A recent conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and Gary Vaynerchuk about the metaverse and the future of the internet attracted considerable attention in the tech world. Less notice was paid to the app the two famous entrepreneurs used for recording the chat.
That was Riverside.fm. Founded in 2019 in Tel Aviv by brothers Nadav and Gideon Keyson, the company has sort of flown under the radar. But highly influential people have been using it to make some noise.
Along with Vaynerchuk, AKA “Gary Vee,” and the Facebook (now rechristened Meta) CEO, other people who have relied on Riverside.fm include Hillary Clinton, who used it for her podcast last year, and veteran tech journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. At the enterprise-level, the startup also has a footprint inside Disney and subsidiary Marvel.
So far, the company has raised $12 million from investors including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, Oren Zeev’s Zeev Ventures, Color Genomics co-founder Elad Gil, Dutch entrepreneur Alexander Klöpping and podcast producer Guy Raz. Casey Neistat – a YouTuber with 12.4 million followers – is another one of the firm’s backers.
It’s pretty clear that Riverside.fm has some momentum behind it. We decided to take a closer look to learn more about how this app works and what’s driving the interest. (Although we would have loved to speak to the Keyson brothers directly for this piece, the time difference between the U.S. and Tel Aviv posed some challenges.)
In short, what Riverside.fm does is allow content creators to make remote audio and video recordings that are of studio quality. In a sense, it is similar to Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. A user sets up a stream or a call, invites a subject into that environment and a recording is captured. What sets Riverside.fm apart from those other applications, however, is the high-fidelity element.
What that means in practice is that a podcast producer or steam can select high-definition video resolutions, anywhere from 240p all the way to 4K. Also, unlike the other remote recording apps, Riverside allows the creator to record audio in WAV format – which Zoom, for example, does not do.
WAV files are the least compressed, and therefore highest quality digital audio format. Creators can still opt to have their audio downloadable as MP3s, but having the WAV format available gives editors much more flexibility in the post-production process.
Also noteworthy is the multi-track audio and video recording – isolated tracks of each speaker. Zoom can do this as well. What differentiates Riverside.fm is that there are fewer steps to get the task accomplished.
Another intriguing element of Riverside is the more central role of artificial intelligence. Its Magic Editor feature assesses when a speaker has finished talking and can make automated cuts between speakers. There is an echo detection-cancellation feature, as well as a general ambient noise suppression option, that works against things like air conditioning units and the general cacophony of a busy home where everyone is working from a room or two. These features seem particularly relevant in a world where a hybrid home-office model seems likely to stay put.
There are two ways to access Riverside.fm – through a browser (for now, Chrome only) and via phone (for now, iPhones and iOS only). But in the end, Riverside is a portable, wireless, studio-grade, remote-interview and live-stream production kit, rolled into a single app.
Turning this technology into revenue starts with a subscription model.
A user has to assess how many hours of recording per month they want to do, and there are different rates depending on how much volume a user expects to need, and whether a user wants to pay monthly or yearly. Obviously, the most expensive plans are the most feature-rich ones.
The most basic plan doesn’t allow for streaming. The “pro” plan includes live streaming services as well as auto-generated transcriptions of each recording. Every plan, however, generates independent audio and video tracks for each speaker in a call.
The ultra-high-end service is at the enterprise level, catering to business behemoths like Disney and Marvel. At this point, Riverside offers environments for team collaborations and even branded green rooms. It’s not hard to envision the entertainment industry seeking out apps that capture studio-quality filmmaking at film’s native 24 frames-per-second rate. (Computers typically operate at roughly 60 fps, Zoom’s standard is 25.)
The company is establishing itself in a growing industry. A recent estimate the global podcasting industry at $95 billion by 2028. There are approximately 120 million listeners right now, a number expected to increase to 160 million by 2023.
It’s not just podcasting that’s blowing up. It's the audio technology space as a whole. According to another recent study, wireless audio, including smartphones and tablets, will be a $153 billion market by 2026. That same study identifies the use of Bluetooth technology, meaning audio streaming, as the highest growing area.
In other words, the appetite for high-end audio and video streaming content is only growing. That’s great for creators – it means opportunity and demand. It also means that both audiences and creators alike will have increasingly sophisticated software needs. The Keyson brothers are attempting to get out in front of that next generation of broadcasting technologies.