How I Created an App To Set
Your Favourite Podcast As Your Daily Alarm
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jonathan Wilson and I am the creator of the Podcast Alarm app. Podcast Alarm lets you set a podcast as your morning alarm so that you can wake up inspired and motivated to live your best day.
Beyond that, there are loads of other cool features too. You can have the app automatically download the latest episode of a podcast a few minutes before the alarm plays so you can wake up to a new episode of a daily show. There are also all the features you would need to listen to podcasts like any other podcast app elsewhere so you don’t have to have multiple apps.
My favourite feature is the ‘discover’ view because it gives you a quick glimpse of recommended podcasts from big-name websites and magazines, it is a great way to find new shows.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been working as an iOS developer for over 8 years now and loved listening to podcasts, specifically hearing about startups and side hustles. I enjoyed thinking up my own ideas and working on them in my spare time.
Some mornings I would have no motivation to get started on my work, listening to other success stories would help get me started on the right path. I decided that an alarm playing podcasts would be a great solution. After a quick google search, I found no apps that covered this niche and a few people asking for the same thing in some forums.
Having an idea that people were asking for with no competitors is a very rare occurrence. Most ideas have at least 3 apps already made!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I think the main challenge for me is marketing. I have a great app that users enjoy but it’s very hard to get it in front of the right people. There are some big changes to the app coming soon that I will be using to boost the visibility of the app, keep an eye out for it.
I have had a lot of challenges in the past when developing apps and I took care in mitigating them this time before I started. They include keeping the design of the app as simple as possible, releasing early to make sure it was a valid idea with small incremental changes over time.
It’s a lot easier to make an app with a captive audience to bounce ideas off, so this app was an easier job in the making.
Who is your target market?
My target market is split into two groups. Group 1 has a broad demographic of male and female between the ages of 25 – 50. They want to wake up to motivational speakers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. They are usually fairly driven individuals and are working towards a certain goal. Podcast Alarm is another part of a routine to get the most out of their days.
Group 2 has a similar demographic, probably with a slightly older age range. They are more interested in staying informed. They do this by subscribing to the latest news from their favourite source. Mainly these are large American news channels.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I tried to do some paid marketing but I have yet to find a profitable approach. Unfortunately, I don’t have any funding or additional money to perform a proper experiment on paid adverts but maybe in the future that will be possible.
Podcast Alarm has a couple of social channels that I regularly post updates, blog posts, and relevant links. Twitter seems to be the most popular and easiest to grow. I use Buffer to schedule posts to all channels.
I am currently concentrating on the blog right now. I post podcast recommendations, updates on the app, and interviews with podcast hosts. The post has a longer lifetime value than a paid boost of Facebook. For example, I sometimes pay a writer to create better content than I would write on my own.
The next step is going to be supporting the podcasters themselves by providing a way to boost their show in the app. I am hoping to do a trade for a mention on the show possibly. I still need to figure this one out.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
As I have the ability to track retention easily within the mobile app I can see if the app is not performing well in this regard. To boost retention the app needs to do its job well. In my case, this is playing alarms, which actually isn’t an easy task at all within iOS as it’s not a built-in feature of the operating system.
Beyond that, I try to create additional features around the main task to help users to want to spend more time on the application. In this case, I have made the app a podcast player too, along with the Discover view which provides snippets from articles and access to all the recommended podcasts.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
As it’s just myself working in Podcast Alarm, I am yet to set out any company culture. I do work with a contract writer sometimes and I like to let him lead his own contributions as much as possible. He is the expert in his field and I trust that he knows best.
In the future, if it got to that size I would prefer a remote team, with regular meetups to get to know each other well. Finding the right people that can work independently and help the company grow would be a priority.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
The great thing about an app is that it is entirely online. The tools I use are web tools and programs on my laptop.
Mainly I will use Xcode to develop the features and publish the app to the app store. It’s a free and brilliant tool. I can visualise the app and see it working before it even reaches a phone.
Google Analytics is used second-most. They let me know how many users are on the app at one time as well as the website. I use it to figure out what features users like the most, and what sort of podcasts they enjoy listening to.
Most importantly with the app, it lets me debug and track any issues. It is very important to me that the app performs the best it can, beyond the fact that it would get bad reviews if it didn’t work.
I use Mailchimp to handle the email signups on the website. It’s a great tool for that. I simply collect any that sign-up and if there is a very big announcement then I will send an email. I rarely do that as I hate getting lots of emails from companies and wouldn’t want to do it to others.
What are the most important lessons you have learned on your business journey?
The main lesson I have seen both in myself and others is consistently adding small pieces to a larger goal. Podcast Alarm the app, website, social media, and all other aspects of it have been made up with very small achievements.
For example, if I am watching TV I may open my laptop and send off a few emails to magazines to see if they would like to write about the app. It takes a few minutes but the potential outcome would be huge. If that’s all I did for the project that day it’s still enough as it’s better off than it was the day before. After a while you can look back at what you have achieved, I bet you will be surprised.
One mistake I made in the past was releasing the app with a bug that was very avoidable, I now have a whole lot of measures to make sure it goes out bug-free. They include automatic tests within the app that will run through all the features and check they function as they should.
I personally test out every build of the app before it goes to the store. I also send out that build to a few hundred beta testers so that they get to try it out and find any bugs before it’s on the App Store. Finally, the app is released over a week in small stages. If I notice an issue I would be able to pause this release with only a small percentage affected.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I really love making my own decisions and being the master of my own destiny. When you work for others you need to rely on them making decisions to help you grow.
I love having large goals with obvious benefits if they are achieved it motivates me a lot. I also love seeing others use and talk about the thing I made, it gives me a great sense of pride.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
At this stage of Podcast Alarm I have to do all the tasks. I find tedious or boring work very hard to perform as I do not stay motivated for long. In the future, I would like to hire someone to help out with that kind of work.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
The Lean Startup book writes about an approach that I follow a lot. I always try to create a feature that is going to be widely adopted, or work on a task that has a good return on investment. I do not waste a lot of time on vanity tasks or things that I just like the idea of, once you get going there is plenty of feedback from users as to what you should be working on next.
A podcast that I have always listened to for motivation is Side Hustle School, the presenter interviews or explains a side hustle that is doing well in a given niche. Some of these businesses you would never have thought would work but are doing really well, some of the features are very interesting.
People achieving their goals and making their own income on the side motivates me to carry on with my own side projects, Podcast Alarm being one of them.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
My original goal for Podcast Alarm was to be featured on the App Store, I haven’t yet achieved that goal but it’s doing really well in the download rankings so fingers crossed I get there soon. It’s a pretty decent side project currently but it could always do with making more money. If I had more time I would invest it into an Android version.