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Is This Company the Next Step in Apple's Quest for Streaming Domination?


Apple is reportedly in talks to purchase Swell, a year-old radio and podcast streaming app for about $30 million.

According to Re/Code, the app will be shut down sometime this week, and most of the team behind it will be hired by Apple.

Apple and Swell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Swell, which has been billed as the "Pandora for talk radio," learns user preferences by taking information from peer and community ratings, favorite topics, and even the programs and news organizations that a listener skips past, giving users a personalized podcast and radio playlist.

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The company was co-founded by CEO G.D. (Ram) Ramkumar, CTO Keshav Menon and Chief Scientist Dominic Hughes. The three lead a team of 12 which includes engineers and audio editors. Swell counts Google Ventures and DFJ among its early investors.

Ramkumar and Menon previously worked together on SnapTell, a visual mobile marketing startup that was acquired in 2009 by Amazon subsidiary for an undisclosed sum. SnapTell's tech included the ability to take a photo of a product, instantly ID it and price compare, arguably similar in concept to the Firefly feature of the new Amazon phone.

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So what does Swell mean for Apple? Apple has a dedicated Podcasts app that emphasizes discovering new content and making it simple for new creators to get an audience, but the app isn't particularly well-rated. Coupled with their large scale purchase of Beats this spring, it seems that Apple is aiming to further improve its streaming and recommendation technology with help from the influx of tested talent from these smaller companies.

The reports also come on the heels of the company's acquisition of BookLamp, a book analytics startup that offers recommendations based on similarities in writing style.

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