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Posts tagged with "podcasts"


Castro 3 Review: The Castro You’ve Always Wanted

Castro has long been one of the premier podcast clients on iOS, and its excellent version 2 – with an innovative triage system and delight-inducing design touches – helped solidify it as such. Those strengths in 2.0, however, were mitigated in part by the absence of a few key features that competing podcast apps tout. That changes with Castro 3.

If you're unfamiliar with the app, Castro's centerpiece feature is a triage system involving an inbox and queue. The premise is that, with the rising popularity of podcasting, there are more great podcasts available than ever before. If you subscribe to lots of shows, the standard episode management tools found in competing apps likely aren't sufficient. With Castro, by default new episodes of shows land in your inbox, and can then be sorted to the top or bottom of your queue and downloaded, or archived if they're not of interest to you. It's an elegant solution to the problem of podcast overload, and, thanks to customization options that allow you to make certain shows populate the top or bottom of the queue automatically, it's a system that works for you, tailored to your listening preferences.

Castro's triage system clicked with me the first time I tried it, and I used the app daily for nearly a year. Eventually though, I became more selective about the portions of podcasts I listened to, and Castro's lack of chapter support sent me elsewhere. I've seen comments from other prospective Castro users who were similarly turned off from the app due to one missing feature – and often, this feature was different for different people.

If an absent feature ever kept you from sticking with Castro 2, that almost certainly won't be a problem anymore. Castro 3 addresses nearly all of those "one missing feature" requests in a single release. Trim Silence is Castro's take on Overcast's Smart Speed; full chapter support is now present, as is a new Apple Watch app; the player screen has been fully redesigned; Mix to Mono improves stereo mixes that are hard to hear; and finally, there are excellent new per-podcast controls in a variety of areas. Perhaps the only thing still missing is an iPad app.

Castro 3 is everything Castro already was, but better. It's the app that Castro fans have always wanted.

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Pocket Casts Acquired

Pocket Casts, one of the most popular cross-platform podcast clients (and among the top ones listeners use to download episodes of AppStories), has been acquired by a consortium of public radio stations and podcast companies. Here's Shifty Jelly's Russel Ivanovic, writing on the company's blog:

Today we’re excited to announce a partnership with some of the biggest producers of podcasts in the world to take Pocket Casts to the next level. We’ve had a lot of companies in the past contact us about acquiring us and or Pocket Casts and we’ve always had one simple answer for them: thanks, but no thanks. In talking to each of them it was obvious that they didn’t have the best interests of our customers or us at heart and as much as cashing out and walking off into the sunset is a nice ideal, it’s a crummy outcome for all of you and in turn for us. You see we care so damn deeply about what we’ve built and our relationship with each and every one of you that we know deep down inside that would just eat away at us. That’s why when a combined group comprised of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life approached us with the goal of partnering for the good of the entire podcast industry, we knew that this opportunity was something else entirely. Everything from their not for profit mission focus, to their unwavering belief that open and collaborative wins over closed walled gardens resonated deeply with us. Together we have the passion, scale and laser focus needed to achieve some truly great things. We’re not ready to talk about what those are just yet but we do want to quickly cover some questions you might have.

According to Ivanovic, Pocket Casts will remain a standalone, open, and premium podcast client in the short term. I'm curious to see how Pocket Casts will change over the next several months though. Large radio stations and podcast companies seem to have a certain affinity for locked-in ecosystems and proprietary listening features at the expense of the open nature of podcasting. I won't be surprised if Pocket Casts eventually prioritizes programming by the companies that own the app. However, I also hope that the folks at Shifty Jelly will be able to continue making the open, elegant, and powerful podcast app I've used over the years.

See also: Chris Welch's story at The Verge.

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Microcasting on Micro.blog with Wavelength

Last month I covered the return of Sunlit, the iOS photo blogging app from Manton Reece that works with Micro.blog and blogging platforms like WordPress. Reece is back with another iOS app that’s aimed at bringing microcasting, which is short-form podcasting, to Micro.blog. Wavelength is an end-to-end solution for recording, editing, and publishing audio using nothing but an iPhone. It’s an interesting approach to podcasting designed to lower the barriers to entry by simplifying the workflow, while also creating new uses for Micro.blog.

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Overcast Adds Smart Resume, New Auto-Deletion Option, and Support for Password-Protected Podcasts

Overcast 4.1 is out with a handful of new, notable features and bug fixes.

My favorite addition is what Marco Arment calls Smart Resume, which does two things. First, when resuming playback, Overcast skips back a few seconds to remind you of where you left off in a paused episode. Second, Overcast resumes playback in the dead space between words where possible.

The effect is understated but perceptible. During the beta of 4.1, I had a sense that something more than simple skipping back was going on with Smart Resume, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I dug into Arment’s release notes. Smart Resume reminds me of what happens when an in-person conversation is interrupted. If you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant with a friend and the waiter interrupts one of you mid-sentence, you don’t pick up where you left off mid-word. You back up and start over.

Smart Resume is similar. I hadn’t realized it, but when resuming a podcast, I’d gotten into the habit of skipping back 30 seconds when I lost track of where I was in an episode. That was more time than necessary to recall where I had left off, but it worked. With Smart Resume, I’ve found I rarely do that anymore. Instead of the extra fiddling with the app’s buttons, Overcast skips back just far enough to jog my memory but not so far that I feel like I’m re-listening to too much of an episode. Moreover, dropping the seek point in between words makes the feature feel natural. Smart Resume can be turned off in Settings, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Overcast 4.1 also adds a new auto-deletion setting. Previously, you could choose between auto-deleting episodes immediately after finishing them or leave them on your iOS device for manual deletion. Overcast now has a third choice, which is automatic deletion after 24 hours. Premium members’ uploads to Overcast are no longer subject to auto-deletion either.

Password-protected podcasts are now officially supported in Overcast too. In the Add URL screen, there is an option to ‘Use Password,’ which reveals username and password fields when tapped. Podcasts that require a password do not show up in Overcast’s search results or show recommendations.

Smart Resume is an excellent example of what I like most about Overcast. The feature highlights the app’s overall attention to detail when it comes to the listening experience, which makes it a pleasure to use.

Overcast is available on the App Store.


Anchor 3.0 Exhibits a New Level of Maturity for the Podcasting Service

Anchor today launched a major new version of its iPhone app, alongside a new web experience for creators. Anchor 3.0 is a ground-up redesign that takes lessons learned in past versions and applies them for the purpose of making podcasting as effortless and accessible as possible.

My prior experience with Anchor has been limited, but every time I've given it a try, I came away impressed. The latest update to Anchor isn't so much about flashy new features, but more about demonstrating a new level of maturity: the interface is now cleaner and easier to navigate, the task of recording and publishing podcasts has never been simpler, and there are new built-in tools available to creators to help make recordings professional-grade.

In preparing this story, I wanted to approach the app as a new user might, documenting the experience of getting set up and creating a new show. Anchor has always done fairly well at being user-friendly, but I think that's more true now than ever before.

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‘sodes Embodies Beauty and Minimalism in a Podcast Player

Jared Sinclair launched a new iPhone app today, 'sodes. Short for 'episodes,' the app offers a simple, no-frills podcast listening experience.

Unsurprisingly considering Sinclair's previous work, 'sodes is a beautiful app. Perhaps my favorite designed area is the Now Playing view; after I first tried it, going back to another app's Now Playing screen was painful. The app especially shines on the iPhone X's full-width display. As was highlighted in Federico and John's discussion on AppStories last year, an indie app's little human touches can elicit such delight – and 'sodes is a great example of that.

'sodes was designed to be nearly feature-absent (at least to the user's eye), so you won't find things like chapter support, Smart Speed, playlists, or any such extras. You can adjust the duration of skips forward and back, there are multiple color themes, and playback speed can be set anywhere from 0.5x to 2x – but that's about it. Mainly, the app gives you podcasts in a clean, minimal, delightful wrapper. If that's enough for you, you might just love it.

'sodes is available on the App Store.

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Apple’s Podcast Analytics Prove the Medium’s Power

Miranda Katz, writing for WIRED:

Podcasters and advertisers alike have long suspected that their listeners might just be a holy grail of engagement. The medium is inherently intimate, and easily creates a one-sided feeling of closeness between listener and host—the sense that the person talking into your ear on your commute is someone you know, whose product recommendations you trust, and whose work you want to support. Cox describes it as a “lean in” medium: “People are really listening and want to consume all of the content that is there and available. There’s a level of dedication that comes from podcast listeners that you otherwise don’t find.” And now the numbers prove it. Podcasts aren’t a bubble, they’re a boom—and that boom is only getting louder.

Last year at WWDC Apple announced that it would soon provide podcasters with new data regarding the behavior of listeners – data like how long an episode is listened to for, and whether ad reads are skipped or listened to.

As Katz shares in her WIRED piece, the early results have been extremely positive, proving what many podcast listeners already knew: podcasting is a uniquely engaging medium that breeds avid fans.

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Apple Introduces Podcast Analytics Beta

During as session about podcasts at WWDC in June, Apple announced that it would introduce podcast analytics later in the year. Today, the feature was rolled out as a beta service as part of iTunes Connect, Apple’s content creator portal. At release, the data available to podcast producers includes unique device downloads as well as playback metrics.

Historically, podcast analytics have been rudimentary. Producers could track downloads, but there was no way to tell how many users were behind those downloads or how long they listened. Those sorts of features are something that some podcast producers, especially those coming from the radio industry, have wanted Apple to add for a while.

With the beta introduced today, producers can track the number of unique device downloads and view graphs of how long listeners lasted before giving up on a show. The data is aggregated to protect user privacy, but it’s nonetheless substantially more information than podcasters have had in the past.

The data is limited to users using the Apple Podcasts app on iOS 11 and later or listening via iTunes 12.7 or later on macOS, which limits its utility for some show producers. For example, Apple Podcasts listeners account for barely over 5% of listeners of our podcast, AppStories, a number which counts users of the app on all versions of iOS.

One of the big proponents of these sort of analytics has been big brand advertisers who want to more closely measure the performance of podcast advertising. As podcasts have boomed in recent years and producers have looked to bring larger advertisers along for the ride, pressure has mounted for the kind of analytics that are employed on the web. It remains to be seen whether podcast analytics do to podcasts advertising rates what click-through and other metrics have done to other online media outlets’ advertising revenue.

The beta is available at podcastsconnect.apple.com/analytics.