I’m at a truce with my podcast listening experience. I’m very grateful to the show hosts – if anything I feel like I have a connection and personal relationship with them far beyond what I experince with other media. However, when I start to think about the listening methods that stand between the artists and myself, it is easy to get a little frustrated.
My initial subscriptions were found on an old PC where I’d downloaded the iTunes desktop client. I looked for Tech News. In the early days, there weren’t many options. Many of my current subscriptions stem from those initial choices – I’ve listened to guest hosts who had their own podcasts and then followed them to their own shows. With certain areas, a host I’ve followed on Twitter had promoted another show. Barbell Shrugged was the top podcast in one of my hobbies, so that I found out through the community.
However, I don’t really know who of my friends listen to podcasts. If they did, I wouldn’t know what are their favorite shows, and very importantly – what the best episodes are of those shows. This lack of discover-ability is a rate limiter in the growth of podcasting, and is very similar to the challenges faced app discovery and finding YouTube videos.
Podcasting is an activity that is used in transit. Usage in areas with pore internet connectivity is common. Any podcast app that requires wifi to simply listen to audio is fundamentally broken. The app must be built such that the app is self-contained on the device and that when data is available it can be used quickly for sharing and downloading. Much like how Dropbox and Google Drive can allow you to keep files on the device, an effective podcast app must start with the orientation that it is primarily used on the device, not via the cloud.
The best framework I have for library management is what Audible does with its iOS app. It should be easy for me to look at a podcast subscription and tell what episodes:
- Are currently on my device
- Have been released by the host, but are not yet downloaded
- Have been downloaded to my device in the past, but are now no longer on the device
- I have downloaded in the past and I have listened to them (and also what % of the show did I listen to)
- I have listened to and what my rating of the episode is
Listening is at the core of any iOS app. Most apps have the same functionality.
- Episodes shold go back to where I left off listening once I have left the app, even if I’ve listened to another podcast (iOS music app is the only one I know of that doesn’t do this).
- I should be able to speed up / slow down the speech of the program.
- I should be able to skip forward or backward by 30s (and this amount of time should be adjustable).
- I should be able to insert a note at a set point in an episode. I don’t know of a podcasting app that does this – Audible is again the best reference point. In addition to flagging that moment in time, I should be able to insert a text note, and if I’m really dreaming big, I should be able to convert that audio to text automatically.
Some of this is covered above, and understanding use history is tightly integrated into how an app lets you manage your library. I would want to:
- Be able to manage an ‘active’ vs no longer active set of subscriptions. In most of the applications I’ve looked at now, once I delete a podcast or subscription it is totally gone. This is unlike the Audible experience, where my history (including notes) is stored in the cloud and accessible via the internet, or even on my device if I re-download the content.
- I’d like to see how many hours I’ve spent using the application – how much have I listened to?
- How much have I listened to each subscription? When and where did I listen? What % of the episode do I listen to? Audible has some badges, and it looks like Stitcher makes an effort here, but everything is very weak. Further, I’d be willing to pay a modest monthly fee for this (I’m thinking $1 – $5, similar to BeyondTheWhiteboard.com).
- What’s surprising about my interest in these features is that they appear as if they would be *very* valuable to advertisers. Further, they seem as if they would be technologically easy to pursue. I’m sure there those more knowledgeable have a feel for the context of why such options are not currently available.
Sharing & Social
Building ‘sharing’ and other social functionality into an app or product just for the sake of doing so is not something that interests me. Blindly sharing doesn’t do much good, but with the challenges of discovering new podcasts being so great, and the payback being relatively high, this is an area where further work would be interesting.
- Sharing to show you’ve listened to a show. This is already done with hashtags on Twitter, but this seems a bit crude. A search for Joe Rogan Experience #JRE throws back over 17,000 hits. Downcast and PocketCast each have a simple button for this.
- Rating an episode and ranking it. Here the challenge is that ratings are done at the show level, not the episode level, and that the most common repository is iTunes. Even writing a recommendation is a hassle.
- Sharing a snippet from a show. This could be either an audio clip or a text note – best would be an automatic audio to text conversion.
- Subscribing to a show host – Twitter and Facebook pages fill some of this void, but there is a big gap between seeing that commentary out of context.
- Links to chatrooms. One of TWiT’s greatest assets is the ‘hive-mind’ of the chatroom – this is really lost when listening to a show a few days later. The show holds its value, but it is difficult to see into those chatroom archives.
- Links to other listeners. With Audible and Yelp reviews you can occasionally stalk a fellow reviewer with whom you share an opinion – this would be a valuable way to find new content. TWiT’s TechNewsToday show did a good job of this with their own subreddit.