This Week's Sponsor:


Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.

Posts tagged with "Apple Podcasts"

Add Timestamp Links to Apple Podcasts Next

Matthew Cassinelli:

Yesterday, Apple began adding transcripts to Apple Podcasts, detailing the change on the Apple Podcast for Creators site and making them available for in iOS 17.4 developer beta 1.

This change is a huge win for accessibility, will surely improve searching in the Podcasts app, and makes quoting your favorite podcast an easy task by letting you copy and paste the text out – something I’ll definitely have to turn into a shortcut soon.

All these benefits are great in their own way and will make podcasts more shareable as a whole, allowing us to unlock so many people’s great ideas that are currently stored within hours of audio files and obscured behind URLs that point only to the show or episode as a whole.

However, I think Apple needs to go one step further in their next step and add timestamps to Apple Podcasts, a long-overdue feature that’d enable users to share links to individual moments within a podcast, directly to a specific point in the transcript.

I couldn’t agree more. From sharing to personal note-taking and research purposes, there several use cases I can think of to take advantage of timestamp links for podcast episodes – especially now that they have transcripts. (Pocket Casts, my favorite third-party podcast player, goes even further: it lets you share timestamp links and save private, time-synced bookmarks for specific parts of any episode.)

I like Matthew’s suggestions for how Apple could implement this feature, and I’ll add: Apple has already built this system for the Music app. When the company added shareable lyrics to the Music app in iOS 14.5, they did so with the ability to share selected lyrics as a special “snippet” on iMessage that is actually an interactive, timestamped song preview based on a special URL. Here’s what I wrote:

Besides Apple’s custom implementation of lyrics selection in the share sheet, what’s also interesting about this is the method the company is using to share Apple Music lyrics URLs. Unlike regular links that reopen a particular song or album in the Music app or play a generic preview snippet in iMessage, lyrics URLs are timestamped: in iMessage, the lyrics card has a play button that will preview the lyrics you shared inline within a conversation; if you tap the link in iMessage and the same song is already paused in the Music app, the Now Playing screen will automatically advance to the section highlighted in shared lyrics.

I’m assuming that Apple is aware of this missing feature from the Podcasts app in iOS 17.4 beta 1; I have to believe their future implementation will be very similar to what already exists in Music.


Apple Introduces Transcripts for Podcasts

I switch to Apple system apps every summer to test the latest versions of the company’s OSes. I usually return to my favorite third-party apps over time, but Apple Podcasts has been an outlier since last summer for various reasons. The app has come a long way in recent years, and while it still doesn’t quite fit with how I like to listen to shows, it has stuck when many other system apps haven’t.

With other podcast apps struggling in recent months and Apple offering unique features that aren’t found elsewhere, Podcasts has become a compelling choice for a lot of listeners. And judging from the download numbers for AppStories, Unwind, and Magic Rays of Light, I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment.

An AppStories transcript.

An AppStories transcript.

Today, Apple added another reason to use its system app: transcripts. The new feature couldn’t be easier for podcast creators:

Apple automatically generates transcripts after a new episode is published. Your episode will be available for listening right away, and the transcript will be available shortly afterwards. There will be a short delay while we process your transcript. If portions of your episode change with dynamically inserted audio, Apple Podcasts will not display the segments of the audio that have changed since the original transcription. Music lyrics are also not displayed in the transcripts.

Listeners will be able to follow along with its transcript, much like how real-time lyrics work in Apple Music, with the text highlighting in sync with the audio for shows.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

I’ve experimented with OpenAI’s Whisper for creating transcripts of MacStories’ podcasts, and although the results are good enough for creating a searchable episode database for our internal use, they haven’t been good enough to publish. As a result, I’m very keen to see how well Apple’s solution works. If they prefer, podcasters will be able to upload their own transcripts, too.

A downloaded transcript.

A downloaded transcript.

The transcripts generated by Apple are saved as VTT files, which is a W3C standard for displaying timed text using HTML 5’s track element. I looked at AppStories, and sure enough, there’s a transcript available for the latest episode already. As one of the show’s creators, I can access, download, edit, and re-upload the transcript. Based on my preliminary scan of the latest episode, though, the transcription is very good, including timestamps and identification of each speaker, although not by name, which isn’t surprising.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the App Store changes coming to the EU next month. Those changes are important and will drive the story of the App Store for years to come, but there’s more to iOS 17.4, and Podcasts transcripts are a prime example of a feature that adds value and makes podcasts more accessible to everyone.

Apple Podcasts Adds Shows From Apple Music and News, Plus a Selection of Third-Party, Subscription-Based Apps

Apple Podcasts significantly expanded its Apple Music and Apple News podcast channels late yesterday and introduced podcasts for subscribers to a variety of third-party apps. In all, Apple says there are over 60 new shows comprised of over 2,500 episodes.

The Apple Music channel new features 42 shows, a significant increase from the handful that were available before. The lineup includes a mix of host-driven shows from Apple Music 1, interviews, music commentary, specials, and more, most of which are exclusive to Apple Music subscribers.

Apple News features four podcasts. News Today features a short, daily rundown of headlines from around the world; After the Whistle follows the World Cup; Apple News In Conversation is a weekly news commentary show; and Narrated News is an Apple News+ subscriber exclusive that presents audio narration of longform writing, something previously only available in the News app.

Some of the subscription-based apps that are offering podcasts. Source: Apple.

Some of the subscription-based apps that are offering podcasts. Source: Apple.

Among the subscription apps that are adding podcasts to their offerings are The Washington Post, Calm, Lingokids, Bloomberg, Sleep Cycle, and several others.

I haven’t had a chance to try any of the app add-on shows because I don’t subscribe to any of the participating apps. However, I spent some time this morning browsing through the Apple Music and Apple News offerings. Most of what is now available from Apple Music or Apple News in Podcasts was already available in their own apps. Still, I like having it available in Podcasts, where both channels’ shows fit in naturally with the other podcasts I enjoy, making Podcasts a one-stop destination for spoken audio. Listening in the Podcasts app also has the advantage of allowing listeners to receive notifications when a new episode is released and queue episodes for playback.

One thing I’d love to see the Apple Music and Apple News shows add is show notes. Links to songs played so they can be added to a listener’s library would be a useful addition to the Apple Music podcasts, as would links to materials on the topics covered by Apple News.

Apple Podcasts Expands Its Analytics and Marketing Tools

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple announced new analytics and marketing tools for podcast creators.

Apple Podcast analytical tools are being expanded to provide a wealth of new anonymized information about paid podcast subscriptions. The new stats will cover information about free trials, conversion rates to paid subscriptions, financial data, and more. There are a number of ways to filter the new metrics and display trends, too.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple also announced additional delegated delivery partners, who allow podcasters to publish their paid subscription episodes to Apple’s platform using the delivery partner’s tools. The latest to join the program are Audiomeans, Captivate, Podbean, Podspace, and Transistor.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Finally, Apple and Linkfire are partnering to offer podcasters smart links to landing pages for their shows where listeners can access their shows and subscriptions. The links, which are commonly used in the music industry to give fans a way to connect to a musician’s material from multiple services, can be used by podcasters to feature their shows on social media, on websites, in newsletters, and anywhere else they want to link to their shows. Linkfire will offer analytics to users of their linking system, which will be anonymized. Linkfire’s new podcast links will be available this fall and include free and paid tiers of service starting at $9.99/month.


Apple Podcasts Adds New Subcategories and Refreshes Recommendations

As I wrote earlier today, Apple has a lot of plans for its Podcasts app this fall, but the company is not waiting to roll out all of the changes to the app. Yesterday, Apple Podcasts added the following nine new subcategories to the app’s search tab on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV:

The new categories also feature their own charts with top shows and episodes in listeners’ regions.

Alongside the addition of new subcategories, the Apple Podcasts editorial team has updated its recommendations with new Podcasts Essentials and added the ability to find podcasts in more than 20 languages if you live in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia.

It’s great to see Apple Podcasts receiving as much attention as it has and continuing to get updates outside of major OS releases. I’ve been using Apple Podcasts on iOS 17 for the past couple of weeks, and I like what I’ve seen so far a lot.

Apple Services Preview: Better Integration, Increased Customization, and Sharing Options

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple’s services have become an increasingly important part of the company’s product lineup, but they didn’t get a lot of time at WWDC this year. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting new features coming with OS releases and beyond. There are a wide variety of updates coming that promise to better integrate services, allow for greater user customization and sharing, plus provide other day-to-day enhancements.

Apple Podcasts

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Perhaps the best example of Apple’s approach to services this year is Apple Podcasts, which will add new software features and act as the glue that integrates other services. My favorite upcoming feature is Podcasts’ new queueing system. Episodes of shows can be added to a listening queue from any list of episodes by long-pressing on an episode or using the More menu and choosing ‘Add to Queue,’ which appends the episode to the bottom of your queue.

Tapping the queue button from the Now Playing screen reveals the Playing Next screen, which includes the current episode at the top, along with any upcoming episodes that you’ve queued for playback with drag handles for reordering the list. If you finish everything in your queue, Podcasts reverts to Up Next, the app’s automatically-generated list of suggested next episodes. The Playing Next screen also includes a triangular disclosure button for revealing chapter titles in podcast episodes that include them. Tapping a chapter title skips to that chapter.

Read more

Slow Burn Recognized as the Apple Podcasts’ Show of the Year

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple Podcasts has named Slow Burn Show of the Year for its season covering the history of the events leading up to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Row v. Wade. The four-part series was released in June, produced by Slate, and hosted by Slate’s executive editor, Susan Matthews.

Regarding the series, Matthews told Apple:

I wanted to make this series because I was really discouraged by how polarized and stuck the conversation around abortion was, and it seemed incredibly timely and important. We set out to tell this story in a way that helped expand and challenge what people understood about this subject. We decided the way to approach this season was to go back to the early ‘70s, when the abortion debate was still up in the air and your party affiliation didn’t correlate with your views on the issue. I am so honored that Apple Podcasts saw something special in this season. I hope people come to it with an open and curious mind, and appreciate listening to it as much as I did making it.

Today, Slate is releasing six Slow Burn Extras, which include a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, new personal stories, and follow-up interviews. The extras are free to download and only available through Apple Podcasts. There’s also an interview with the team behind Slow Burn that’s available on the Apple Podcasts for Creators website.

To commemorate Slow Burn’s achievement, Apple’s created a physical award. The purple award resembles the Podcasts app icon and is made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.

Apple Podcasts Marketing Tool for Social Media Released

Apple has released a free web app that lets podcasters create artwork and links to promote their shows on Apple Podcasts. The app offers several customization options that should appeal to a wide variety of creators who want to market their shows on Apple’s service. Still, there are a couple of limitations worth keeping in mind.

Apple's tool offers several options, but the marketing messages are limited to a predefined list.

Apple’s tool offers several options, but the marketing messages are limited to a predefined list.

At its core, Apple’s tool makes it easy to generate promotional artwork in several predefined sizes along with links that can be posted to social media to promote a show, an episode, or an Apple Podcasts channel. Six size choices cover the standard artwork specifications for most social networking services. By default, the artwork is generated with a purple gradient that matches the Podcasts’ app color scheme, but you can change it to whatever you like.

Shows that offer Apple Podcasts subscriptions can promote bonus content and other perks to users.

Shows that offer Apple Podcasts subscriptions can promote bonus content and other perks to users.

There are several messaging options tailored to whether a show is free or offers a subscription version.

There are several messaging options tailored to whether a show is free or offers a subscription version.

The tool also provides several predefined messages that are applied to the artwork, the number of which depends on whether a show is free, paid, or free with a paid option. Shows that rank among Apple Podcasts’ Top Shows have the option of promoting their rankings too. However, there is no option to craft your own marketing message for the artwork, which is a little disappointing but not surprising.

Promotional art comes in multiple sizes for different social networks, and URLs can include affiliate parameters.

Promotional art comes in multiple sizes for different social networks, and URLs can include affiliate parameters.

The app generates full and shortened URLs, too, with the option to include affiliate parameters if you participate in Apple’s affiliate linking program for services.

Apple’s new marketing tool for social channels works well and generates good-looking artwork with minimal effort, making it a nice option for anyone with limited time and resources. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the tool is limited to Apple Podcasts. The messaging options are limited too. You’ll need a different solution if you’d rather promote your podcast’s own website, another podcast directory, or use a marketing message not offered by Apple. Still, because such a large percentage of many shows’ audiences listen using Apple Podcasts, the company’s new tool is an excellent way to reach those listeners and potentially grow that segment of your audience.

Apple Podcasts Follower Metrics Are Now Available

Last month, I wrote about Apple’s plans to expand the analytics available to podcasters who offer free shows. Yesterday, the new metrics for free shows went live on Apple Podcasts Connect with an announcement from Apple.

The metrics report on a show’s Followers, the term Apple uses to describe anyone who follows free podcasts by selecting the plus button in the Apple Podcasts app. “Subscribers” is reserved for anyone who signs up to receive episodes of paid shows

The new analytics are explained in detail in a support document on Apple Podcasts for Creators. If you’re a podcaster, you’ll find the new metrics under the Analytics tab on Apple Podcasts Connect. The company says that the new Follower metrics allow podcasters to:

Get a breakdown of followers per show and easily measure followers across shows. Once a show is selected, you can view the number of net new followers over the last week, month, 60 days, and all time. Navigate to the Trends menu to view a graph of followers over time and the number of net new followers on a specific day or during a specified range.

The new statistics also report the listening habits of Followers and anyone who doesn’t follow your show.

It’s good to see Apple’s podcast analytics offerings expanding. Apple is just one source of listeners, but it’s a big one that, for many shows, is the dominant source of listeners, so having more anonymized data on user behavior should help guide podcasters in their promotional efforts.