New Features for Listeners, Stats for Podcasters Coming to Apple Podcasts

Apple logoApple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is wrapping up this weekend in California. While Apple made plenty of announcements during WWDC, the tech giant may have truly left the best for last (at least, if you’re a podcaster).

Today, Apple announced major changes to its podcast spec. The first such spec changes the company has made in years. Apple also announced that it will finally be providing at least some listener data to podcast producers.

Acknowledging recent trends in the podcasting space, Apple will now provide support for seasons, preview episodes, and bonus episodes within its podcast RSS feed spec. That means it’ll be easier for podcasters to organize episodes by season, so listeners can download and listen back to episodes in the correct order. The preview and bonus episode options will make it easier for podcasters and listeners alike to identify episodes that might not be part of a podcast’s regular production cycle.

There’s been a lot of industry pressure as of late on Apple to provide listener data to podcasters. Acquiescing to these demands, Apple will begin providing some actual listener data to podcast producers:

Apple said today that it will be using (anonymized) data from the app to show podcasters how many people are listening and where in the app people are stopping or skipping. This has the potential to dramatically change our perception of how many people really listen to a show, and how many people skip ads, as well as how long a podcast can run before people just give up.

While this might look like the holy grail to some in terms of listener metrics, it appears that this data will be limited to listener activity from the iOS Podcasts app only. Not the cross-platform iTunes desktop application. And of course, it won’t pull in data from any services outside of the Apple ecosphere.

It’s not yet clear when Apple will allow podcasters to access listener data. The full implementation of the new Apple Podcasts RSS spec will likely coincide with the release of iOS 11 later this year. If you’d like to see what the new RSS tags will look like, Apple has released a document that covers the changes it’ll be making to the spec.

iOS 10 Allows Users to Delete Podcasts App

Podcasts DeleteApple has probably empowered the medium of podcasting more than any other company. The Cupertino-based technology giant gave podcasting its first big boost when it added podcasts to the iTunes desktop application in 2005. Thanks to the popularity of Apple’s breakthrough portable media player, the iPod, iTunes had become a ubiquitous destination for consumers looking to easily acquire new audio. And when those users suddenly found a podcasting directory chock full of free content next to their favorite music store, they began consuming podcasts in droves.

Apple gave another healthy push to podcasting when it released the first iteration of its standalone Podcasts app in 2012. The app was ultimately developed to work alongside what would become Apple’s streaming music service (Apple Music). But there was some definite confusion when the app first showed up. Previously, users had been able to access podcasts thru their iOS devices’ iPod and Music apps. Apple would go on to include the new Podcasts app in its “core” collection of apps that couldn’t be deleted by users. This meant that iOS users had to deal with the app, if for no other reason than to stick it into an “unused apps” folder. And while it’s certain that many users did just that, many others opened the app and began listening to podcasts for the first time.

Apple’s Podcasts app is still a standard part of iOS. It shows up any time the operating system is freshly installed. But a big change came to the app with last month’s release of iOS 10. The app is no longer indestructible, and can now be removed by simply pressing and holding the app icon, and then tapping the X that pops up in the top left portion of the icon.

The change was likely made due to consumer demand, as many iOS users have wanted to be able to remove Apple’s core apps for years. It’s doubtful the app’s removable status will have any impact on podcast consumption overall. But it is kinda sad in a way that the app can be deleted now.

Official Podcasts App Finally Comes to Apple TV

Apple logoIt seemed like a curious omission that when the new Apple TV launched to much fanfare during the final quarter of last year, it didn’t come preloaded with Apple’s ubiquitous Podcasts app. The Podcasts app had been standard issue on iOS devices as well as previous iterations of Apple’s set-top box for some time. But still, it was absent from the newly redesigned Apple TV.

And now, several months after the new Apple TV made its way into the hands of consumers, the device is finally getting an official Podcasts app from Apple. Earlier today, it was revealed that with the release of tvOS 9.1.1. (the special operating system for Apple TV’s), the Podcasts app will now be available to 4th-generation models of the media player.

If your Apple TV hasn’t already updated to the latest tvOS, you can force the update manually using the Settings app. Once the update is applied, the new Podcasts app will automatically show up on your home screen. Following suit with other Apple devices, the Podcasts app is a permanent fixture once it’s installed on the new Apple TV. It can’t be deleted.

Is Mixcloud the First Podcast App on Apple TV?

Mixcloud Apple TV appThe new version of the Apple TV set-top box from Apple, was greeted with much excitement from new media producers. This new iteration is the first version of the device to come with a built-in app store, making it easier for third-party developers to add their own content to the platform. Podcast and music distribution service Mixcloud recently announced the release of its own Apple TV app, which could make Mixcloud the first podcast app on Apple TV.

Users were surprised to discover Apple’s nearly ubiquitous Podcasts app missing from the new Apple TV. Podcasts has become a standard-issue app on most of Apple’s mobile devices, as well as previous versions of Apple TV. It seems likely that Podcasts will eventually make its way to the new Apple TV. Until then, users will have to rely on third-party apps or other workarounds to consume podcasts on the device.

Mixcloud describes its app as:

Enjoy your favourite shows, Podcasts and DJ mixes directly from the comfort of your living room.

From Science and Education to Technology and Food, access thousands of Podcasts directly from your TV using the Mixcloud app.

Access the best audio online via shows, reposts, favorites and playlists on any host’s profile page, all tailored to fit the Apple TV with a sleek custom design.

There are millions of hours of audio on Mixcloud, now you can search and find something to suit any occasion from the comfort of your couch.

The Mixcloud app is available as a free download from the App Store.

Podcasts App Crashing after iOS 9 Update

podcastsThis week, Apple unleashed iOS 9, the latest version of the operating system that runs all of the company’s iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, onto the general public. After applying the latest iOS update and rebooting their devices, many users came to find that Podcasts, Apple’s proprietary podcast app for iOS, was no longer working.

A thread started by user jplang56 on the Apple Support Communities forum about this problem has racked up 58 replies so far. Most of the responses are from other iOS users expressing their own frustrations with the now-broken Podcasts app.

I’ve tried the app on my iPhone 6 Plus as well as my iPad Mini Retina and it worked fine for me on both devices. But I don’t use Podcasts as my main podcast consumption app, so I don’t have very large podcast libraries inside the Podcasts app. Being subscribed to a lot of different shows may be a factor in this issue, as many users are reporting that they’re receiving an “Updating Library” message just before the app shuts down.

No one from Apple has yet to chime in on this problem. If you’ve been affected, try some of the solutions users have posted in the support thread linked above. Presumably, Apple will address this issue with the next iOS update.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Podcasts app, I highly recommend Downcast. I’ve used it for a couple years on iOS and my iMac and it’s been a good experience so far. Downcast has also survived the transition to iOS 9 with no known issues.

Apple Set To Acquire Swell For $30 Million

Swell LogoThe Internet is buzzing with news that Apple is about to buy podcast/streaming-media service Swell for about $30 million. Swell has been billed as a “Pandora for spoken-word content,” the service provides a personalized listening experience based on a listener’s individual preferences. Swell is different from most other podcast apps in that it focuses solely on news and talk content. In fact, it’s not even possible to use Swell as a traditional podcatcher. Any content not currently carried by Swell has to be approved and added to the service by Swell staff.

Most of Swell’s current staff are expected to be asked to join Apple. And apparently, the team was working on an Android version of Swell. But that will likely be abandoned.

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