Twitter acquires podcasting app Breaker in order to focus on social audio

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Podcast as a means of entertainment is still at a nascent stage, but social networks appear to see them as a possible vortex around which communities could be built and fostered in the future. Which is why Twitter's latest announcement on acquiring podcasting app Breaker is far from surprising. Their recent signing up with AWS for expanding their cloud cover was a tell-tale sign of things to come. 

That podcasts are on everybody's radar is obvious from recent reports of Spotify's NPR deal and Amazon speakers now playing Spotify podcasts via Alexa. Now Twitter has joined the bandwagon of podcast fanatics through its acquisition of Breaker, an app that came into the limelight in 2016 when podcasts were seen as audio feeds. 

Breaking the podcast barrier

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Twitter's decision to acquire Breaker is ostensibly to "improve the health of the public conversation" on the service, through getting the latter's engineers to work on the social media platform's new audio-based networking project. Yes, Twitter Spaces looks like becoming a reality post mid-January when the Breaker app shuts down.

The Breaker team comprising CEO Erik Berlin and CTO Leah Culver came together after having sold off their previous startups - the social advertising company 140 Proof and Pownce and Grove respectively. Berlin claims in a blog post that they were joining hands with Twitter to enhance the audio experiences on that platform. 

The Breaker app was launched in 2016 when podcasts were still seen as audio feeds delivered over apps that were essentially meant for productivity enhancements. The duo of Berlin and Leah brought in Breaker to change this perception by allowing the users to like and comment on episodes, discover new podcasts via friends, share their favourite shows via social media channels etc. 

In fact, Leah's tweet suggests that she would be part of the team building Twitter Spaces, the audio-based social networking product, that can now hope to take on Clubhouse, the app that celebrities are making a beeline for. Twitter Spaces has been in beta testing since December and allows users to chat real time using voice instead of text. The next challenge would be on how Twitter hosts live audio and possible moderation efforts, which is probably where AWS steps in. 

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Podcasts are here to stay

In recent times, there have been a slew of mergers and acquisitions around podcast business though unlike in the past where content aggregation was the key, this time it is the technology and the team that is crossing over. Not surprising, given Twitter's known aversion to creating its own content.

The Breaker deal offers no details around the price, the fact remains that some of the key personnel took to social media to announce that they would be getting on board the mother ship. Of course, one could argue that Breaker's skin in the game is only technology prowess which now sits alongside the Twitter engineering team.

Twitter's move comes in the wake of Amazon's $300 million acquisition of Wondery, Sirius buying out Stitcher for a similar amount and the deals that Spotify has struck in recent times to enhance its content cupboard.  

None of these however adds to the belief that startups in the podcast business are the next big thing. Besides the low valuation that these sales have seen, there is also the issue of how the voice-led social conversation business will pan out in the future. Even with Twitter going ahead with its voice-enabled social platform, one isn't sure what perils lie in the future for the platform that's faced perennial online toxicity. 

Raj Narayan

A media veteran who turned a gadget lover fairly recently. An early adopter of Apple products, Raj has an insatiable curiosity for facts and figures which he puts to use in research. He engages in active sport and retreats to his farm during his spare time.