Is Luminary Bound To Fail?


    The folks at the new paywall app have certainly ruffled a lot of feathers, both before and after its launch this week.

    Kevin Goldberg’s latest column at, entitled “Why Luminary is Bound to Fail” lays out two scenarios: how Luminary can succeed and how it can fail. He writes:
    “It’s very difficult to even squint to see how you could spin Luminary into a pitch that’s good for users. To date, nearly all podcasts are free. Luminary needs to convey that their podcasts are markedly better than the litany of free podcasts out there. A tall order.”

    Within the industry, speculation is running wild on what will happen to Luminary, especially with the way the company entered the space, angering podcasters who want advertising and grabbing content for its app without permission.

    Some podcasters are not real happy Luminary decided not to play nice in their sandbox when it jumped into the space flaunting $100 million in VC money. In case the folks at Luminary didn’t notice, podcasters are very big on being a community. For example, even though there are many competitive companies in the space, individuals within those companies are friends, close friends. They’ve been around since the beginning and their collective goal has always been to grow the entire industry. Outsiders are not always welcome, especially those who appear to be in it only for themselves, or to make a quick buck.

    When Luminary arrived screaming on Twitter “Podcasts don’t need ads,” some podcasters were furious, especially those who know they will never pocket a penny from a company like Luminary and are hoping advertising helps turn their hobby into a business. One very respected podcast executive said to us this week, “It was easy to raise $100 million. From here on out it’s going to be tough. They do not have a viable business model and on top of that they are kind of being assholes. Not a good combination in this space.”

    CEO Matt Sacks has been trying to make nice, apologizing HERE and explaining HERE.

    On Wednesday of this week, we heard that Luminary was still at it. A major company told us Luminary was simply taking its content without even asking. It’s being taken down, from what we understand. After we asked Luminary to clarify why it was simply taking some content for its free app without asking those creators for permission, the Podcast Business Journal received the following statement from Luminary, Wednesday night: “Luminary looks forward to working with all podcasters who want to enter into license agreements with us, but will not require podcasters accustomed to operating without them to change their practices. We will work in good faith with anyone who wants to work in good faith with us.”

    The folks at Luminary don’t really need to play nice in the podcasting sandbox. Sure, it may have been better PR for the company at launch. However, the only thing that matters is whether consumers will pay $100 per year for content they expect for free, in a battle for the ears of the consumer, in an already overcrowded audio space. If enough will, they can snub their nose at the podcasting industry all they want and all the way to the bank.

    Check out Kevin’s column on Why Luminary is Bound to Fail HERE.