THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

MacStadium

The Developer Cloud for Mac


Posts tagged with "podcasts"

Apple Podcasts Adds Spotlight Editorial Feature

Today, Apple unveiled a new monthly editorial feature for Podcasts called Spotlight, which showcases up-and-coming podcast creators. The first podcaster featured is Chelsea Devantez, whose show Celebrity Book Club debuted late last year and discusses the memoirs of celebrity women.

Shows featured in Spotlight include Editors' Notes.

Shows featured in Spotlight include Editors’ Notes.

Spotlight can be found in Podcasts’ Browse tab and is accompanied by ‘Editors’ Notes’ where you usually would see the show’s description. As a result, those editorial notes are available in third-party podcast apps too.

In an announcement by the podcast’s publisher Stitcher, Apple’s Global Head of Business for Apple Podcasts, Ben Cave said that “Apple Podcasts Spotlight helps listeners find some of the world’s best shows by shining a light on creators with singular voices.” I’m glad to see Apple Podcasts continue to evolve and expand its discovery tools. Apple has been instrumental in the growing popularity of podcasts for years. However, the company’s role as editorial curator of shows and creator of its own content is a more recent development. Like features the company has rolled out for Apple Music in recent years, Spotlight is the sort of thing that doesn’t need to be held until an OS update, allowing podcast fans to take advantage of it now.


Apple Recaps Its 2020 Services, Including the App Store’s Record-Breaking Holiday Season

In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:

Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.

Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:

The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.

Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
  • The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
  • TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
  • Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
  • Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
  • Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
  • Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
  • Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
  • Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
  • iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication

Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.


Apple Launches an Embeddable Web Players for Podcasts

Apple Podcasts now supports an embeddable podcast player for shows in its directory along with other marketing tools.

The player comes is responsive and can display either a show with multiple episodes or an individual episode along with playback controls and navigation options. There are controls for play/pause and to skip forward 30 seconds and back 15 seconds, as well as a timeline scrubber that appears after you click or tap play. An ellipsis menu button provides options to open a show or episode in Apple’s Podcasts app, copy a link to the show or episode, and copy embeddable code. The player is also responsive, making it look terrific on mobile and desktop devices. It’s worth noting that content blockers will hide the embedded players, so if you don’t see them below, disable content blockers and reload the page.

To create the code to embed the Podcasts player, visit the Apple Podcasts Marketing Tools webpage. Here’s an example of the large version of this week’s episode of AppStories:

And an embed for the show itself:

The embed for a show plays the latest episode by default with additional episodes available to the right of the player. The ‘See More Episodes’ button opens the Podcasts app. In addition to the new player, the Podcasts Marketing page offers badging resources, show and episode short link generation, Apple Podcasts iconography that can be embedded or downloaded, and QR code generation.

We’ve tested Apple’s new embeddable player with AppStories and I’ve been extremely happy with it. First of all, it’s dead simple to implement. The player uses an iframe, which means it should work out-of-the-box with little, if any, fiddling for most websites. MacStories uses WordPress and all I needed to do was paste the iframe code into the story.

What’s more, the embeds look fantastic, far better than most of the options available from podcast hosting services. Most important of all, though, the user experience is excellent, allowing MacStories readers to sample a show inline and jump to the Apple Podcasts app on any platform to learn more and subscribe.

Apple has had a similar widget system for Music content for a while, and I’m glad to see it’s been implemented for shows in Podcasts too. Podcast fans already have their preferred ways to access their favorite shows. What Apple Podcasts web embeds provides, though, is discoverability. The embeds are a simple, frictionless way for readers to sample the show and hopefully become subscribers.


Porsche Adds Apple Podcasts and Apple Music Time-Synced Lyrics Support to Its Taycan EV

Source: Porsche

Source: Porsche

Last year, we reported Porsche’s partnership with Apple to directly support Apple Music as part of its Taycan entertainment system. Yesterday, Porsche announced that it’s expanding the relationship to include the Apple Podcasts app and expanded Apple Music support.

According to a press release from Porsche:

From the touchscreen display of the Porsche Advanced Cockpit, drivers can stream over 1.5 million shows from Apple Podcasts, the world’s leading podcast platform. This is the first-ever full integration of Apple Podcasts in any vehicle, and it includes the entire catalog-of-record with programming in 100 languages plus Top Charts for shows and episodes.

Porsche also revealed that its Apple Music integration would add support for Time-Synced Lyrics on the Taycan’s passenger-side display. The new features are already available for new Taycan owners. However, existing customers will have to wait until January for the new functionality.

Although the features announced by Porsche are limited to just one vehicle made by one manufacturer, it’s good to see because if it’s successful, Porsche’s early adoption will likely lead to other carmakers jumping on board.


Apple Launches Oprah’s Book Club Podcast Featuring 8-Part Series on Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”

Last month, Oprah Winfrey declared Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson one of her most important Book Club selections ever and announced several related tie-ins with Apple services, including Apple News, Books, Music, and Podcasts. In the announcement, Winfrey commented that:

“This might be the most important book I’ve ever chosen for my book club,” said Oprah Winfrey. “‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ provides a new way of seeing racial inequality, giving rise to countless aha moments and helping us truly understand America as it is now and how we hope it will be.”

Today, Apple and Winfrey extended coverage of Caste even further with an eight-episode podcast series hosted by Winfrey and Wilkerson that will “take listeners through the 8 Pillars of Caste.” A trailer and the first episode are available now. Episode one covers “what called [Wilkerson] to write Caste, how society needs a new way to talk about racism and why Oprah says Caste is one of the most profound books she’s ever read.”

Apple’s relationship with Winfrey dates back to June 2018 when she and the company announced a multi-year partnership to create original programming for Apple’s platforms. Oprah’s Book Club was launched in 2019 as a cross-over project that integrates Apple Books and TV+. With Caste, Apple and Winfrey are flexing their ability to leverage several services at once like never before, providing customers with a wide variety of ways to learn more about the book and its important subject matter, which is something I expect we’ll see more of in the future from Apple.

The Oprah’s Book Club podcast is available as a free download in the Apple Podcasts app and other podcast players.


Podcasting on iPad Pro and Mac: A Streamlined Approach with the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II

Anyone new to a job has probably thought or even asked:

“Why do you do it that way?”

and gotten the age-old answer:

“Because that’s how we’ve always done it.”

It’s human nature to stick with a solution that works and is familiar. When a workflow is so ingrained that it’s a habit, that’s good because it allows the task to become less about the tools and more about what you’re creating.

Paradoxically, though, familiarity can also lead to inflexibility, a resistance to change that undermines the very productivity that the solution enabled in the first place. It’s an inertial force that’s hard to resist, but I think it’s important to push back against it. Not solely for the sake of efficiency, but also to improve the results of your efforts.

The trick is knowing when experimentation with new workflows is unproductive fiddling and when it’s meaningful exploration. I’ve seen too many people fall into the trap where improving the process becomes the goal itself.

Early last year, I decided I was finished with letting tasks dictate how I work. I work across the Mac, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone all day long. Some jobs are more suited to one device than another, and some I just prefer to do on a particular device. The point is, though, that it’s something I want to be my choice, instead of something foisted on me by the nature of the work itself.

I’m fortunate that most of what I do migrates effortlessly from one device to another. Still, I’ve historically had two weekly responsibilities where I’ve felt tied to a Mac.

The first was producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp’s web app. As I wrote last January, Safari’s updates in iOS and iPadOS 13, which made web apps work roughly the same on my iPad Pro as on my Mac, solved that problem for me.

The second Mac-bound task was podcast recording and production. I recognize that there have been ways to accomplish podcasting on an iPad for a while. However, when it comes to recording in particular, I didn’t want to change the way I record episodes to work around the iPad’s limitations for the same reasons Federico articulated in Beyond the Tablet.

What made these two tasks frustrating is that they’re both tied to schedules that have limited flexibility. When I was traveling more, that left me with little choice but to take a Mac. I prefer to travel with my iPad Pro, but regardless, I’d rather pick how I work myself, even when I’m at home.

I’m not doing as much traveling now, but a recent road trip to Michigan led me to start thinking about my podcasting setup again. As with many trips in the past, I wound up taking my MacBook Pro along, in this case so I could record interviews for an episode of AppStories. The setup was perfectly fine, but it felt like too much equipment for recording a few short interviews. Plus, I took my iPad Pro because I prefer it for writing and wanted to stay connected to mobile data as I wrote a story in the car.

Ever since Jason Snell wrote about his iPad Pro podcasting setup on Six Colors early last year, and Federico adapted it for his setup when he can’t use his Mac mini, I’ve wanted to try something similar. What held me back, though, was a combination of the complexity, cost, and infrequency with which I assumed I’d use the setup.

I also held out hope that iPadOS 13 or 14 would include improved audio routing that would make it possible to talk on Skype and record a local audio track. That hasn’t happened. Although I expect Apple will add that functionality eventually, it’s been 18 months since Safari solved my Mailchimp problem. With only podcasting standing in the way of my goal of device independence, and no software solution from Apple in the early iPadOS 14 betas, I figured it was time to revisit my hardware options.

I wanted a solution that worked equally well when I’m sitting at my Mac or iPad, allowing me to talk over Skype and record myself locally. What I discovered was an incredibly versatile solution that accomplishes in a single device what Snell and Federico cleverly constructed from a field recorder and USB audio interface: the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II.

Read more


Connected Trio Host Interview with Members of Apple’s iPad Team

Federico, Stephen, and Myke had a special surprise on this week’s episode of Connected, their podcast about Apple, technology, and general shenanigans. Episode 301, titled We Should Be Developers, features an interview with Apple’s Jenny Chen, who works on the Apple Pencil team, and Stephen Tonna, who works in iPad product marketing.

The interview covers the new Scribble feature in iPadOS 14 and other Apple Pencil enhancements, the philosophy behind iPad app design, including the new sidebars and dropdown menus of iPadOS 14, and also how the iPad’s versatility of input methods needs to be kept in mind by app developers.

There are a ton of great insights into how Apple’s team thinks about the iPad and approaches its evolution. If you’re an iPad user, you won’t want to miss it.

Permalink

Castro Debuts Extensive Siri and Shortcuts Podcast Controls

One of my favorite podcast clients, Castro, debuted a big update today that adds a host of Siri commands and strong Shortcuts support.

There are now 30 requests you can make of Castro through Siri, which can access all the world’s open podcasts. We know it can be hard to remember them all, so we made a handy reference guide in Settings → Siri where you can find what you’re looking for to make your day a little easier.

Besides the wide extent of possible commands in Castro, what’s especially impressive is the guide referenced above: Castro’s team has built an excellent Siri Guide and a related in-app Shortcuts Gallery, both of which are accessible via settings and highlight simply and beautifully what all is possible with Siri and Shortcuts.

Castro’s Siri Guide and Shortcuts Gallery.

Castro’s Siri Guide and Shortcuts Gallery.

Discovery is one of the biggest challenges I’ve found with apps that support Siri and Shortcuts, as apps seldom make a list available of all supported voice commands and actions. With both Siri and Shortcuts, I’ve struggled in the past to find great podcast-related uses for these features, but Castro solved that problem for me.

On the Siri front, skipping chapters and managing my queue via voice works great. With Shortcuts, Castro offers some great pre-built shortcuts that do things like import your full Apple Podcasts library, clear all your queued episodes, subscribe to a new show even when you don’t have a proper Castro link, and more. While it’s always nice having the tools to build something custom, as someone who isn’t a heavy Shortcuts tinkerer I appreciate the work put in by Castro’s team to offer users extra functionality with minimal effort.


Sofa Debuts Modern iPad App, Rich Themes Experience, and More

I suspect I’m not alone in saying that 2020 has been a big year for personal media consumption. The absence of normal social events has meant more time for reading, watching shows and movies, and other forms of relaxation.

At the end of last year I wrote about how I was using Sofa, a media list app, to track the TV and films I’d watched in 2019. I’ve used the same approach throughout 2020, and it continues to work well for me. The only change is that I’ve been testing a big update to Sofa for the last few weeks that’s available now. Previously exclusive to the iPhone, Sofa now offers a rich iPad experience complete with Split View, Slide Over, and multiwindowing, keyboard shortcuts, and mouse and trackpad support. Additionally, today’s update adds a robust theming system to the app and seamless iCloud syncing. It’s a strong step forward for the app, making it more versatile than ever before.

Read more