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We're Entering a Golden Age of Podcasts (chartable.com)
419 points by andrewacove 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 357 comments



I'm actually worried that podcasts are going the way of the web. What, for a while, was a weird world of enthusiasts talking about things that interests them seems to be morphing into a world of a few big corporate entities calling the shots.

I have two reasons for these worries.

1) The purchase of Gimlet by Spotify mentioned in the article. 2) The purchase of Stuff Media by iHeart.

The purchase of Gimlet is problematic for a couple of reasons, but the biggest is that a distribution channel now owns a large content company which could lead to content bubbling. I don't want to have different players for different shows, I want the shows to be available on all players. I believe this is already happening, "Crime town" season 2 is only available on Spotify.

The iHeart purchase might be more troubling. Have you ever noticed that no mater where you are in the US, the radio stations are extremely similar? This has a few reasons, one of which is, that station is probably owned by iHeart (formerly Clear Channel), they own over 400 radio stations are are in virtually every US market [1]. I'm not saying iHeart is evil, but the chance that shows get more homogenous increase when large corporate players have to satisfy shareholders. I'm not sure I can take any more true crime shows.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radio_stations_owned_b...


> I'm not saying iHeart is evil

I don't know why not. Back when they were known as Clear Channel, in the wake of 11SEP2001 they censored songs that went against the agenda of starting wars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_Channel_memorandum

(Ah, I see it has been spun as mere a suggestion. Just like I'm sure the managers at each station only passed along the suggestion. There couldn't have possibly been any accompanying social pressure, especially at that time, that would have made it a tacit order).


Oh yea they're evil. I have no compunction about saying that


>I'm actually worried that podcasts are going the way of the web. What, for a while, was a weird world of enthusiasts talking about things that interests them seems to be morphing into a world of a few big corporate entities calling the shots.

I think podcasting is somewhat shielded from this by the fact that you really don't need an insane amount of capital to put out a good product. There definitely are podcasts that have expensive, professional studio set ups, but there are others I've listened to that are just straight up recorded on an iPhone and they can actually sound very decent. This low barrier of entry makes it easy for people to make their own weird podcast without having to water down their product and pitch it to investors. I guess with time that could change if your podcast is considered dead if its not on one of these big corporate channels. As someone who really enjoys the "homemade" feels, I hope this never happens, a podcast feeling overproduced is a big turn off IMO.


> I think podcasting is somewhat shielded from this by the fact that you really don't need an insane amount of capital to put out a good product.

You could say the same thing about the web


And aren't there plenty of interesting personal blogs out there?


And it then comes back to content discovery. It doesn't matter what is out there, it matters how easily you can find the niche rather than the corporate.


Websearch on only non-corp websites. Human curated to prevent gaming the corp filter. I'd pay $5/month for that.


Are there? How do I find them?


Hyperlinks, RSS, and a bit of routine maintenance. When you stumble upon an interesting article, subscribe to the author's feed. If you lose interest, unsubscribe. You will eventually end up with the information source you want.


This is the crux of the issue. Either someone (perhaps the owner) tells you, or you ask someone who knows. The former is distinct from discoverability, so that's out. When you ask though, you want to ask someone who knows lots of things, which is likely to be corporate (major search engines).


When you google a question that interests you and find an answer in a blog, you see if there are more interesting stuff there.


Link aggregators.


Medium


Twitter


Don't worry, when podcasts get popular enough the goverments worldwide will find a way to use "regulations to protect consumers" to slowly make podcasts possible and profitable only if you are a big business. Just like it's happening with websites.


>Just like it's happening with websites

What is happening with websites?


Not the commentor that you are replying to, but they are possibly a referring to the EU's GDPR laws that went into effect recently.


> I don't want to have different players for different shows

This is at the heart of the control problem. If you have one true player, it commands more control than is good for you, me and all consumers. Healthy competition is the only practical way to keep this under check.

I make sure to distribute my consumption over at least 2-3 contenders for any content be it search (google, ddg, bing), video (youtube, vimeo, dailymotion), podcasts (overcast, apple podcasts). I've begun extending this pattern over all sorts of consumption.

Sure its a hassle for me. I'm ok with it. I like to think that one extra click, one purchase, one download helps the competitors in keeping the market healthy.


Insanity. There should be competition but compatibility. It shouldn't be about "one true player" as in one proprietary platform everyone uses (youtube vs spotify vs whatever), but rather every player is compatible with all of the formats.

The proprietary-lockin epidemic is a serious issue. I think part of the problem is open standards don't often focus on the payments problem.


For dominant content distributors and platforms, there is real economic incentive for chasing deep lock-ins. And practically no incentive to comply with or contribute to any sort of standard. That is the unfortunate reality today.

If we have reasonably good competition among these platforms, we may just have some hope there.


I love that podcasts are one of the few pure truly open mediums. Its literally just a audio file on a server somewhere included in an RSS feed.

I think more people should try to create their own podcast. I've been doing my own podcast after being a guest on a couple episodes of another tech podcast and I can't recommend it enough.

I think it should be treated like the low barrier to entry medium it is.

Current favorite podcast is the indie hackers podcast. Sometimes something you hear is more impactful then reading the equivalent.

I prefer podcasts to audio books usually as podcasts are meant for audio whereas audio books are just adapted to the medium.


> I love that podcasts are one of the few pure truly open mediums. Its literally just a audio file on a server somewhere included in an RSS feed.

Google's podcast system doesn't allow you to load in arbitrary RSS feeds. This is cause for concern if others go that way too. There will always be open podcatchers and self hosted feeds, just like there will always be web pages, but they will be harder and harder to find.


My experience with doing a podcast has been very positive. Check out the Dan Hodgins show where I share thoughts on life and business - http://DanHodgins.com. It's available on Itunes, Spotify, Sticher, Google Play and elsewhere. The first two shows are on the topics of greatness (episode 1) and naming your product, service or project (episode 2).


May I know the name of the tech podcast in which you appeared? You may also point us to those episodes if that's fine.


Hey, so I was a guest host on SEDaily and did about 5 episodes I think and then decided to do my own podcast called corecursive. My format is interviews where an expert is explaining some aspect of software engineering to me.

https://softwareengineeringdaily.com/2018/01/30/design-princ...

https://corecursive.com


Love this show, you did a great job!


This is something that has been concerning me as well. My fear is that as money perverts this ecosystem, the big players will increasingly push out the small players. They'll suck up all the ad revenue and flood discovery services with mediocre (but well produced!!) corporate shlock. That will suck the air out of the room and damage all the smaller outfits, making them harder to find and less profitable to run.

I hope I'm wrong.


I agree, we might be leaving the golden age rather than entering it. The article mentions Spotify exclusive shows and we have already seen several other paywalled shows from companies like Audible and Stitcher. Meanwhile a number of podcasters are taking control of their own shows, not joining a podcast network or content company, and moving the show to platforms like Patreon. That is great for the content creators themselves, but it hurts discoverability and just isn't great for the podcast listener. The days of all the best shows being available to everyone for free are over. The days of most podcasts just being people having fun and sharing their passions with the world are over. We are entering the world were podcasting is big business.


> That is great for the content creators themselves, but it hurts discoverability and just isn't great for the podcast listener.

I subscribe to a couple of shows which offer free versions, discoverable through Apple's directory and others, and paid "upgrades". Those paid upgrades come into the same app I use for listening to podcasts generally. I actually think things today are pretty well set up for podcasters who want to be independent but still get paid.


I subscribe to a few as well. The some episodes free and some paid model is the better for discoverability than everything behind a paywall, but it can still be off-putting to new listeners. Although my primary problem with that model is that it isn't sustainable for heavy listeners. Each show can cost anywhere from $2-$10 per month. That adds up quickly. I end up spending more on podcasts a month than I do on Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify combined. I am happy to do that because I spend more time listening to podcasts than using those three services and I want to support the content creators I enjoy, but that isn't financially realistic for an overwhelming majority of consumers.


Yeah, that's fair that the individual podcast pricing may not scale for the consumer the way the Spotify model does.

I write fiction on the side and am able to put my ebooks (and print books, for that matter) into a variety of stores. If a model could be started through which a podcast producer can put their podcast in multiple stores so that it's a paid show but available in Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, etc., that would be a nice model indeed.

It's doubtful that Spotify would attempt such a model.


Well, maybe this should be a wake up call that the models of services like Spotify aren't really sustainable for the content producers on them.


I can't speak to Spotify, but Netflix certainly seems sustainable with their billions in yearly profit. Either way, the average consumer doesn't care about sustainability. They just see that Netflix provides 100s of hours of fully produced TV and movies every month. Then they see for the same price they can get a few hours a month of people talking in front of microphones. There is a huge disconnect in perceived cost there. Many podcasts currently make up that difference simply from the goodwill of their audience who wants to "support" them. I'm not sure that is scalable.


Wow, I've never even heard of a podcast for which you have to pay. The podcasts I listen to are either subsidised by political and literary journals, publishing houses, and research centres, supported by mass donations, produced by the BBC, and/or include a small number of adverts.


It’s just a start. The podcast world will continue to be very fragmented.

There are some small consolidation here and there. There are a few podcasts becoming paid / subscription based business. But most podcasts will be niche , small , and free. More fun people will start their own podcasts :)


I think it's like the indie music scene. Sure, some bands make a living at it, or try to. But most musicians are playing for the sheer joy of playing, going to a little club and making a racket for a dozen of their closest friends.

In the long run, there will be plenty of niche podcasts with dozens, maybe hundreds of listeners - not enough to make a living, but an audience is its own reward.


Somehow podcasts are like Instagram.

Most instagramers are not influencers who can monetize well. Most instagramers don’t have a large follower base, which totally makes sense.

few podcasters can make a living from producing podcasts. Most podcasters make podcasts for fun. Some use podcasts to cross promote other things (eg books, music , e-commerce...). More and more companies produce podcasts, but they just treat podcasts as an addition to their social accounts to build audience and create awareness: https://lnns.co/b0jVr85WkQn


I'm not sure that's inherently bad. In some ways I think it's useful to divorce the medium from the revenue model, and I think the medium (audio content you can listen do anywhere and any time) might be well-suited to some content that just can't be paid for if the only revenue option is ads (or donors, I guess). Maybe it's too niche, or covers subject matter that isn't advertiser-friendly, or has high production costs (for fiction content in particular I think there's a ceiling to the level of ambition that's possible now because voice talent is expensive), etc. I'm interested to see what kinds of content might be unlocked through experimentation with new revenue models.


As the millennial internet company market inevitably cools (Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron, etc), where are all these podcasters gonna get ads from?


Many podcast platforms are already basically setting up ad networks. Content creators supply time stamps and the CDNs stitch in ads at the point of download into those.time stamps. At the moment, conversion rates are highest when the host reads the ads, so there's still a lot of work for the creator but minimal effort for the advertiser.

It's likely that eventually the bar will lower and people will stop minding less integrated ads. But the advertiser pays per download (right now, see next paragraph) and doesn't pay the host to do the reading, so from the buying end it's simple and generally they work with the Podcast hosting platform who then farms it out to creators.

NPR released their Remote Audio Data spec recently and many players are working to integrate it. Essentially the ID3 tags have several time stamps marked and a call back URL. The podcast player then delivers events to that URI indicating the listener listened through that time stamp with some other metadata.

The automation and ad network-ization is already in motion.

So to answer: the same place web pages get ads.


> many players are working to integrate it

Do you have any information on who? I've mostly heard about players announcing they won't support it, and Apple and Spotify have their own analytics systems they'd probably prefer people use.


So I do seem to have jumped the gun. It definitely appears that most the indie podcatchers are in wait and see mode. Almost all the "we won't support it" has a "yet" or "at this time" clause.

The big thing is Apple. Apple is definitely the big boy in the pond and NPR is in talks to get it working.

The thing is, if other podcatchers continue to refuse to provide data somehow, the advertisers are going to start refusing to pay for downloads and only for impressions verifiable on Apple, Spotify, and Google's apps. The end result is the closing off into walled gardens.

We already have Stitcher and Spotify buying up podcasts and keeping them exclusive to their platforms.

It can go either way but like...it's bad if it doesn't go this way. Either you're buying podcasts per episode or trapped on Google/Apple/Spotify's horrific podcast apps.

The apps are horrific. Google compresses audio to the point you get obvious quality loss and artifacting, even to my non-audiophile ears on $20 earbuds.

Apple Podcasts is a PITA once you've subscribed to more than 10 podcasts. It's really badly set up if you subscribe to a serial audio drama and have several seasons to catch up on.

Spotify thinks podcasts are just playlists in order from newest to oldest and wow is that a barebones and impossible UX for anything but a talkshow type podcast.


At my last job we worked in internet tech for radio stations. Most of the station money came from the auto industry. I guess that makes sense since a non-smart radio fits with driving better than touch screens.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, all that to say, it'll probably come from markets that fit how/when/where consumers listen: exercise, entertainment, etc.


Terrestrial radio is also reasonably location targeted. Can’t really do that with podcasts, at least not with any sort of reliability.


Ads can (and already are) stitched into podcasts based on download location. GeoIP isn't perfect, but it's enough to do location aware advertising in the same vein as terrestrial radio..


Oh wow, I hadn't considered that but it's obviously simple to do. Here's a funny thought: your script downloads the file with requests from two IPs associated with different locations and gets a union of the audio for you to listen to (thus cutting out any location-based segments).


To a point, but many podcaster players will run downloads through their own CDN


Can you name any that do this? Why would they? A podcast app should be basically free to run so why introduce the cost of downloading every podcast?


Geolocation at the cdn level is a common use case for the new class of ‘smart cdn’.


I tried some Gimlet podcasts but didn't find any of consistent quality. For me "consistent quality" means I'm willing to binge-listen every episode and in order.


That's a pretty high bar which almost nobody needs to meet to be widely acclaimed and highly profitable.


Such a weird bar anyways. I can binge heroin easier than I can binge a good book. That kind of reasoning celebrates the movement towards skinner boxes and addiction.


Sounds like a person who wants something thematically consistent to listen on long commutes, or plane rides.


I always enjoy Science Vs. Also, Startup, which actually has featured a bunch of YC companies. Reply all has good stuff too most of the time.


I wish Science vs. kept the sort of quality from earlier episodes when they were either not on Gimlet or had just come to Gimlet. They lean pretty heavily on narratives now, and while it may be entertaining, it's getting further and further away from science—or even minimally analytic.


I agree the format has changed a bit, but I still enjoy it. You're right though, going back to basics would be nice.


Reply All criminally releases episodes only every 2 weeks. I need that fix more often.


Reply All is very inconsistent. It feels like they get an idea for a story, follow it through and then if it just turns out to be very boring or a "nothing" story they will just produce and release it anyway.


"Startup" sounds cool. I found it. I don't understand why they don't have a link to the MP3 but instead make me use an app.


MP3 links are in the Startup RSS feed: https://feeds.megaphone.fm/startup

(I strongly recommend starting with Season 1. It's the most honest and vulnerable telling of early startup life that I've ever come across.)


Bagman and slow burn were good if you are into historical political scandals. Covered watergate, Clinton impeachment and Nixon’s vp spirew Agnew.


Just did some research - those two do look like an excellent fit


Personally, I don’t listen to every episode of any podcasts. I don’t even subscribe to any podcasts. I just cherry pick episodes from different podcasts to listen.

Normally, I find all episodes interviewing a person of my interest, then binge listen them all. These episodes may be from some pretty unknown podcasts that I don’t want to listen to other episodes .


Gimlet has an NPR narrative style that doesn’t work for everyone and can be a little too much.


I'm sure you can find some consistently bad quality content out there.


Personally, I subscribe to the podcasts of: Sam Harris, Conan, The Energy Gang, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and a couple other NPR shows. None of my podcasts, IMO, are decreasing in quality, nor would I expect any of these groups to sell-out as they are off-shoots of other things.

The podcasts I listen to are intentionally hand-selected over time to be 1) informative, 2) have a decent content:fluff ratio, and 3) enjoyable. I unsubscribed from Star Talk because about 90% of it was non-scientific chatter or ads, even though it was enjoyable and informative (sometimes). If a podcast doesn't cut to the damn chase like NDT's, that's an instant unsub from me.

In particular, I find independent podcasts like Sam Harris or Dan Carlin to be FANTASTIC, and that content is free for all to download in multiple ways. So, I'm not worried in the slightest.


Gimlet media was started by Alex Blumberg, who worked previously for "This American Life" and "Planet Money" (he may have started that one). These are both NPR shows as well as very popular podcasts

One of it's show is "Reply All" is hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. They used to host a podcast called "TLDR" on NPR (WNYC).

These guys are all super talented and deserve to be paid very well for the content they produce, but to say those shows and podcasters you like won't go to where there money is probably not 100%.


> In particular, I find independent podcasts like Sam Harris or Dan Carlin to be FANTASTIC, and that content is free for all to download in multiple ways. So, I'm not worried in the slightest.

This. Dan Carlin is fantastic and I enjoy supporting him because of the quality. No Agenda and Congressional Dish are two more listener supported/value-for-value podcasts which do an outstanding job. No Agenda, in particular, raised the bar extremely high for production value, and they do it all live to tape! No back office. Little-to-no post production. Those guys are proof you don’t need a studio, enployees, or advertisers to make a living out of podcasting.


I love how Carlin paywalls his old shows but then mentions in the podcast that they're easy to find on pirate sites if you can't afford to pay him. The paywall is thus implicitly recognised as a minor nuisance meant to make you consider donating. His is the only podcast I've ever given money to, and while I'd like to believe that this has more to do with supporting his quality content than the minor nuisance of pirating his old shows it was actually the act of looking for an old show and finding it paywalled that made me stop and punch in my credit card number. I had intended to support him for a while before that, but never taken the time.

Edit: removed "ad-free" as a descriptor of Carlin's shows, since I recall him having Audible ads.


Glad to see there are people on HN who are going out there and propagating the formula.


I haven't heard of No Agenda in years.

I stopped listening to them a while back after they had a hard right turn IIRC. Their business model was excellent though.


I'm curious about what you mean by this exactly


It's not really fair to call them "hard right" - overall I find they still exercise a very balanced centrist opinion set. Moreso what happened is that the media became even more focused on a strict left-wing narrative that merits serious deconstruction.


Anecdotally, I have noticed an increase in advertisements in the podcasts I listen to. I think this is more likely a sign of decline than a sign of the opposite.


Could it be instead a sign of increasing profitability of podcasts? (That advertisers are willing to pay for ads on podcasts.)


Maybe, or it could mean they have to do more ads to stay afloat, where before fewer ads were sufficing.


iHeartMedia is a junk stock and will probably delisted from NYSE soon. Stuff Media will be gutted and lost in the ensuing chaos in the coming years as iHeart desperately attempts again to restructure their debt. Both them and Cumulus Media serve as yet another sad tale of what happens when PEGs descend on in for the rape and pillage.


Just out of curiosity, what are PEGs?


Private equity groups. Several have been brokering their debt restructuring over the years. Here's their most recent complete restructuring from about a year ago (http://www.insideradio.com/free/restructuring-will-wipe-bill...) (they're currently in bankruptcy at the moment.)


So what incentive do they have for "rape and pillage" of companies if they ruin them and themselves in the process?


Because the partners collect big fees on the way in and out.

Toys R Us is a great example. The PEG people invested 20%, dumped the debt on the Toys R Us balance sheet, and yielded at least $200M in fees. They are also able to harvest paper losses to offset taxes.


Pardon my ignorance, but who's paying their fees, and why would anyone pay fees to people who ruin companies and pocket fees for doing a poor job?


The acquired company. The people running the company are the people collecting the money.

Why would they do so? They are “turning the company around!”.


I'd guess "private equity $somethings"?


I listened to Crimetown season 2 on Overcast, but you're right, it looks like it's been removed from the feed. I was hoping they'd approach it more like Stitcher has, where they continue to produce open podcasts, but offer additional episodes or only gate a limited number (and definitely expected that any Spotify-only podcasts would be brand new, as opposed to removing access to pre-existing ones).


I agree the purchase of Gimlet and putting shows behind paywalls is concerning.

That said, as long as the vast majority of shows continue to publish their shows as god intended -- as enclosures on an simple RSS feed -- I think podcasts will stay healthy and vibrant. I will not subscribe to Spotify for a whole host of reasons, and it would take far, far more 'available only on Spotify' podcasts to ever make me reconsider that.


I think podcasts, from a consolidation POV, looks more like video than music (for starters, think of the content length and engagement level). You'd swap app/provider to listen to a different podcast, but a music player with a limited subset of music is essentially DOA.


Agreed. And I imagine that if Spotify succeeds, then Apple might eventually follow suit and start picking up exclusives. At that point, there's no going back.


Stitcher is building a garden. I think they are trying to combat the unassailable dominance of Apple.


Long live Napster!


Personally, I'm not a fan of podcasts at all.

I've tried, and listened to some interesting ones, but in the end I'd much rather consume the same content by reading instead of listening. It's faster, it's easier to skim and skip around, you can have hyperlinks to other references, etc. Overall, text just works better for the kinds of content I'm interested in.

There's a podcast related to a product I work with that I've tried a few times. The podcast is very well done, but each one is about an hour long. I'd much rather have it as a blog post where I can skim through to find the pieces that interest me. They've gotten a little better with their episode descriptions where they tell you what topics they are talking about and when they start, but it's only a minor improvement.

Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines. If I want to find the podcast where they talked about an interesting thing that I want to revisit, and it's not in the episode description, it's basically lost forever.


> I'd much rather consume the same content by reading instead of listening. It's faster, it's easier to skim and skip around, you can have hyperlinks to other references, etc

My counterargument to that is that in order to do any of those things you need to have your eyes engaged with the content. I can listen to podcasts (or audiobooks) while at the gym, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, or going to pick my kid from school. That means to me more than the advantages you mentioned.

One additional advantage: getting to sleep. I don't enjoy sleeping. If i have a light source near me, be it a lamp or a screen, I don't feel sleepy at all. I can't fall asleep while watching a Netflix show that I like. I have done the experiment. I can feel sleepy while reading a book, but an engaging one and a night lamp will keep me awake: I read the first Harry Potter volume in a single sleep-less night. Listening to podcasts with the lights off and my eyes closed makes me drift to sleep much more easily.


A slightly different take on your “eye engagement” point is that podcasts allow us to utilize time that would otherwise be spent listening to music, talking to others, thinking, or just zoning out. Combined with Apples air pods (a horribly great piece of technology), I find myself using lots of time for podcasts that I wouldn’t otherwise (like when I’m doing the dishes). I find all of this enjoyable overall but I do worry that the decreased time that I spend in thought or present with others could be a net negative in the end.


I've wondered about this too. It's rare now, but sometimes I just want to drive to work in silence and it's always surprising to me how nice it can be. I'd be curious to see a study about the affects of time spent "zoned out". I wonder if it may turn out to be an important opportunity for our brains to subconsciously process things or work on ideas. I'd imagine our ancestors spent a significant portion of their lives in that state, whereas today we spend almost no time that way.


I spent years driving to remote sites in the desert for field work and have spent countless hours listening to audio books, podcasts and music. Often times on the return journey home I found myself thinking in silence or listening to my thoughts and the road in silence. Maybe it was sort of an active meditation but it seemed to happen naturally and felt great.

With all the screens around us, people or content, if you will, we often don't have long periods of time with the option to tune it all out. You allude to our ancestors and I think being still of mind is an important part of our being. Many people are anxious these days in that environment. My favorite part about doing extended river trips (1-3+ weeks) is tuning completely out for large stretches of time.


I’ve started to intentionally not listen to anything at times when I otherwise would


I have found that if I'm not careful, yeah, I'll fill in all my driving or chores or walking the dog time with podcasts. This absolutely destroys my creativity, because instead of thinking about e.g. short story ideas while walking the dog, I'm listening to old episodes of some podcast, letting my mind just sort of tick over with basic engagement.


Try meditation, it's the best way I've found to be truly present in the current moment. Without focusing on any external stimuli or content, you're left with the sensations of being, as well as the thoughts/feelings of your mind. You then establish this "baseline" signal upon which all the other noise of modern life is added.


Are there any studies on how good retention is when consuming books as a background task while you're doing something else? Sample size = 1, but I briefly tried listening to audio books while driving, cooking, etc. but stopped when I realized I got all the way through a few books without even vaguely remembering what they were about.


Yeah IDK if I'm just way worse at focusing on spoken words while doing other things than most people or what, but I can't get into podcasts or audio books at all. If I do other things while listening I miss so much that I have no idea what's going on, and even the supposedly very good ones are so dull that if I'm going to spend focused time consuming them I'd rather read, or watch something, or listen closely to some good music, or almost anything else.

I guess maybe if I got back into running they'd be good for that. Can't think of when else I could possibly use them.


I've found it extremely dependent on fine differences in the primary thing I'm doing. e.g. I have no problem following if I'm going on an uneventful or familiar drive, but will automatically tune it out if I don't know where I'm going.


This is why I find more casual listening like a podcast good. Listening to a book you can really hamper understanding of the later parts of it with low retention of easier parts. A lot of podcasts don’t really require your full attention at all times to understand later parts.


i've been listening to audiobooks since 2013 and i remember 99% of everything i listened. YMMV, but at least for me, it was a thing i had to "learn" -- as in, listen and pay attention while doing a boring task.


The same thing happened to me. I recently acquired a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and even though it seems like a pair of wired earbuds or headphones would be about the same, it's not at all.

I listen to podcasts while doing all sorts of things now.


Listening to podcasts or audiobooks while I go to sleep is my biggest life hack. I've been doing it for about six years and now sleep in around 5-10 minutes, whereas it used to take up to an hour before that.

It does mean it takes me months to get through a longer book, but that's no big deal, and means I actually going to bed.


How do you keep track of what chapter/paragraph you fell asleep at when you wake up?


this is the biggest problem i have with audiobooks/podcasts. I've thought about the idea of hacking a fitbit or apple watch that can track sleep to automatically pause them but I fall asleep much faster and easier than my fiancee and she likes to leave things going to cover my snoring.


I use Listen audiobook player with a fifteen minute sleep timer. Before the sleep timer stops it playing it plays a series of soft beeps, if the phone detects any movement it will resume for another fifteen minutes.

Yes, there's still a little rewinding to do to work out where you left off but it only takes a few seconds.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.acmeandroi...


Two fit bits, with a recorded stop time for each of you (offset a little bit so that the part immediately before you went to sleep is repeated). When you wake up, the segment in between the two stop times has already been extracted and sent to whoever fell asleep first so that they can catch up before jointly continuing the podcast with their partner before bed.


I just sort of estimate which means in practice I sometimes listen to parts of it I wasn’t paying attention to over again. Most of the podcasts I listen to are like 20 minutes long and it takes me like 5 minutes to fall asleep.


I just set a sleep timer to 60 minutes and rewind the next day until I encounter a part of the book that I remember. Slightly annoying, but not a big deal at all.


Fully agree. Podcasts are a big part of my life, and apart from making my not short commute actually enjoyable, they often have the effect of making me do more housework, because I don’t mind doing dishes, laundry or cooking while listening to them at all. I cannot just “sit there” and listen to a podcast, so to continue doing so I will do whatever other menial task needs to be done. This is a win-win: stuff that needs to be done anyway gets done, while I am entertained.


Totally random aside, but one trick with falling asleep is that the body doesn't fall asleep when warm, but when it warms up. So get yourself nice and cold (open windows in winter, pump up ac, put a fan on, keep the blankets off, etc), like really uncomfortably cold, then cover up. Sleep is much easier to achieve :)


I ran into this same suggestion just a few months ago and after 30 years of shitty sleep finally learned how to relax and sleep.

Can confirm it definitely works - I'll intentionally get too cold, then pull up the blanket to warm up and fall asleep solid in moments.


To me podcasts and audiobooks are totally different animals. An audiobook about a subject will have many times the information density than a podcast about the same.


I think it depends on the type of podcast. I'm a huge fan of the storytelling style that was pioneered (AFAIK) at This American Life, continues at Planet Money, and is used in almost all the Gimlet Media posdcasts (given that one of the main Planet Money people started it). 99% invisible is also good at this, in a slightly different way.

> Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines.

That depends on the Podcast. Planet Money, some (all?) Gimlet Media podcasts, and 99% Invisible have online articles/transcripts of their podcasts. I've found more than a few I wanted to reference here through searching for portions I remember.


I agree that it depends on the type of podcast. Deep technical stuff, for me, is much better as text. But something like The Ongoing History of New Music[0] would be greatly degraded by switching to text.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ongoing_History_of_New_Mus...


Well, yeah, of course if you're just sitting in your living room you'd rather read than listen; however that's not really the use case of a Podcast.

The value podcasts bring is you can consume them during times you can't read. During exercise, driving, walking to work, cleaning the house, cooking, and train/car rides (for people who get motion sick while reading in a moving vehicle). They turn tedious menial tasks into times when you're mildly entertained - that provides immense value.

They can also be used for a slightly more interesting white noise.


If you can pay attention while doing those things. I am not the OP, but if it isn't music, listening to anything while doing those things is a non-starter for me, especially driving.


It's true that it does not work for any task that you need to pay attention to. Folding laundry, cooking a known meal, cleaning anything and driving the standard commute, however? No problem at all. Maybe I need to rewind 15 seconds a few times (which is purposefully made easy) if something unexpected happens in the menial task, but most of the time those menial tasks leave more than enough attention for a podcast.


I'm roughly the same way. When driving the choice is that I either miss something on the road or miss something on what I'm listening to.

I usually take public transit to work, but the buses are too noisy for me to actually get anything out of a podcast. I could use noise canceling headphones, but I find those just make the bus sound weird instead of getting rid of the noise.


Just get IEMs with properly fitting tips.


I have this problem too. The other nice thing about music for me is that it regularly inspires emotions in me that are useful for writing fiction.


As many others have said, podcasts are definitely necessary over text when doing things you can't read during (driving, exercising, etc.)

Additionally, I enjoy podcasts for the personalities. This varies with the podcast, as some podcasts consist of generally the same content as something like a blog post, with a generic narrator reading from a script. However, most popular podcasts are popular not just for the content, but the conversations between the personalities.

e.g. I can read Bill Simmons' sports columns (which have their own merits) and get much of the same content, but I can't laugh along with him and one of his pals or a pro athlete tossing out an impromptu joke in one of his columns: only on his podcast.


Indeed. 100% of the times I listen podcasts, it's when doing tasks that I can't read during. Podcasts has brought pleasures to doing daily chores, driving, going grocery shopping, walking the dog, and so on.

Maybe too much so, I am finding that I maybe listen to too much podcast, to the point where I spend very little time in my own head, day dreaming and having my own thoughts. But that's an entirely separate issue.


> The podcast is very well done, but each one is about an hour long.

Many podcast apps have a pitch stable speedup function, that increases the playback speed. I'm currently at 2.1x, but I have a blind friend that listens to email via TTS at something like 4x. It's a skill that you can practice and ramp up over time.

> I'd much rather have it as a blog post where I can skim through to find the pieces that interest me.

Personally, podcasts are a supplement to my blog feeds, for the daily commute. There is no public transit to work that's feasible, and even if there was, I generally cannot read in car without getting motion sickness. So reading is pretty much off the table, and instead podcasts fill that slice of daily life.

> Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines.

This is mostly true, although nothing prevents transcripts from being made readable.


    > Personally, I'm not a fan of podcasts at all.
I think your concerns are more about your dislike of podcasts as a medium. Not everyone listens to podcasts strictly to mainline information straight into their brain.

There's something to be said for dialog and for the discovery and exploration of unexpected topics. Moreover, there's an aesthetic associated with the human voice and verbal communication that doesn't necessarily translate to text. Not everything has to have a fine-grained search index for a-la-carte consumption!


For people with long commutes like myself (1 hour +), audio podcasts are a great way to pass the time in he car. Podcasts are a great way to keep your mind occupied when you're sitting in traffic or doing some other tedious and menial task. Sitting down and actively listening to a podcast while doing nothing else is not very appealing to most people.


Me, when I'm able to read a book, I certainly prefer to do that, too.

But I can't really read a book while I'm driving, or walking to work, or cooking dinner, or cleaning the kitchen, or working out, or knitting, or soldering, or doing a jigsaw puzzle, or playing video games.


I seriously enjoy humor or political / debate podcasts, especially while commuting, but technical podcasts never stick.

I find when getting into a new framework (something like Rails or React) then it's an interesting bit of "immersion learning" to throw on the latest episode of the big associated podcast. Maybe I pick up a bit of knowledge, but just hearing people speak naturally about the framework helps me build a fuzzy roadmap in my head of the big subjects to tackle.


Completely agree, most technical concepts require you to play with it. I've never heard of anyone learning spark from a podcast


There's technical podcasts that are guides? When listening to something like The Changelog, it's just a conversation about a technology and its origins.


Most tech podcasts tend to focus on interviews, but I tend to shy away from those.

There are quite a few shows that are different though, either discussion or news based. Here are a couple of my favorites. * Coding Blocks * Complete Develop Podcast * Six Figure Developer * Weekly Dev Tips

Full disclosure, host of CB here :)


Immersion is a good term to use. I agree. You may not learn a lot of specific, but you may get the lay of the land in a low effort way.


> Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines.

Google is actively working with the podcast community and encouraging podcasters to structure their data to be accessible in search: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/podcast


I use them as white noise with the potential of an interesting tidbit here and there. I like having something playing in my headphones while working and podcasts have become something I turn to. Most of the time I'm focused on what's on my screen but every now and again an interesting story comes up that I stop to listen to.

Also about your search engine comment, Google has basically crawled and tagged through all your images if you use google photos. They've added automated closed captioning to almost every single youtube video. I would not be shocked if they're in the process of transcribing and indexing every single podcast available on google podcasts. Once they do that, you could probably search for "orange chicken recipe" and it would skip to the 55:16 where they're talking about that very thing.


Audio-only medium have benefits over text and video. For example, you don't need to be fully engaged to consume audio in the same way you need to be to consume text or video (i.e. it's easy to vacuum your house or drive a car while listening to a podcast. Not so easy while reading a book or watching a movie).

>Overall, text just works better for the kinds of content I'm interested in.

You're making such a weird argument. Podcasts are not replacements for books. Books do things that podcasts can't. Podcasts do things that books can't. Don't want to listen to podcasts or music? Don't. Read your books and be happy.

>Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines.

That's a problem for search engines to solve. In principle, search engines could auto-transcribe podcasts and index that.

>If I want to find the podcast where they talked about an interesting thing that I want to revisit, and it's not in the episode description, it's basically lost forever.

Again, indexing is not something that the medium needs to solve. That's for others to figure out. Text is easy to index. Images are harder to index, audio is harder still, and video is probably the worst.


>For example, you don't need to be fully engaged to consume audio in the same way you need to be to consume text or video (i.e. it's easy to vacuum your house or drive a car while listening to a podcast. Not so easy while reading a book or watching a movie).

As a personal anecdote, I DO need to be fully engaged to consume audio in the same way as text or video. Your example of vacuuming is a perfect example, while trying to pay attention to the carpet I'd stop paying attention to the podcast, and i'd have to rewind, which I find tedious.


I prefer nonfiction audiobooks to podcasts. Good books have years of effort put into them to present a cohesive narrative with deep research and subtle detail. Podcasts feel rushed in comparison. I can also listen to classic books that will continue to be relevant for hundreds or thousands of years, where most podcasts will be stale in months or years.


> I'd much rather consume the same content by reading

I think most ppl listen to them when they can't read like driving, working out, on the train, falling asleep ect.

Try casefile podcast if you are into truecrime. I've been travelling around the country and this podcast has kept me company well, although it did make me a little paranoid :D


I like Podcasts mostly because they're something to do with my head while my hands are occupied. I agree that for content that someone may actually care about, the format is a bit of a pain (though not as bad if, like Reply All (for example) you publish transcripts as well.


I am glad I am not the only one. Podcasts are simply not for me.

I am FAR more efficient at reading content than listening to it. Not even close.

And since I am a massive music fan, I rather listen to music than listen to talk. There is so much new music to explore, who has time for podcasts?


I partially agree with you. I don't like audio books, because I prefer the pace of thinking and reading a book.

But, for conversational topics I love podcasts. Long form interviews (1-2-3 hours) that used to be impossible now can be done.


What wee need is a pod-cast-to-text-blog-bot

A bot that will listen to the podcast, ML it and transcribe it into a blog post - when a term is stated verbally, it will look it up and turn it into a link. Over time we will teach the bot with verbal cues for what to lookup.

Basically a virtual Jamie from Joe Rogan's podcast "Pull up" "Google" "where is" "someone said" "lets see" "did you see" "did you read" etc can be triggers for the bot to pull up that relative content and put into the transcript...


Podcasts aren't for reading a prepared text.

They're mostly for conversations.


Podcasts are very good for interviews and conversations, which of course can be cleaned up and transcribed but may suffer for it.

There are also audio dramas, audiobooks, documentaries, and so on, that are all tightly scripted and can work very well. Some of them may work just as well as longform text and I guess that's what GP prefers. I enjoy audio documentaries a lot though.


Listen to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History series on World War I, and it will change your mind on the need for a podcast to have a conversation.

https://www.dancarlin.com/


For me, the best series by far that Dan Carlin did was the one on Genghis Khan ("The Wrath of the Khans", I believe it's called). The WWI one was also quite engaging, though. Before hearing it, I really was not interested in WWI at all, but he managed to make it very interesting for me.


The Tuchman book "The Guns of August" is an amazing book on the first month of WW1.

https://www.amazon.com/Guns-August-Pulitzer-Prize-Winning-Ou...


I have listened, and you're right that they're amazing. Perhaps OP is right that they would be better printed, but I doubt it, Carlin does speak with a passion.

In my defense, i did use the weasel word "mostly" :)


You do have to prep for those as well from experience on TWIWG (this week in wargaming) - you also have to prep for actual play ones look at the work that Mat Mercer puts in.


I like to read too, but its nice to have something to put on while you clean up around the house.

>Podcasts are also completely inaccessible to search engines. If I want to find the podcast where they talked about an interesting thing that I want to revisit, and it's not in the episode description, it's basically lost forever.

this is an issue, but I think it is solved by maintaining an active subreddit or discussion forum to discuss the episodes as they are released.


Try searching podcasts by people or topics here https://www.listennotes.com


Thanks for creating listennotes! I've found it very useful when I want to find a bunch of interviews of the same person on different shows.


Hey, another fan of your site. Thanks for simplicity of your site!


I walk to/from work (about 40 minutes), so its nice to learn / stay up to date on things. I usually listen to data science related podcasts


I would agree with you if I didn't have a significant commute every day. Many of my interests shouldn't be obsessed at over work (videos or a bunch of reading), but still require my attention. In the car alone on the way home or to work is perfect for that, because I've learned that the rest of my family REALLY REALLY could care less about Lawns Across America.


The other thing is that we often engage with things for two goals: (1) information and (2) entertainment.

Text excels at being extremely efficient for (1), but not as efficient for (2) - at least when compared to multimedia like photos, videos, audio, etc.

Podcasts offer a good balance between (1) and (2), but they are not the high-octane fuel of information that pure text can offer.


Can you read while driving a car or a bike?


You listen to podcasts like you listen to the radio: when you're driving, doing chores, working out, etc.


I think this is part of my problem. Radio was never really a thing in my childhood, so it's not a big part of my adulthood either. Other than driving in the car, or as an alternative to the TV announcers when hockey was on, my family never had the radio on or music playing.

I do listen to music on the bus, but podcasts are too much of a challenge since they're competing with all the other noise around me.


I'm 33 and didn't grow up in a radio culture either. I first heard of podcasts around 2006 in college when Apple came out with a mic dongle for the iPod. Never bothered checking any out. It was only when I came across a lengthy interview with an athlete I like that I started listening. Podcasts can be good for that, since TV usually focuses on short segments to fit in all the commercials.

For me, podcasts aren't like TV shows where I feel connected to the cast members. I'll listen only if the guest is interesting. In rare cases, I'll subscribe if the format is interesting, e.g. bad movies reviewed by comedic actors.


I personally absorb some type of content, especially story types through my ears better than my eyes. This is perhaps because I enforce it through imagination. When I read, my imagination is still on but to a lesser degree. I also like the emotional impact a voice can make on my imagination.


I'm generally in the same boat as you (I even read my Kindle as I walk to work), with one exception - cleaning the house.

My hands are occupied so I can't hold anything, and it's completely brainless work so I'm free to focus.

I pop in a foreign language podcast and suddenly the time flies by.


You're right, text is a much better medium. However, at least for me, I listen to podcasts at work mostly, or when I am doing something physical like dishes, where reading is impossible (or impractical).


For a text-based summary I really like: https://podcastnotes.org

Especially the ones with Naval


Yeah, I feel the same about podcasts and audiobooks. Would prefer to have it in a written medium.


also depends on your schedule. i dont listen to podcasts when I am in town. But when driving or flying somewhere, I always download a few.


I don't know about you, but I find it hard to read while cooking, jogging, eating, driving, folding laundry, doing the dishes, sweeping/mopping.


Apart from driving, I don't even listen to music while doing any of those things. Even when driving, the radio is off most of the time.

Having music or a radio always on is a concept I simply don't get.


Creators may be entering a golden age, but the delivery methods and infrastructure have been stagnant for years now. We now have ongoing shows, evergreen episodic shows, "two amateurs in a basement" niche shows, 12-episode and it's done audiobooks, and various other designations of podcasts, and yet we still serve everything like it's a blog that needs to release content weekly. I also find it frustrating that we only categorize by topic. I'll listen to something very different on a 5 hour car ride than I would on a 15 minute walk with my dog (beyond something "Comedy" instead of "News")

Most listeners see Apple Podcasts as "good enough", but I find it confusing, and other applications follow the same approach with one or two "tweaks" that are not worth sacrificing features or adjusting to a new UI. I'm still optimistic that Spotify can get their act together (since they have the resources and incentive), but they haven't done anything dazzling since quietly adding a podcast section years ago.

It severely limits the capabilities of the medium, and yet no one seems to think anything is wrong. I understand this structure is a result of RSS serving as the backbone of "podcatchers", but everyone would benefit from a bit of lateral thinking.


Not sure what you are even exactly complaining about. Is it the UI?

I agree that most podcast players just lack features. They're built for "dummies": you can subscribe and click play, that's mostly it.

I'm a power-user. Podcast Addict on Android is the best player I have used, it has a ton of features and extreme customizability. Still, I am now using PocketCasts which is inferior by a wide margin, but it has sync capability, which ends up making my life a lot easier since I don't listen to podcasts on just a single device.

I think ultimately there is still space for another podcast player that is not built for dummies and offers a wide range of features on multiple platforms. Nothing like that exists, as far as I know.


Simply put, it's a UI issue that affects every aspect of the business. Podcasts have an artificially diminished shelf-life. If you don't release an episode every two weeks, your show gets buried in the library. It means the format is synonymous with churned, radio broadcast-like content.

This has also affected the monetization model. Most ads use promo codes for services, but those promos expire and change, rendering that content valueless. Given these limitations, it's a miracle any producers are funding serialized content that actually has a conclusion.


Lots of podcasts now use ad-serving platforms that splice in ads on the fly when the podcast is downloaded, so if you listen to old episodes today, you get current advertisers, promo codes, etc.


> If you don't release an episode every two weeks, your show gets buried in the library.

S-Town released all its episodes almost 2 years ago, and Pocket Casts still has it at #23.


As a happy PocketCasts user, what am I missing out on that Podcast Addict has? Looking over the Play Store feature list, nothing jumps out.


I've used both and there isn't really a reason to pick one over the other.


IMO we should celebrate that podcasts have managed to remain an open standard for so long. All of the open standards we have, are basically a historical accident: HTTP, SMTP, etc.

It's really easy for open standards to be killed by big companies, and it's impossible to create a new, open standard and get adoption when big companies already own the space.

I will not listen to podcasts on Spotify, because Spotify cannot be allowed to own podcasts like Youtube owns video.


I kind of can't believe I'm saying this because I almost always want better structured technology but I actually think the simplistic nature of the delivery has protected the medium. Things like lack of DRM, skippable ads may have slowed the profitability of the business and therefor slowed the dumbing down of the content you get when a medium is mined to extract maximum profit.


The infrastructure and delivery is just fine. You can start a podcast easier than ever now. The difficultly is in creating good content, not serving mp3s and RSS.

Discoverability is certainly a concern, but only because there is _so much_ good content out there. I find out about good podcasts via word of mouth much more than any directory or online source.


"Discoverability is certainly a concern, but only because there is _so much_ good content out there."

Quality is in the eye of the beholder. I've scoured top podcast lists and recommendations far and wide, and have found maybe 5 or 6 podcasts worth listening to for me in my whole life. I'm sure there must be others that I'd like, but they're buried in a mountain of uninteresting content.


Eh, I don't see it as a limitation of RSS, it's still up to the aggregator to display the episodes however they want after they've fetched the raw data.


This. An RSS feed of .mp3 or .ogg files is all I need for all of the formats mentioned by OP. It is annoying that some podcasts don't have RSS feeds -- this is what feels like a step back to me, but it's fundamentally a choice of the author/publisher. I'm much less likely to consume a podcast's backlog if it's not available as an RSS feed, and if the only obvious way to play content is through an embedded player or app that obscures the source media I probably won't play a single episode.

Edit: formatting fix.


If there isn't an RSS feed linking to audio files can you really call it a podcast?


Interesting question. I've seen collections of audio content claiming to be podcasts that don't have RSS feeds, so the term is definitely used that way. Whether that makes it a valid definition is open to interpretation, the word is pretty new still. Merriam-Webster seems to think that an automated download mechanism is required, though it doesn't specify RSS in particular:

>a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet

I can see arguing that this doesn't even rule out walled-garden streams with an auto-play feature, since streaming and downloading are functionally the same (the only difference being what type of memory the data is stored in, and swap memory destroying that distinction entirely).


I'm of two minds on this. Sure improvements could be made, but the dead-simple infrastructure is part of what makes podcasts so appealing and what has kept them going. You can fetch an episode or subscribe to a feed, and that's about it. Old unmaintained stuff can continue to be available for ages. No one cares where it's hosted.

All the categorization stuff is totally outside of the podcasts themselves. Sure the default podcast apps suck, but lots of people have tried to do better and haven't caught on in a significant way. There are any number of alternative ways to get podcasts that I hear about all the time on the podcasts I listen to, have you tried those?

But ultimately, I don't think we want a rework of the infrastructure. It's not going to end well for podcasters or podcast listeners. User tracking, ad injection, and platform lock-in will be the priorities of the people who build the next successful podcast protocol.


Apple Podcasts has gotten worse pretty much every year. I have switched to Overcast and I find it excellent. Lean and clean.


Overcast seems to bug out on me everytime I try to play episodes in the order they were released instead of most recent first.

It also never removes played episodes no matter what my settings.

Seriously these should be simple things.


I had the same issue with it playing episodes in an awkward order because I wanted it to show me the episodes in "most-recent-first" order, but I wanted it to play in the reverse order. I got around it by creating smart playlists - I have some that are each for a single show, and I have a "back catalog" playlist for a group of podcasts where I'm catching up on older episodes, and it interweaves them all together based on their chronological release dates, so that if there's news that each one discusses, they generally get played back-to-back.

I've never had a problem with it not deleting episodes, so I can't help you there.


I have to use it, as it's the only app on the Apple Watch that allows you to stream over LTE/cellular.

I'd love to be able to use Pocket Casts or Overcast.


PodCruncher was definitely worth the $3 or whatever nominal fee I paid.


I like to listen on desktop and as far as I'm concerned there's nothing good.

For Mac I suffer itunes. For Windows, I ended up installing Blue Stacks and using Google's Podcast app. Nothing native or web-based worked well for me. Unreliable or being delivered through Windows Store which constantly crashes for me were my main issues.

For a while I used live bookmarks with Firefox, that was great but shortly after Firefox removed that feature :)


There used to be an app called Podcasts Beta (https://www.microsoft.com/en-in/p/podcasts-beta/9nblggh1zj3r...) which I used quite a lot back when my Lumia 730 was still alive. It's good and the developer was very responsive but not sure what's the situation now after 2 years.


If you mix desktops and mobile you might try PocketCasts and its web version, though it doesn't sync playlists/up next.


I don't know why anyone would subject themselves to the awfulness of Apple Podcasts. What were they thinking?! It's just bad.


I’m always surprised when people complain about it. It does everything it should for me, syncs with my other devices and automatically downloads the new episode over night and tells me about it in the morning. What are you missing?


I live in Germany. I can only see German-language podcasts in the app. If I want to see podcasts in English, I need to switch my whole iTunes account to a different country. Of course, that creates problems elsewhere.

I mean, come on. Most of the interesting content is in English. This is a simple feature.


You mean for the suggestions / Top 10 lists? Yes these are the ones from your current country just like in the iTunes store.

You can still find every podcast if you search by name or browse by category though. You make it sound like you can only listen to German podcasts via the stock podcasts app which is definitely not the case.


Apple's podcast app has always been horrible at syncing between devices. Overcast was like a breath of fresh air.


Mind elaborating? I just search for a podcast and click play. Never seemed to need much more functionality than that. What am I missing?


It often fails to download podcasts. Overcast I can just tap 'download' and trust that it will do its work. Not Apple Podcasts.

I got the "this episode is not currently available" message all the time whereas I never get anything similar from Overcast.

It often fails to transition from one podcast to the next in the playlist (ie, stops playing). Sometimes even when all involved episodes have been downloaded.

It fails to automatically delete old episodes.

It fails in multiple ways when it loses connectivity. E.g., it refuses to continue playing a very well-buffered episode if there's no connectivity. Mind you, I suspect that some of the connectivity issues may be a result of them never having tested it with 'slow' connections (2Mbps in my case). This obviously wouldn't absolve them in the least, however.

This is just off the top of my head. It's one of the worst pieces of software I have ever used. From a company with billions in cash.


Let's just take the "play bar" (for lack of a better term) that hovers over the 4 menu items at the bottom. It's always there. That's sooo frustrating. It grates on my desire for tidiness. Let me clear that. Long pressing shows no option to clear it. It ... it's just not intuitive at all.


Presumably if you're listening to a podcast you're not digging around the Podcast app? This is how Music works, and I think Podcasts copied this.


After it plays, it stays there. That bar doesn't go away.

That makes zero sense.


I am surprised that higher capacity storage on phones was not mentioned as a driver of podcast listenership. For me, when I upgraded to a phone that had 32GB of storage around 2014 I was finally able to store mp3s that would download automatically ready for me to listen to along with all the music and photos that we would otherwise fill up our phone storage with. Before this, it was actually pretty hard to be an avid listener of lots of podcasts without having to deal with the hassle of managing your data storage.


I have fond memories when I was a teenager, loading my 80gb iPod video full of podcasts I could listen to on trips. The reason I even got into podcasts back then, was I didn't have any money to buy CDs or mp3s, but I could download as many podcasts as I wanted and it was awesome.


I remember downsampling things to a barely-listenable 32Kbps just so I could fit the maximum amount of content onto 16 or 32 megabyte SmartMedia card in my Diamond Rio.


I suspect you're correct. I find it surprising that people buy flagship phones that don't include an SD card reader. It seems that there's a belief among some handset manufacturers that storage capacity is only relevant for apps since all media is stored in the cloud. Either that or they just want to charge you for that extra storage. Being able to download hours worth of podcasts on an SD card and not worry about storage is fantastic.


> I find it surprising that people buy flagship phones that don't include an SD card reader.

Because most don't come with an SD card reader and there are other features people want besides that. Buying a $1000 phone is all about the trade-offs one is willing to live with.


This is when I used to carry an android phone. I used to worry about that. Then I had to manually move apps to the SD card. Then I had to manage a gallery on my phone and my SD card. Then I had to wait for the memory card to load the apps if I ever restarted my phone. After a point, after I passed 64gb, I didn’t care. I simply wanted something I didn’t have to manage. So I preferred a phone with internal storage. If iPhone started coming with a memory card, I still wouldn’t bother adding one. It just seems like a hassle.

And they are prone to corruption. Never happened to me but I’ve read plenty of horror stories. Why subject myself to another data loss vector?

With the new 256gb capacity phones, it’s never a hassle when it comes to space anymore.


I'll never buy another phone that uses an external SD card. It's fine when I manually copy things to the phone. The problem is that apps handle the SD card inconsistently and poorly.


This is not it.. anecdata I stream all the podcasts I listen to, many of which I actually watch on YouTube.. I have unlimited data or 20gb or something like that..

The "download a podcast/movie" is probably an important RITUAL for a lot of people, but I don't see actual lack of space as a key barrier.


How long have you been doing this though? I started to listen to more podcasts in 2014 when Serial was first released. At that time I did not have unlimited data (I still don't) and I suspect very few people did. I think for the vast majority of listeners at that time, storage was a much bigger factor to ease of listening than generous mobile data caps.


You don't even have to stream. At any given morning before leaving my house I have around 20 podcasts preloaded. Assuming you spend 5 hours a day listening to podcast at 2x speed, and 1mb per minute for the audio, that's still only 600mb. Up to to 1GB to give yourself some options.

Realistically, people listen closer to 2-3 hours a day, and even day, you can preload for a whole week using only 2GB of storage.


This is it. I downloaded every episode of LeVar Burton Reads earlier this week. Over 2GB on top of the 400MB from the other handful I subscribe to. My last phone would complain about insufficient space long before now.


The Nokia E66 (released in 2008) supported microSD cards of up to 8GBs. Together with the Nokia Podcasting app downloading them over Wifi, it didn't feel very different than today.


> LeVar Burton Reads

I'll have to take a look at that one... Is it in a book? It seems like a new reading rainbow...

https://youtu.be/uPqpmSWwuGk


Have you ever wanted a cool uncle/grandpa who tells you good stories? Now you have one!


Wow.. what is Reading Rainbow? I thought Lavar Burton Was a Star trek guy.


As a kid, I thought Lavar Burton was actually blind (because of Lt. La Forge) and thought that was nice of him to memorize the books on Reading Rainbow. My brain still nags me to double check that he isn't blind.


He is, but he also had a show where he tried to encourage kids to read.

Nowadays I think people mostly remember the theme song:

> Take a look, it's in a book, a Reading Rainbow!


Also see this classic from a fundraiser where he reads a "children's book" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBHwmVlP_DE


It was on public broadcasting since around 1983 and was hosted and produced by him.


This is a _really_ good point! I'm trying to find some data on this right now... might have to dig through e.g. Apple's previous phone releases to see trends over time.


This is a good point. Desktop/web clients have existed for a while, but I find that I listen to probably 90% of my podcasts on my smartphone. Prior to owning a phone with a large amount of storage, I just didn't really listen to podcasts (at least nowhere near the amount that I am now).


There was a sort of golden infancy period for podcasts, where if you had a iPod you could fit a ton of them on the spinning drive.


I would never listen to podcast sitting at my computer. 100% of my podcast listening is done while doing chores, walking or taking transit. That's why the rise of smartphones were crucial for the golden age of podcast.


I remember listening to EconTalk back when you downloaded it to your mp3 player using a computer. And maybe I'm a hipster but the golden age seems to be over. It's all too mainstream now, too polished, too polite.

Nowadays, I scroll through the multiple new episodes of many shows I used to enjoy to rarely find something I genuinely want to hear. Sure, you can probably dig to something like Cum Town but even then it doesn't feel fresh any more.

It's the same with binge watching TV (mentioned in the OP). Much more fun when you pirated the show, when it wasn't intended than when you're just some engagement metric. I haven't binge watched a TV show in at least three years.

Also, Google already had a podcasting app once (Google Listen?). I remember using it in like 2012.


There's now a glut of overproduced, samey content trying to compete as timewasters for a general audience. It feels like browsing through mass market paperbacks at the supermarket.

I think we're in a golden age if you're interested in fringe politics. Otherwise, we're well past it and on the decline.


I agree that the commercialization has been sucking the air out of interesting "homemade" podcasts. On the other hand, I think the higher popularity has been helping some independent podcasters justify the time they spend on it (some can even make a living from it, like Mike Duncan).


fellow econtalk/cumtown (well more red scare) listener here..

The latest feed refresh used to make me feel "Wow how will I have time to listen to all of these!" whereas now its "God do I really want to listen to any of these."

I guess previously we were all starved of interesting long form conversations (or socialist edgelords) but now we're reasonably satiated and like anything else it has to be good to hold our attention.

I still find a good econtalk pod is one of my greatest pleasures - russ & munger episodes particularly.


People actually listen to red scare!?


As a long-time podcast listener, I have been steadily reducing my intake of podcasts in recent months. For me, this is largely due to a few annoying trends, such as Podcast A airing an episode of Podcast B, a new offering from the same organization. These crossovers are becoming common, and they are basically very long ads. I am seldom interested, but it's difficult to get them out of the play queue, especially while driving.

As a long-time independent podcast creator, it feels as though the field is becoming saturated, making it nearly impossible for a podcast to stand out without the backing of a major podcast network. It is reminiscent of the tipping point of blogs, where the quirky ecosystem of offerings mostly congealed. That change was good for advertisers and a few big content companies, but detrimental to the diversity of content.


Oh I HATE the trend of corporate podcasts shoving episodes of other shows into their feed. I look forward to a new episode of the show I like only to start it and hear some other show. A close second is some podcasts have started putting reruns into their feed. I guess someone told them that missing weeks is bad so they just put a rerun in. Ugh.


Agreed, re-runs are another annoyance that is driving me away from many podcasts. The concept is an obsolete relic of broadcasting.


Yes, which is why I forgive This American Life for doing it - they pioneered the format that many podcasts follow, and TAL started on, and is still broadcast on, radio.


> A close second is some podcasts have started putting reruns into their feed.

"Stuff you should know" and "Stuff to blow your mind" do this. However, they sprinkle these in once a week and still release their normal 2 new episodes per week. It kind of makes sense for these shows since they have a massive back log and the nature of the subject matter is not really time sensitive.


I've been reducing my intake as well, after more than a decade of listening to 4+ hours a day worth of podcasts (and still having to skip episodes because I was subscribed to so many).

Podcasts nowadays tend to have way more advertising, long digressions, long intros and credit sequences, more re-runs and crossover episodes. That hasn't happened in a vaccum - the content and production values have gotten a lot more ambitious. A lot of the heavy hitters of modern podcasting have entire staffs dedicated to production, to investigation and research... they have caught up and surpassed radio shows of old, and now are more comparable in scope to a lot of documentary TV shows. Paying for all that has required a very different model of revenue, one that I'm not nearly as interested in consuming.

...but could they even support themselves with a paid subscription model? What's frustrating is that cross-promotion is very effective at increasing subscriber count.


While I agree there are plenty of great podcasts out there, I disagree with some of the things in the article.

> When Netflix moved into streaming, they invested billions of dollars into original programming, helping usher in the “New Golden Age of Television”

The current age of TV started long before Netflix moved to original content. This is not a model anyone should want to see in podcasts. Closed wall content is bad for everyone.

> For listeners, there will be more amazing shows of all kinds. More media companies will invest in creating quality long-form audio.

I don't think this is necessarily a good thing. I listen to and enjoy some expensive, high production corporate podcasts. But I greatly prefer independent podcasts. So many corporate ones are overproduced (eg Radio Lab) or are full of ads, begging for money, cross promotions, and other non-content (eg 99% Invisible). I'm concerned that high budget shows will push out high quality indie shows and make them harder to find.

> Spotify will create more exclusive content to aggregate and retain listeners.

This is terrible for everyone except Spotify. Closed wall content is bad for everyone. Despite being a paid Spotify user I will not listen to any Spotify exclusives. If you become a Spotify exclusive you're dead to me.


> Closed wall content is bad for everyone.

You said that twice. It's not bad for subscribers. There's a good argument to be made that ad-driven content is bad for everyone. In fact there's an argument to be made that ad-driven content is ushering in the end of the world. Who was it that said "we're building dystopia to maximize clicks." If you pay for your media, you at least know what the product really is.


> You said that twice.

Yes, intentionally.

> There's a good argument to be made that ad-driven content is bad for everyone.

No disagreement here. I donate to independent podcasts directly. They get 100% of the money. Many of them have no ads or two versions, one that's free with ads or one that's paid with no ads. It's the best of both worlds.


> Many of them have no ads or two versions, one that's free with ads or one that's paid with no ads. It's the best of both worlds.

I disagree with this strategy. In my opinion, pushing advertising on anyone is immoral and just because I can pay to get out of it doesn't absolve the podcaster who's still putting ads in the 'free' version.

A good podcaster doesn't push ads, full stop.


The writer made a pretty common finance misunderstanding mistake here:

"That may change soon: Spotify bought Gimlet Media, a premium podcast studio, and Anchor, a podcast hosting platform, for $340 million earlier this month. That's a lot of money for an industry that was sized at just $314 million in 2017."

Gimlet Media's $340M price tag reflects enterprise value which bakes in future cash flows, while the industry market size of $314M is reflective of estimated revenues in 2017. Apples and oranges.


I hope that this leads to better podcast discovery. The categories on things like pocketcasts are way too broad. For example, go into the news & politics category and there are tons of true crime podcasts. I don't care about true crime. I just want to hear the news or political talk. In education there are tons of language learning shows and self-help garbage.


Absolutely. This is why I was hopeful at Google entering the Podcast scene. I was hoping they would use the large amount of data to push podcast recommendations forward.

I have yet to see anyone really doing anything like that, taking your list of subscribed podcasts and using that to recommend you new ones. Seems like a trivial and extremely useful service to provide.


> taking your list of subscribed podcasts and using that to recommend you new ones

Google Podcasts does exactly that.


If anything there's too many good podcasts - I usually set my device to keep the five most recent, and there are good shows I simply don't get to.

(I never could "zone out" and program while a podcast is on like some people, I need ambient/classical/electronic music to do that)


I almost never listen to podcasts for this reason, and because it is vastly more efficient to read than it is to listen to a couple of people talking who may or may not be sticking to the topic.

It's funny the market effect, if you're, say, John Dolan, it's vastly more time efficient to spend an hour and a half talking to your buddy and get paid for it than it is to spend many hours researching and writing a 1000 or 2000 word essay on a topic that nobody wants to pay for. It's kind of interesting the psychology here: people will pay for things which take hours out of their week, but won't pay for the thing which takes 3 minutes to read, even if the 3 minute thing contains more information. From my perspective; the denser information is more valuable!


Most of the podcasts I listen to are while doing things like exercise and housework that aren't compatible with reading.

The podcasts I listen to are all from the BBC, so they're scripted and produced for radio, rather than just being people chatting. Listen to e.g. [1] or [2] and it's all on topic (and being the BBC, ad-free).

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p066rd9t/episodes/downloads [2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006r4vz/episodes/downloads


The BBC's Podcasting House podcast [1] is excellent for discovering new, high quality stuff. They play you a single episode (often the first) of a different podcast every week. I've discovered some great shows through it.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05ltqxn/episodes/downloads


You just have to let go of the need to be "caught up" or hear everything. Most podcasts don't really need that much continuity, so the need to listen to them ALL or even the idea of a "backlog" is just FOMO.

Think of it more like the old days of broadcast radio or TV. You listened to whatever happened to be on while you were listening and if you didn't hear something. . . who cares it's just entertainment?

Most of my podcast subscriptions I listen to only rarely. It's more like a shortlist of channels that have things I might be interested in hearing.


I tend not to listen to serial podcasts for this reason (unless traveling and I can binge on the plane).


I love reading, but podcasts let me consume knowledge or entertainment during activities where reading isn't possible.

That being said, for me, the biggest downside of podcasts is that although I'm willing to pay, there's no easy method of discoverability of high-quality, ad-free podcasts.

edit: However, I jump around in media fairly often - I often go months without listening to podcasts, so I have no interest in paying a subscription fee. I just want to pay a per-episode rate and get DRM-free audio files that I can use as I wish.


> it's vastly more time efficient to spend an hour and a half talking to your buddy and get paid for it than it is to spend many hours researching and writing a 1000 or 2000 word essay on a topic

I don't know what kind of talks those are, but the podcasters I listen to spend a lot of time researching for the episodes. I'm guessing few people can just ad-lib 90 minutes of interesting stuff every week.


It's worth noting that that's not all types of podcasts.

Just like you get radio shows that are talk radio or on a specific subject you get podcasts that are more akin to radio plays, like welcome to night Vale.


it's difficult to read while walking your dog, or making dinner, or doing the dishes, etc. That's the value add of an audio-only format for me.


Doesn't do anything for me; I'd rather listen to music or learn a language if I need to hear noise during such activities.


You can certainly get a lot of semantic information crammed into a short piece of text, but an interview gives you the cadence of someone's voice, which may be important in its own way. Audio can be very dense, but in ways that aren't strictly linguistic. People also tend to express themselves differently in conversation than they do on the page, and listening to an interview with an interesting person may actually tell you more about them than their writing, or even a cleaned-up version rendered in text.

Like, which conveys the situation better, "Oh the humanity" or the audio as recorded (you can in this case ignore the video, which was recorded separately)? https://youtu.be/pUVDmXvXcbk?t=39


Where do you find them? I keep trying to get into podcasts (tech, computer science, military, history...) but I really struggle. A sea of ancient abandoned shows when I search on my iPhone, seems nothing still running? Where should I be looking?


For tech, Kara Swisher's Recode Decode is excellent.

I've yet to find any good History podcasts that serves good to great episodes on a regular basis either. The BBC's history podcast stood out as vaguely better. But I was always left craving for something more in-depth, like some of the better History lectures you can find on YouTube. That being said, there are a few great shows from time to time, like Slate's Slow Burn (on Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton) and Standoff (on the Ruby Ridge incident) or MSNBC's Bag Man (on Spiro Agnew).


I don't actually listen to many tech podcasts - instead I use them to get news/politics to cut down on mindless browsing.

NYT The Daily and NPR's Up First podcast can get you up to speed while doing all your daily hygiene stuff. And NPR's weekly politics roundup is good.

If you like history "Futility Closet" has a lot of good esoteric history stuff.

Reply All is eclectic and fun. Radiolab has good hard science stuff. Hidden Brain is more social sciences oriented.


There are a couple of open-source sites I work on to help devs find podcast content.

Qit is designed for finding/playing shows by topic, so you can (for example) search for shows about GraphQL: https://qit.cloud/search/graphql

devpodcasts.app lets you browse shows by latest release or by tag: https://devpodcasts.app/shows

Looks like devpodcasts.app is a bit behind though, so I'll write a ticket and get that fixed up soon :)


The Podcasts subreddit (https://reddit.com/r/podcasts) is full of recommendations. I also use PocketCasts, which has a "Discover" feature that I have used from time to time. Lastly, I've heard of several podcasts via word of mouth from other friends.


Why is abandoned a problem? If you're looking for books to read or TV shows to watch, do you avoid "abandoned" series?


Well... yeah if they’re about current affairs like the military or the current state of tech.

I don’t want to listen about a new fitness test introduced in 2011 that they’ve already replaced, or how they’re asking for feedback on programming language design changes they already made half a decade ago.

Also if I get into a podcast and it only has three episodes and then forgotten about I then have to go looking for a new one immediately rather than subscribing and then always having something to listen to.


I found a few gems on tastedive.com, soundcloud.com, and iTunes.


Upping the listening speed is the only cure I know of. Quite a few podcasters can be listened to exclusively at up to 2x the normal speed without significant impairment to their content.

Of course, some others talk so quickly that 1x is the best you can do.


I am one of those people who listens/watches all media at 2x speed. It takes some time to get used to and is nearly impossible without headphones. Some people do talk quickly enough that I can't listen to them while doing any complex activity (e.g. Mike Duncan's revolutions podcast). But most other podcasts aren't scripted, so 2x is easy enough for speakers like Joe Rogan and Dan Carlin.


I personally like to listen to podcasts to relax, zone out, or have some background noise on while I'm working (I work from home). If I were consuming them for informational/educational content, I think this would make sense, but I kind of like them being slower-paced and chill.


What music do you listen to?


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