Why the new Google Podcasts app is a big deal: and why there are no auto-downloads

James Cridland
Jun 20, 2018 · 5 min read

Google have (finally) properly launched a podcasts app for Android phones. It’s called Google Podcasts; and I’d ordinarily tell you to go and download it, but you already have.

Google Podcasts is actually buried in the Google search app that almost every Android phone has on it: Google require manufacturers to install it if they are to release an Android phone with access to apps.

The “app” that has been launched is merely an app icon link to the existing podcast app which has been hiding on your phone for over two years.

Your listeners don’t need to install anything to listen to a podcast.

Try it yourself. Follow this link on an Android phone, and you’ll be listening to the very latest version of Podnews, my daily podcasting news, um, podcast. No downloads, nothing. Click and play. Done.

We’ll see a lot of these links in the future.

This is, already, a big deal for Android users. Until now, they’ve had to download an app, and navigate a complicated on-boarding process of logging in, being asked irritating questions about what podcasts they like to listen to, blah blah, until they can finally get to listening. This has been crazy. And it stops now.

Android’s much bigger than iOS

Global market share for smartphones. Source

In spite of Apple devices being responsible for about 60% of podcast downloads, Apple has a less than 20% share of the global smartphone market. Android has well over 80%. And for the first time, Android devices have a proper in-built podcast experience. Even in the US, Android has 53.3% market share.

If podcasters grasp this opportunity correctly, it could at least double podcast downloads.

This relaxes Apple’s grip on podcasting

Even if you use independent apps like Overcast, Pocket Casts, Leela or others, they’re all pulling their podcast data from the iTunes API, Apple’s database. Podcast apps are all monitoring Apple’s database for new podcasts to add.

Google’s producing this podcast app by searching the entire internet for podcasts. It’s not reliant on the iTunes API. (Neither are Spotify, TuneIn or Stitcher, incidentally; but they account for less than 10% of all podcast downloads).

Apple also produces the only podcast chart: a trending chart of podcasts that can be manipulated and are clearly being targeted by a number of ingenious schemes. With Google’s scale, alternative chart data is likely to be available at some point. This can only be good news for the podcast industry.

Apple takes twelve hours to earn as much money as the entire US podcast industry earnt last year. However, Apple earns nothing from podcasting. Google’s search-first strategy for podcasts should deliver the search giant more search traffic: which it effectively monetises. Unlike Apple, Google is earning from podcasting.

There are no auto-downloads: because it’s 2018, not 2005

At the dawn of podcasting, in 2004/5, programs like iPodder were being used to download podcasts and transfer them to an iPod which had no internet connection. iPhones had yet to exist. The model of “download” was a model built by necessity.

Today, all media apps work by streaming. Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video and all similar apps operate by streaming media, not downloading it. All of these apps also, just like Google Podcasts, allow you to download specific episodes for listening later. Users are well accustomed to this model.

For most consumers in most countries, available space on their phone is the most limiting factor, not the amount of data they have access to.

My Pocket Casts downloads a bunch of podcasts every night that I never listen to. But for Google Podcasts, a play means an actual play, rather than a speculative download.

For noting, this will mean that consumption via Google Podcasts will appear smaller in comparison than other apps.

This isn’t your replacement for Pocket Casts

This is a podcast app designed for the 81% of people on Android and the over 50% of people who’ve never listened to a podcast to get into podcasting.

If they love podcasting: great. They can download Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, RadioPublic or whatever they want. This is their on-ramp to podcasting. And it deserves support.

Podcasters — all of us — need to link to Google Podcasts.

If we make this work, it will

Whether you agree with me that it’s an important growth step for podcasters or not, our next steps are:

You could visit https://podnews.net and see how I’ve practiced what I preach already.

— — — — — —

PS: if you don’t have access to an Android phone, here’s a quick demo. I start by uninstalling the Google Podcasts app.

James Cridland

Written by

I am Editor of https://podnews.net, the daily podcast newsletter. I am also a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant. https://james.cridland.net

James Cridland

Written by

I am Editor of https://podnews.net, the daily podcast newsletter. I am also a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant. https://james.cridland.net

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store