“Landed is about connection,” says Sagar Bhatt, creator of the new “mindful audio” app Landed. The app departs from other social media apps in that there’s no feed, no photos or videos, and no texting element. Rather, Landed connects users one-on-one via audio messages. Each week, on Sunday, users are prompted to share three things they were grateful for in the last week, and, if they want, to share a challenging experience. A few days later, they’ll receive an audio message from their randomly assigned match for the week, and then the matched pair can exchange audio for the rest of the week. At the end of each week, all records of the conversation disappear. Bhatt likened the temporary exchange to a “kind conversation with someone next to you on a plane.”
We first connected with Bhatt last summer, when the app was in beta testing. Landed recently became available in the app store, so Tricycle sent some questions to Bhatt about Landed’s launch, user feedback, and the ephemeral nature of the app.
Messaging apps are said to be more conducive to happiness than “feed” apps that deliver us a list of other people’s posts. How did you conceive of Landed, and what were you trying to avoid in its construction? I really had no intention of getting into tech. I was a comedian and mindfulness teacher in NYC, and, sometime during COVID, I had the idea while exchanging voice notes with a friend. I think quarantine allowed me to pursue threads of curiosity I normally wouldn’t.
The concept was a slow experience that felt like a contrast to the endless scrolling in other apps. Certain elements evolved, but exchanging voice notes with a different match each week (and nothing else!) was the center from the beginning. I always liked voice notes because they felt personal, but you can do them on your own time.
The gratitude portion came later. So did matching with a stranger. There’s great research about the benefits of talking to strangers, but it makes some people anxious. Starting the connection with gratitude warms up the whole enterprise.
A customer service executive whose mantra is to let customers choose their channel—phone, email, text, in-person—said, “Everyone chooses text.” How has the response to audio messaging been? Overall, it’s been positive. For this format, voice makes sense. I agree text is better for efficiency, but Landed is about connection. The pauses, the whimsical asides, the inflection—that’s the point. Hearing a voice lends an immediate feeling of intimacy that some users value even more than the words. Someone told me that an audio message also feels intentional. He liked knowing someone took the time to record it.
That said, some people just aren’t going to like voice, which is fine. Landed isn’t for everyone.
What about the response to the gratitude component? Has there been any skepticism? Folks with some familiarity take to it well. It helps that there’s so much research about the benefits of gratitude. But the most moving feedback I’ve received speaks to gratitude’s power as connective tissue. Several people have now mentioned how special it feels to listen to another human reflect on the things that bring them joy, comfort, and appreciation. It’s quite intimate and without pretense.
Some people are skeptical, and I used to be one of them. I used to think gratitude was just a superficial self-help thing and not the real work. Over time, I began to understand that gratitude isn’t meant to push away discomfort but rather to help center us as we navigate it. In a way, gratitude brings us closer to the truth rather than further away, since there are so many small aspects of good fortune we tend to overlook (Two bites into lunch, I’m thinking about dinner). I try to include this in the messaging, and I also encourage people to be as specific and grounded as possible when noting their gratitude.
Lastly, there’s the issue of gratitude feeling like homework. I’m fine with this too. Do some homework! It’s our preoccupation with the shiny and stimulating that led me to make Landed in the first place. Meditation can feel like homework too, but there is a deeper reward that emerges over time.
What feedback have users of Landed given? What adjustments, if any, have you made since launch? If something is confusing, misleading, or overlooked, we fix that. Other feedback is more complex to negotiate, because certain elements being a turnoff isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Some people want the app to do more—maybe they want multiple matches, a text or picture component, or something else that would make it more engaging. The work here isn’t to change those things but to better communicate the purpose and values of the app, and then being OK with losing people. For example, our submission window opens every Sunday. So if you download Landed on a Wednesday, you have to wait four days to use it. If you can’t wait four days, farewell (with metta).
Having a core user base that values the constraints helps me hold steady for now. Being 40 helps too. I no longer have this knee-jerk response to manipulate everything for max approval.
Part of the pitch of Landed is its ephemeral nature. But have you or users come across anything you would like to save? Reflecting on a nice walk opens up more real-time appreciation for the next walk. I think that’s the part that stays with you.
With the matches, it’s harder to pin down what remains, but one user mentioned that even though her match disappears each week, she’s now more in touch with the part of her that is nurtured by human contact.
More tangibly, some people do want to save their matches. Doing so could quickly make Landed another platform where we feel behind due to too many threads, so I’m holding off.
What have been some of the challenges so far? Landed has many qualities. It’s minimalist, mindful, audio-only, you connect with a total stranger, you cultivate gratitude, it’s ephemeral. From a user perspective, it’s all a pretty singular experience, thankfully. But from a promotional standpoint, I sometimes don’t know where to start.
The other challenge is it’s self-funded, and I am not wealthy.
Your business isn’t data harvesting or monetizing, but what have you learned about Landed users? Mindfulness practitioners have taken to this format the best.
Learn more about Landed here.
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