One of my favorite apps that I’ve downloaded recently for consuming the news wasn’t, in fact, an RSS reader or another Twitter client — it was Swell, which launched in June as a Pandora-like app for podcasts. And it seems that other users and investors are also a fan of Swell, with the company announcing Thursday that it’s raised $5.4 million in a Series A funding round.
The app allows you to quickly sign in, and then presents you with unlimited listening (and skips) of different podcast shows, so you can scroll through and find what you like. The best part of Swell is the wide variety of free content. The company has partnerships with NPR, American Public Media (creators of “Marketplace”), and ABC News, and the app also includes content from podcasts in iTunes like the BBC, CBC, Comedy Central, TED Talks and ESPN.
So it doesn’t just play the podcasts you like — it actually serves as a mechanism for discovery and consumption.You can read my full review of the app when it launched in June here, and it’s available in the iTunes store here. The company said that active users of the app are listening, on average, for over 110 minutes per week and over 40 minutes per day.
Listening to Swell introduced me to some old This American Life episodes I hadn’t heard before, an excellent interview with Square CEO Jack Dorsey, and a variety of news shows that kept me up-to-date on non-tech news of the day. I also took advantage of the feature that lets you send certain podcasts to friends via email.
One thing that I wasn’t totally clear about when the app launched was how it supports offline listening, but there’s a tab under settings that allows you to select downloads over wifi-only, and the app will switch to playing cached content, and not use your phone’s data.
The funding round was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Google Ventures, InterWest Partners, Correlation Ventures, and Draper Nexus Ventures also participated. Swell’s CEO G.D. (Ram) Ramkumar was previously a founder and CTO at Snaptell, which allowed you to take photos of book or movie covers and connect to a store to purchase them. The company was acquired by Amazon in 2009.
The company had previously raised $1.8 million in seed funding led by Google Ventures, with Charles River Ventures, DFJ, Andreessen Horowitz, Inspovation Ventures, and angels participating.