- Player: Jason Grishkoff
- Company: Indie Shuffle
- Past position: Cut his teeth at Google in Palo Alto
- Established: 2009
- Visit: indieshuffle.com
Technology gives everyone a voice. But having a voice doesn’t guarantee an audience. In fact, with so much noise, finding an audience is harder than ever. Success often lies in becoming a trusted content curator — a reliable source of high-quality information.
Algorithms are not the key to world domination. Jason Grishkoff knows that. The founder of music blog Indie Shuffle differentiated the platform in a crowded sector by focusing on content curation done by real people who love music.
He’s proved that even in a market dominated by big players, niche providers can thrive by being exceptional and responding to the needs and tastes of their users.
‘We believe humans are better than robots,’ goes its tagline. Since its launch in 2009, Indie Shuffle has streamed more than 500 million minutes of music, the app is approaching one million downloads on iPhone and Android, and the platform has users in all but five countries worldwide. More than six million songs are streamed every month.
The secret to the success of Indie Shuffle is to be found in the team of 50 international contributors — or tastemakers — who alert users to new music and playlists across a range of genres, including indie rock, hip hop, electronic, and everything in between. “We have differentiated ourselves by how well we help listeners sift through a seemingly endless choice,” says Grishkoff.
Born and raised in Cape Town, Grishkoff, whose first love is coding, started the blog as a hobby and a way to keep in touch with friends when he studied and then worked in the US. When, between 2011 and 2013, there was a sudden proliferation of music blogs, Indie Shuffle’s focus on a niche market — music lovers whose tastes lie beyond the Top 40 — gave it the edge.
The idea is to offer curated playlists to get people to listen to new music and artists, with lots of information about each. Becoming known as the go-to source for indie music has positioned Indie Shuffle as a thought leader, which is one of the key benefits of good curation.
Lesson: In his book Tribes, Seth Godin describes a tribe in the following way: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: A shared interest and a way to communicate.”
The Internet has reignited the age-old concept of the tribe, and has made it possible for tribe members to be spread out all across the globe. And going hand in hand with the proliferation of these online tribes is the concept of content curation.
With so much noise out there, tribes are always on the lookout for carefully curated content. Regardless of your market, you should aim to position yourself as the custodian of content.
In the US, on-demand streaming by listeners was up 92% through the first half of 2015, with more than 135 billion streams, according to Nielsen Music. In a hugely crowded marketplace, and with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify dominating, to say nothing of YouTube’s music video boom, the combination of careful curation and good technology continues to set Indie Shuffle apart. It also helps that the platform’s target market is hardly mainstream.
“Our competitors in the music sector, most of them with vast music libraries, started shrinking when the new players entered the market, but our superior music collection and sophisticated technology enabled us to grow,” says Grishkoff.
“We developed the ability to allow users to hit play and listen to hours of music before many other music blogs did it, and that was a major differentiator.”
Lesson: Smaller operations can remain competitive even when behemoths invade their market. Despite the presence of Apple Music, Indie Shuffle has remained relevant by offering niche content that’s carefully curated, and by staying at the forefront of technology. It might depend on tastemakers rather than algorithms for curation, but it fully realises the importance of technological innovation.
Ready, set, scale
It helps that Grishkoff is so proficient in the technology behind the platform. He has the ability to quickly make changes and upgrades, so whether he is rolling out new features or improving existing functionality, rapid development allows Indie Shuffle to move quickly, to the benefit of its users.
“The beauty of something like this is that once the platform is running it does not require much attention,” he adds. “Most of my time is focused on simplifying and removing any complexity.”
Behind all these impressive figures are just four full-time staff members, each situated in different parts of the world. Grishkoff, who runs the business side of things, is in Cape Town; two editors in San Francisco and Sydney; and a developer in Calgary.
Lesson: In order for a start-up to become a successful business, its idea needs to be scalable. An influx of business should not result in unmanageable complexity. Indie Shuffle is an excellent example of a service that operates unchanged, almost regardless of user numbers.
Content curation is an excellent way to keep your marketing team small, while still having a strong impact on your customers and target audiences via various social media and digital channels.
The power of content curation
Sharing outsider content by other businesses and thought leaders shows your audience that you know your industry well, that you’re part of a larger community, and that you’re aware of your competition. More importantly, it shows that you’re collaborative and confident enough in your own brand to share another’s content.
Using content curation
Effective content is meaningful, attractive, social media friendly, and on-message with your brand. Keep these elements top of mind when selecting the content you want to share. Once selected, interpret what each piece of content is saying, analyse it according to your brand message, and then present it in an impactful way.