Over the weekend, podcast client Overcast launched a few new features in its latest update. Most notably, the app’s recommendation engine for suggesting new podcasts has been completely revamped and improved in a big way. Additionally, the recently added feature for sharing video clips of podcasts has an extended length limitation, and you can now set per-podcast settings for new parameters.
Recommendations in Overcast, which are visible when you hit the app’s + button in the top-right corner, have historically been divided into two categories: personalized recommendations, and generalized ones which are broken into categories like Comedy, Technology, and more. These categorized recommendations are still the same as before, but personalized recommendations are now entirely changed and have become more relevant for a broader base of users.
Previously, personalized recommendations depended on having a Twitter account configured with Overcast, which according to developer Marco Arment only 10% of active users did. Now, however, the new ‘Suggestions For You’ section at the top of the recommendations page displays podcasts that are commonly subscribed to by people who enjoy the same shows as you. Arment has built an engine based on years of subscriber data that knows, for example, that listeners of AppStories are likely to also subscribe to Connected, so if you subscribe to one but not the other, Overcast will recommend that additional show to you. In my testing, the new recommendations were spot-on, highlighting shows that were very clearly related to my current subscription list. And the best part about them: there’s no Twitter login required, so all users will get the new recommendations with no effort whatsoever. The system is also privacy-friendly, as explained in an Arment tweet.
Sure. It’s actually simple. From sync data, the server knows e.g. “user number 1234 subscribes to podcasts 105, 248, and 175”.
Suggestions are based solely on that data, e.g. “For all users who subscribe to podcast 248, what are the most common other podcasts they subscribe to?” https://t.co/rtgVItuNf9
— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) July 22, 2019
While recommendations are at the center of Overcast’s latest update, there are a couple other nice features packed in as well. Video clip sharing, which was previously limited to a max length of 60 seconds per clip, has now been extended to allow 90-second clips. In most cases the expectation is that longer clips won’t be needed, but when they would be helpful, the app now provides more flexibility than before. Finally, Overcast has added per-podcast settings for whether a show should be set to download or stream, and what should happen after an episode’s finished playing – whether it’s deleted immediately, after 24 hours, or saved until deleted manually. These options are accessed from a show’s own Settings page.
Summer is a slower time for meaningful app updates, as developers are often busy working towards larger releases coming in the fall alongside new OS versions. As such, it’s nice to see substantive updates like this that honor the benefits of iterative improvement.