With Backtracks, he plans to bring that specialized skillset to the podcast industry.

“We bring a lot of tech to a space that, even though it’s born on the internet, is very low tech,” said Gill. “We bring detailed analysis and measurement, hosting, machine learning and algorithms to count audiences correctly. We help podcasters and advertisers measure, optimize and target audio.”

By ensuring that audience statistics are tracked accurately, Backtracks helps podcasters gain credibility with advertisers.

“We don’t want people to lie about their numbers,” said Gill. “If a listener hits download 20 times a day, on our platform it will only count as one download.”

Additionally, Backtracks can detect when a listener drops off from a podcast within a millisecond, as well as identify where listeners are located. It also transcribes podcasts within 99 percent accuracy.

“Having the knowledge of how your content is working best on the production side can help you structure a show, produce better quality for your particular audience and understand when people consume your content most,” said Gill.  

Gill teamed up with co-founder Kevin Wright to launch Backtracks in early 2016. The two first met as members of Volusion’s Mozu team, where they designed the large scale parts of the system together before Mozu was sold to equity partners last fall.

Following the acquisition, Gill headed out to the desert — Joshua Tree, specifically.

“I had been listening to a bunch of podcasts at the time of the Joshua Tree trip, and I realized that there is a lack of metrics and understanding of the data there,” Gill said.

Enter Backtracks. Since its launch, the Austin startup has gained clients like Y Combinator and Stripe.

Gill said the company is actively raising funding, with product launches and predictive AI insights in the works as the company continues to gain traction. The company is currently a member of Capital Factory’s accelerator program.


Image provided by Backtracks.

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