How an idealistic idea turned into an exciting new platform that combines the potential of live-video technology with the story telling and community building power of podcasters.
My reason to start GetVokl has always been to create online interactions that are meaningful around content that matters. Meaningful interactions are designed for your benefit, not that of giant ad companies who make incredible profits selling your attention to the highest bidding advertiser. Instead of sucking you into endless activity feeds and leaving you with this icky feeling that you’ve been robbed of your precious time, meaningful interactions lift you up in some way. Talking about our mutual passions with others face-to-face and in person is probably one of the most meaningful interactions that we are capable of as humans.
The same incredibly smart folks in Silicon Valley that have built the interactions and platforms that have NOT been designed with the well-being of the user in mind realize this now and enforce strict limitations on their own children’s exposure to social and digital media. This eerily reminds me of a successful drug dealer’s golden rule: Don’t get high on your own supply. It’s somewhat redeeming that there is a growing number of self-critical voices in the Valley that admit to having created technology behemoths that deliver questionable value to the individual user and society as a whole. But what’s being done about it?
You don’t have to be an expert to realize that today’s social platforms don’t support us in being our best selves. That’s a design problem though, not an inherent issue with technology. In fact, video communication technology allows us to get pretty close to those meaningful in person interactions that make life worth living. I have no idea what I’d do without services like WhatsApp or FaceTime video calls to keep up with family and friends. And at the latest the Covid-19 pandemic has proven how powerful Zoom’s video conferencing technology is, even though it was designed for business communication. But what about interactive live-video platforms for people that don’t know each other?
There have been many failed attempts to create a successful platform that brings strangers together to talk to each other in group video chats. There are many reasons why none of these platforms have achieved mainstream adoption and success. At GetVokl we’ve analyzed these attempts and done a lot of our own experimentation. Our most important learning is that without a purpose, live video hangouts amongst strangers don’t work. At best these hangouts create small groups of extremely active users that may even become close virtual friends. At worst they build communities of rivaling cliques that create a microcosm of toxic online drama. Neither of these community types are appealing enough to draw in new users. So what’s a good purpose?
Going back, truly meaningful interactions happen when people talk about something they feel mutually passionate about. But even then, it’s important that someone takes ownership of facilitating the conversations. As we ran our experiments and did our research we took a closer look at Twitch and its extremely popular live-video-streams of commented game play. At first I didn’t understand why watching someone else play a game and listen to their live commentary would ever be more desirable than actually playing a game. The simple answer is community. Despite the limited interactivity of these streams (they only support chat engagements) large communities of die-hard fans have formed around these creators and their content. So, the real question was, who are the creators and the communities that would benefit the most from interacting in a live-video format?
It is podcasters and their communities of immensely committed fans. The answer was not obvious at first as podcasts are traditionally asynchronous and audio only. But even before Covid-19 a growing number of podcasters has been wondering about doing live shows to engage directly with their fans. The most popular podcasters even tour the country selling out physical venues. More importantly, podcasters are probably the most loved digital creators of our time. How often have I heard fans refer to their favorite podcasters as the “friend in my ear” or “someone I’d like to be friends with”. What an opportunity to funnel this love into an interactive live show hosted by podcasters to engage with their fans and build community!
This is the birth of interactive podcasting. Not only can fans engage directly with podcasters and each other, they can even show their love and make donations to podcasters directly on GetVokl. We are starting to see communities form around podcasters and are excited about the interactions that are already happening. Together with the community of podcasters that are already using GetVokl and those that are newly joining every week, we are committed to making GetVokl an even better place for what we call interactive podcasting. There’s a place now for truly meaningful interactions about the content and ideas you love. Let’s build it together.