This week's sponsor

MacStadium

Hosting Solutions for Apple Mac Infrastructure


Posts tagged with "podcasts"

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.

Read more


‘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.

Permalink

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.

Permalink

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.


Marco Arment Releases Forecast Public Beta, a Podcast Encoder That Embeds Chapter Markers and Other Metadata

Marco Arment, the creator of the Overcast podcast player, has released a public beta of a tool for podcast producers called Forecast. The macOS utility handles encoding of podcasts as MP3 audio files and embedding of chapter markers and other metadata.

The final steps of putting together a podcast episode are tedious. Encoding can take a long time for longer shows and then, artwork, a title, description, and chapter markers have to be embedded. There are other little annoyances like manually entering an episode’s duration and file size into a show’s CMS too.

To speed the process up, Forecast uses a custom integration of the LAME MP3 encoder that spreads the encoding work across all of a Mac’s CPU cores, reducing encoding times substantially. Chapter markers are automatically generated in Forecast if created as markers in an audio editing app like Logic and exported as a WAV file. Forecast will even autofill artwork and other information if audio files are named consistently. There are also quick-copy shortcuts for grabbing an episode’s duration and file size.

Forecast is a beta, which comes with the usual caveats, but there is comfort in knowing that it has already been used in production by Arment and other podcasters for two years. I began using Forecast about a month ago as part of the AppStories production workflow, and it’s been stable and a big time saver.

Perhaps best of all, Forecast is free. Arment only requests that users that find Forecast useful consider mentioning Overcast on their podcasts or buying an ad for their podcast.

The Forecast public beta is available on Overcast.fm.


Overcast 4.0 Brings UI Optimizations for iOS 11 and iPhone X, Drag and Drop, and New Advanced Settings

The combination of iOS 11 and iPhone X is pushing developers to reconsider many of their interaction paradigms and interface affordances that predated the Super Retina display and drag and drop. In a span of two months, iOS 11 made custom implementations of multiple item selection and reordering effectively obsolete, while the iPhone X now requires apps to embrace its display and novel status bar design.

Overcast 4.0 is a good example of how Apple's biggest releases of the year impacted apps that needed a lot of work to be updated for the iPhone X and iOS 11. Released today on the App Store, Overcast 4.0 bears no groundbreaking additions to the experience; instead, developer Marco Arment focused on design refinements and simplifying the app's navigation, modernizing Overcast's appearance and flow while bringing smaller enhancements to the listening and browsing experience.

There are some notable changes in this version – drag and drop is present, albeit in a limited fashion – but Overcast 4.0 is primarily aimed at foundational improvements and laying the groundwork for the future. Despite this "Snow Leopard approach", however, heavy Overcast users should still find the many optimizations as well as the "by popular demand" tweaks more than welcome.

Read more


Why There Are No Standalone Apple Watch Podcast Players

With watchOS 4 and the Series 3 Apple Watch, Apple has made several improvements to how the Watch handles music, untethering listeners from their iPhones. Apple Music subscribers can sync their My Favorites Mix, My Chill Mix, My New Music Mix and the Heavy Rotation section of Music to their watches, for example. In October, Apple will expand users' options on the Watch by adding Apple Music streaming for subscribers. However, there’s a glaring omission in Apple’s iPhone-free audio strategy: podcasts.

There is no good way to listen to podcasts on an Apple Watch without bringing along an iPhone. As Marco Arment, the maker of Overcast, details on Marco.org,

The Apple Watch desperately needs standalone podcast playback, especially with the LTE-equipped Series 3, which was designed specifically for exercising without an iPhone.

Believe me, I’ve tried. But limitations in watchOS 4 make it impossible to deliver standalone podcast playback with the basic functionality and quality that people expect.

Arment’s article walks through each of several technical challenges in detail, the biggest being syncing progress between a Watch and an iPhone. The post outlines the minimum changes to the watchOS APIs that Arment believes are necessary to build a viable standalone podcast player for the Watch as well as detailing more ambitious changes to Apple’s APIs that would be nice to have.

During the watchOS 4 beta period, I began running without my iPhone. I enjoyed listening to the music synced overnight to my Watch, but it was a taste of untethered freedom that only made me want a standalone podcast player more. Audio playback and syncing undoubtedly pose battery life issues and other challenges, but with the advancements in the Series 3 hardware, I hope we see corresponding API changes that will allow Arment and others to build iPhone-free podcast players.

Permalink

Welcome to Macintosh Season 3 Announced

In 2015, Mark Bramhill, burst onto the Apple podcast scene seemingly out of nowhere with a new tightly-edited podcast called Welcome to Macintosh. Besides the high production values that Bramhill brought to that first season, the show succeeded by offering concise, compelling storytelling about interesting and sometimes obscure moments in Apple’s history.

Today, Bramhill announced Season 3 of Welcome to Macintosh, which will be published every other Friday beginning August 18th. Season 3 is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $17,000 to cover travel and other production costs. Backers of the project will receive behind-the-scenes videos and a special podcast feed available alongside the new Season 3 episodes, all of which are accessible from a special Members page on Macintosh.fm.

Season 3 features 10 all-new episodes and kicks off with a multi-episode series on how emoji are created and Bramhill’s efforts to convince the Unicode Consortium to approve a new emoji he created himself. I won’t spoil the episodes, but I had the opportunity to listen to two of them, including the first called ‘Will You Be My Emoji?,’ and they didn’t disappoint. As with earlier seasons, Bramhill’s skillful storytelling left me eager for more.

In connection with today’s announcement, Bramhill released a short promotional teaser episode. ‘Will You Be My Emoji?’ will be released on August 18th and subsequent episodes every other Friday thereafter.

You can listen to Season 3 on Macintosh.fm or subscribe to Welcome to Macintosh from iTunes, Apple’s Podcasts app, or any other podcast player using the show’s RSS feed.