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Posts tagged with "podcasts"

Castro Launches Top Picks Feature for Intelligent Episode Recommendations

In an update arriving today, Castro is introducing a new Top Picks feature designed to make managing a large number of podcast subscriptions easier than ever.

One of Castro's most defining traits is its triage system: the app by default stores new episodes of shows you're subscribed to in a New section, not in your playback queue, and inside New you can send the episodes you care about to your queue, while archiving anything that doesn't interest you. If you subscribe to a wide array of shows, Castro's New section is great; however, one drawback is that it previously lacked any sort of priority or hierarchy. Though Castro offers the option of having certain shows go straight to your queue, that requires manual configuration, and it's really only ideal for shows that you want to listen to every single episode of. In most cases, the majority of shows will land in New, and Castro previously had no way of knowing which of those episodes you were more likely to care about. That's why Top Picks was created.

Top Picks is an addition to the New tab which highlights episodes from your subscriptions that Castro thinks you'll want to listen to. You can still access your full subscription roster at any time, but Top Picks will serve as a curated subset of episodes that's easier to sort through.

Shows are surfaced in Top Picks based on your listening history, which the app analyzes on-device using only local data, so it remains private. If you're new to Castro, this means it may take a little time to get the best Top Picks suggestions, but the good news is that training the system merely requires listening to the shows you care about. As you make decisions about what to listen to, Castro learns from those choices and uses that data to inform what does and doesn't get sent to Top Picks.

If you only listen to a handful of podcasts, Top Picks likely isn't for you because it addresses a problem you don't have. But for users whose subscriptions can be a lot to keep up with, the feature simplifies the act of triage and, in the process, makes Castro an even better tool for enjoying the ever-growing world of podcasts.



Jason Snell on Podcasting with Only an iPad Pro

Jason Snell's podcasting setup is similar to mine – he wants to hear his own voice, record his local audio track, and have a conversation with multiple people on Skype, who also need to hear his voice coming from an external microphone. And he wants to use one computer to do it all. Now he's figured out how to podcast from an iPad Pro with the help of an additional USB interface:

In the past, I’ve done something similar using the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, a microphone that can output a digital signal using USB and an analog signal via an XLR cord simultaneously. The problem is that the last time I tried to use the ATR2100-USB with my iPad Pro, it didn’t return my own voice into my ears, making me unable to judge the sound quality of my own microphone. After years of having my own voice return to me, I strongly prefer not to record unable to hear my own voice. (I use in-ear headphones that largely shut out audio from the outside world, so the experience of speaking while not hearing yourself is even more profoundly weird than it would be with leaky earbuds.)

This time I wanted it all, or at least as close to all as I’m able to get with iOS in the mix: A pristine recording of my own voice, that same high-quality microphone audio also flowing across digitally to my podcast guests via Skype, and the ability to hear both my guests and myself at the same time.

The takeaway from the story isn't that Snell wanted to prove a point to spite Mac users – it's that he was able to travel with one computer instead of two (he would have used most of the same audio gear with a Mac too) and that he found an expensive, but real workaround to professional podcast recording on iPad Pro.

I don't currently have a USB audio interface like Snell's USBPre 2, but I may have to buy one before the summer so I can record podcasts from our beach house using only the iPad Pro. (That is, assuming the iOS 13 beta I'll have installed at that point doesn't have meaningful improvements for audio workflows.)

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Spotify Acquires Podcast Producer Gimlet Media and App Maker Anchor

Rumors have been circulating for several days that Spotify was in talks to acquire podcast producer Gimlet Media. Today, Spotify announced officially that it is not only acquiring Gimlet but also Anchor, the company that makes mobile apps for podcast creation.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed, but Recode’s sources say the Gimlet deal is in the neighborhood of $230 million. Although Recode hasn’t reported on the value of the Anchor deal, it also says that Spotify expects to spend up to $500 million this year on podcast acquisitions.

The two deals are part of a broader strategy by Spotify to offer audio content beyond music and use original content to entice people to sign up for its streaming service. In a blog post today, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek elaborated on the company’s strategy:

With the world focused on trying to reduce screen time, it opens up a massive audio opportunity.

This opportunity starts with the next phase of growth in audio — podcasting. There are endless ways to tell stories that serve to entertain, to educate, to challenge, to inspire, or to bring us together and break down cultural barriers. The format is really evolving and while podcasting is still a relatively small business today, I see incredible growth potential for the space and for Spotify in particular.

In just shy of two years, we have become the second-biggest podcasting platform. And, more importantly, users love having podcasts as a part of their Spotify experience. Our podcast users spend almost twice the time on the platform, and spend even more time listening to music. We have also seen that by having unique programming, people who previously thought Spotify was not right for them will give it a try.

Although the Gimlet purchase comes as no surprise following days of speculation, it’s fair to say no one saw the Anchor deal coming. Spotify has grown quickly in the two years that it has offered podcasts and now has the second largest podcast platform behind Apple. By purchasing Gimlet and Anchor, Spotify gains a stable of popular, professionally-produced podcasts as well as the means for anyone with a smartphone to record and share a podcast, covering a broad spectrum of the podcasting world with just two acquisitions.

Ek believes Spotify can bring the same value to podcasting that the company has brought to music:

Just as we’ve done with music, our work in podcasting will focus intensively on the curation and customization that users have come to expect from Spotify. We will offer better discovery, data, and monetization to creators. These acquisitions will meaningfully accelerate our path to becoming the world’s leading audio platform, give users around the world access to the best podcast content, and improve the quality of our listening experience while enhancing the Spotify brand.

To be clear, this doesn’t make music any less important at Spotify. Our core business is performing very well. But as we expand deeper into audio, especially with original content, we will scale our entire business, creating leverage in the model through subscriptions and ads. This is why we feel it is prudent to invest now to capture the opportunity ahead. We want Spotify to continue to be at the center of the global audio economy.

Although Ek hints in his blog post that podcasts are just the start of Spotify’s audio ambitions, what remains to be seen is how podcasts fit within Spotify’s business model. Spotify has studied video streaming and could follow suit making Gimlet’s podcasts like Reply All and other original content available only as part of a Spotify subscription. Spotify also says it will offer ‘monetization for creators,’ which could mean many different things including dynamic ad insertion in podcasts offered on its platform. Whatever approach Spotify takes with podcasting, the coming year will certainly be an interesting one for podcast creators and fans alike.


Sofa Review: A Simple Tool for Tracking Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Podcasts

We live in a time when media options are growing at a fast pace. It's a golden age for television, with great shows debuting all the time; the film industry is being transformed by the infusion of new competition from streaming giants like Netflix; podcasts are becoming more mainstream by the day; and despite books not being in a similar growth phase, new titles are still being written constantly. In this crowded media landscape, it's hard to keep track of all the great content waiting to be enjoyed.

In the past I've kept notes in Apple Notes containing lists of TV shows, movies, podcasts, and books to check out. Lately, however, I've been using an app called Sofa.

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Popular iOS Podcast Player Castro Sold to Tiny

Big announcement from Supertop's blog today:

We have some news to share. Tiny has purchased a majority stake in Castro. We are still shareholders and will continue working on the app full time.

The post goes on to explain the reasons for this transfer of ownership.

Castro has reached a size where the demands of running the business have been pulling us in too many different directions. We haven’t been able to focus as much on the core work of designing and building a product. Selling to Tiny gets Castro access to more resources, contacts and expertise. By growing the team we can specialize our roles to be more focused individually and get more done collectively. We can get back to what we’re good at and what we love doing.

Castro underwent a business model transition earlier this year, moving from paid up front with Castro 2 to free with Castro 3 alongside the launch of the Castro Plus subscription option. It sounds like that shift has led to an increased amount of administrative work for Supertop's development team, which should be alleviated thanks to this acquisition. The post concludes:

We’ve started work on Castro 4. The plan is to improve the design to bring more listeners into the Castro flow. We’re excited, because for the first time in five years of work on Castro, we’ll have the resources to focus exclusively on it as product designers and developers, without contract work to distract us, and with a team around us to handle the administrative tasks.

Castro is one of the best podcast clients on iOS, so I'm thankful that today's announcement doesn't spell its end. On the contrary, it sounds like there's reason to be hopeful about the app's future in Tiny's hands. Only time will tell, of course, so I'll be curious to watch the app's update cycle over the coming year.


Pocket Casts 7: A Host of Improvements Make the App Feel Brand New

It's been over two years since the last major version of Pocket Casts debuted. A lot has happened in the podcasting world since then, including Pocket Casts itself being acquired by a consortium of radio stations and podcast companies. The app has also faced strong competition from alternatives like Overcast and Castro. Pocket Casts remains one of the best third-party podcast clients on iOS, but it has started to show its age of late. Updates to the app over the last year have been fairly minor and unimpressive. In hindsight though, it's easy to understand why: the app's development team has been plugging away on a major new update that's officially launched today.

Pocket Casts 7 makes the podcast client feel modern again. It introduces a new design alongside important features like Siri shortcuts and AirPlay 2 support, Up Next syncing, episode search, Listening History, and a lot more. If you haven't given the app a try in a while, now is definitely the time to do so.

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Overcast 5.0.2 Adds New Series 4 Complications, More Siri Shortcuts

Following a major update that introduced a redesigned Now Playing screen, extensive shortcut support, and standalone Watch playback, Marco Arment has brought a variety of enhancements and fixes to version 5.0.2 of Overcast, released earlier today.

Overcast 5.0.2 has added new round complications for the Infograph faces on the new Apple Watch; these act as launchers that simply open the Overcast app on the Watch, which I find convenient enough. Furthermore, you can reduce the amount of haptics used by the app to communicate certain actions (I love haptic feedback in Overcast, so this option isn't for me), and there are new options for configuring how the 'Send to Watch' feature works.

New shortcuts in Overcast 5.0.2.

New shortcuts in Overcast 5.0.2.

Most of all though, I'm interested in the new Siri shortcuts supported by Overcast. The app now offers shortcuts to activate or cancel the sleep timer, as well as two shortcuts to copy the current episode's standard or timestamped link to the clipboard. The ability to quickly generate an Overcast link for the episode you're listening to is a perfect use case for shortcuts: it removes repetitive interactions with the app and, with the tap of a button or Siri phrase, it gives you a link you can instantly share with others.

For the occasion, I've turned my original Overcast Chapters widget shortcut into Overcast Controls, an enhanced widget that, besides chapter navigation, now uses the app's new shortcuts to let you copy episode links too. You can download it below.

Overcast Controls

Navigate chapters or copy links for the Overcast episode you're currently listening to. Best used as a widget.

Get the shortcut here.


Overcast 5: Redesigned Now Playing Screen, Search, Siri Media Shortcuts, and More

Overcast, Marco Arment's popular podcast client for iPhone and iPad, received a major update today to version 5. While I've long praised Apple's work on their built-in Podcasts app for iOS – particularly since getting three HomePods and leveraging Podcasts' support for AirPlay 2 – I also recognize the appeal of Overcast's advanced features and powerful audio effects. Sprinkled throughout Overcast's release history are design details and enhancements big and small that make it a sophisticated, versatile client for podcast aficionados who don't want to settle for a stock app. From this standpoint, despite welcome improvements to Podcasts in iOS 12, changes in Overcast 5 make it an even more attractive option that has caused me second-guess my decision to embrace Apple's native app.

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