Let me Google that for you

Following on from Google’s ambitious statement from a few weeks ago that they want to “double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple of years”, we now have a small peek at how they plan to do this. The 9to5Google blog has spotted a few lines of code in the latest update of the Google app that seems to offer users the option to “Get the Google Podcasts app in the Play Store for quick access”. The nerdier element of the podcasting community is very excited about this — one commenter on that blog wrote that “this is potentially the greatest podcast news in a loooong time!” — and for good reason.

If you think about it for more than three seconds, it’s absurd that Android phones don’t come with a pre-installed podcast app. Apple have had one for iOS since 2012, and while it’s not a very good app, it could be argued that having a default programme for podcasts on iPhones during a time when millions of people carried those devices in their pockets has a lot more to do with the podcasting boom of the last five years than Serial. Yet if you are one of the growing number of people abandoning iOS for a smartphone with an Android operating system, you don’t have an obvious podcast listening option there on your phone the first time you switch it on.

It is possible to subscribe and listen to podcasts through the Google app itself, but it’s clunky and that functionality is not advertised anywhere — indeed, I had no idea it existed until Google’s podcasts product manager was interviewed by Pacific Content in April, and I’ve had Android phones since about 2014. You can also listen to podcasts in the Google Play Music app, but why on earth would you, I opened it once and it was horrible. Therefore, most Android-based podcast listeners install a third party podcast app — something like PocketCasts or RadioPublic. And that’s fine, but it is yet another hurdle for a potential listener to jump between being recommended a show and actually pressing play.

If Google is about to bring in a “Google Podcasts” app that allows the user to keep all their subscriptions in the same place, download episodes and browse for new shows, it could be gamechanging — not least because it will represent yet another blow to Apple’s status as podcasting’s gatekeeper. If the Google Podcasts app also has a kind of storefront or even a chart where podcasts are featured and listed, that would cause further ripples through the audio ecosystem as networks pivot from just trying to game the iTunes charts and expand their efforts to this new portal. And if this new app were to have a Google-style search engine that actually found what you were looking for (unlike Apple’s barely adequate system that relies on podcasters to voluntarily add tags to their shows and episodes). . . well. That would really be something.

Thanks for reading, subscribers! I’m going to try something new this week, based on the feedback from the readers’ survey, and send you a review of one particular podcast on Friday, rather than the old playlist on a Sunday. Respondents said they wanted more single reviews rather than lists, so let me know what you think when it arrives by hitting reply.