Apple’s promised stand-alone app for Podcasts went live in the iTunes store today. I thought I’d post a quick review of it, because I love podcasts. They are an incredible example of the opportunity for new voices to self-publish and distribute multi-media content; they are a core part of the Web 2.0/social media revolution. Podcasts were also my introduction to this world, years ago.
I’ll never forget the day I was at my University work study job, reading Newsweek and came across a profile of The Dawn and Drew Show. I had no idea there was technology available that made it easy for anyone to publish and distribute serialized audio content. It was like the clouds opened up, beams of sunlight shone down into my eyes and Dawn Miceli was riding on one of them. I was in love, with the technology and its potential. That was how I started learning about all this social media stuff: blogging, wikis, RSS, etc.
Now Apple has an app dedicated to helping other people discover and enjoy this beautiful world of podcasting. Have they risen to the occasion? It’s a visually attractive app on most but not all pages, no surprise there. That’s what I think, apparently not everyone agrees. UK Mac developer Dan Counsell says, “Not sure why people are hating on the new Apple Podcast App so much, it actually has some rather lovely UI and UX in it.” I agree but can see why some parts of the app are being criticized, too. The live streaming page is cool but weird to use. Maybe I just need to get used to it.
Functionally, there are two things I hoped for. The first is discovery. The app has a cool Top Stations interface that appears to use your existing subscriptions to come up with suggested categories and shows inside of them. I have no idea how it works and I haven’t gotten used to it yet, but it seems ok. Better than nothing, but not as good as HuffDuffer, the social network for podcast bookmarking and discovery.
The other thing I was hoping for in the new Podcasting app is episode-level text visible that describes each audio file. Apple did it! On at least some episodes of the shows you’re looking at, there’s now a little i button that opens up a full page of info. That way you can learn about, for example, the guests on an interview show, their backgrounds and the topics they discussed. That makes it much easier to peruse a new series and pick out just the episodes you want to listen to. This was my biggest complaint about the iTunes podcast interface and now it’s resolved!
The podcasting world doesn’t seem to have had a lot to say about the app yet. As Daniel J Lewis said today, “Hopefully this is preinstalled with iOS 6!”
There’s a lot more that could have been done, but this is simple, utilitarian and supports some discovery. Works for me.
Long live podcasting! If you’re interested in plugging-in to the community of podcasters online, here’s 500 of them on Twitter.