For a VERY long time Android users have not had a native podcasting app – and Google Podcasts is trying to make that problem a thing of the past.
I just hope these first steps that I’m going to tell you about in this episode/video are something they follow up on diligently.
My hopes for this episode and its accompanying video (embedded in the show notes post below) is that people who use Android devices and have never listened to podcasts before will begin to make use of Google Podcasts.
So stick around – I’m going to show you how to use Google Podcasts step by step – and give you my opinion of how it compares to the other podcast apps that have been around for a long time.
Listen to this episode
- [1:56] Get started with Google Podcasts via a Google search – look for the play buttons
- [2:53] What should you do if your show is not available in Google Podcasts?
- [3:20] Checking out the app for the first time – download from Google Play Store
- [6:41] Podcast recommendations in the app and how you can subscribe to them
- [7:45] Keyword searching in the app – it works somewhat… maybe
- [10:10] Subscribe to a podcast and tweak podcast settings using Google Podcasts
- [14:00] Text links don’t appear in the app – you need the http:// or https://
- [17:48] Is Google Podcasts an app worth trying?
- [19:06] Why is the icon not native on the home screen? It’s about the Android ecosystem
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How to use Google Podcasts? It all starts with a web search – naturally, it’s Google
Since Google is the undisputed KING of internet search, it only makes sense that they are going to integrate everything they own with search in some way.
The same is true for their new podcasting app – Google Podcasts.
Some argue it’s not an actual app at all but rather a glorified form of web search. Maybe. But whatever it is, it’s got the potential to make it easier for Android users who have never listened to a podcast – listen to podcasts.
That’s what I care about.
So – to use Google Podcasts you first have to…
#1 – Grab your Android device
#2 – Open your Chrome browser
#3 – Search for the name of any podcast you are interested in
Once you do that – scroll down just a bit and you will likely (though not always) see a handful of actual play buttons to the right of corresponding episode titles.
That’s cool, huh?
Keep reading (after the following caveat) and you’ll find out what to do next!
CAVEAT: If you do NOT see the podcast listed there, it’s because something about the way their show is set up is not enabling Google to scrape their information to be included in the search results. So…
If you are the owner of said podcast – go here and follow the steps to ensure your podcast can be found by Google for inclusion. I warn you – there’s a little bit of “cut and paste the code into the header of your site” to be done here.
The next step: Get the Google Podcasts app set up on your Android device
Here’s the point where purists cry out that the app is not truly “native” (pre-installed and ready to go) on Android devices. They say that because you have to “install” something from the Google Play Store.
I get it. It’s not as easily-findable and user-friendly as it SHOULD be. But here’s the truth…
The app is already installed on the phone… you’re just downloading the teeny tiny piece of software that links it to an icon so you can place it on your home screen.
So technically, it IS native to the phone. It’s just not easy to find or use. So the purists are right, to a degree.
I was curious as to WHY the Google team would make the app so difficult to find and use. After all, Apple makes its podcasting app truly native – why can’t Google?
So at Podcast Movement 2018 I posed that question to Zach Reneu-Wedeen (the lead guy on the Google Podcasts team) when I was fortunate enough to snag him in the lobby after his presentation.
His answer to my question makes sense. So listen up…
The team doesn’t WANT the app to be difficult to find or use – but they are not like Apple where absolute control is maintained over the entire Android ecosystem.
Android is installed on devices from many manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola, etc.), so Google has to work out deals with each manufacturer in order to get the app and its icon displayed by default and prominently on each model that manufacturer creates.
So far – they’ve been unable to do that in a workable way – but they ARE working on it.
ALL OF THAT TO SAY… install the thing and get on with it!
Once it’s installed – go to your apps section, drag the Google Podcasts icon to your desktop – and away we go!
Searching Google Podcasts and subscribing to a show
Once you get that multicolored little icon on your phone – tap it. Go ahead, it’s fun!
You’ll see the home screen for the Google Podcasts app right before your very eyes.
It will display…
- Any podcasts you’ve subscribed to through Google Podcasts (and this works over multiple devices – presumably by syncing your Google login)
- A few tabs to help you know your current listening status (new episodes / In progress / Downloads)
- And by scrolling down you’ll see recommendations in a number of categories.
And if you look across the top of the screen, you’ll see a spyglass you can use to search for podcasts by name, author name, or keyword – and you’ll the 3 little dots indicating a menu on the right top corner.
Go ahead and search for something. I’ll wait. 😉
I just searched for the term “Leadership” and it returned two podcast that I assume are it’s top recommendations – because they are both large icons with individual episodes and play buttons displayed below them.
But scrolling down reveals more recommended podcasts based on my “leadership” search.
Tap on any of the results – by name or by cover art – and you’ll see a list of its available episodes AND, right there at the top left under the podcast name – the opportunity to subscribe to the show.
Go ahead – do it. Subscribe your life away! I just subscribed to the HBR Idea Cast.
When you do – all you’ll see is that the “subscribe” button turns light blue.
But if you go back two screens (use the back button on your device) you’ll see that the podcast you just subscribed to appears now in the top section of shows you’ve subscribed to.
Pretty cool – it works just like I’d expect.
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Dig deeper into a subscribed podcast using Google Podcasts
Tap on the podcast you subscribed to. You’ll see that it opens up the same window you saw just after you subscribed. BUT NOW you’ll have more options.
- Naturally, you can press the play button on any of the episodes and it will begin playing.
- If you tap on the episode title, it will show you the description or show notes for that episode.
Tap the “play” button. You’ll see the episode you tapped appear at the bottom, scrolling portion of the screen and the episode should begin playing.
Now – tap the scrolling section I just mentioned – you’ll get a few more options…
- A backward 10 seconds button
- A forward 30 seconds button
- A play button
- A “play at speed” function in the bottom left (to speed up or slow down the playback)
- And a little “i” icon that will take you to the description for the episode.
An interesting thing to note – in THIS initial version of Google Podcasts, the “play at speed” function sets the default for ALL your podcast episodes, not just the one you’re listening to at the moment.
I suspect that will be modified on future iterations of the app.
NOW – hit the back button to go back to the main page for the podcast – then look at the top right of the screen. See the dot menu? Tap on it.
You’ll see 4 options: Add to home screen > Visit website > Settings > Send app feedback
Add to home screen
This one adds the podcast directly to the home screen of your phone – so you don’t even have to open up the Google Podcasts app first before selecting this podcast.
As the name implies, tapping this one takes you to the podcast website. I think this is a pretty cool way for listeners to find out more about the people and companies behind the podcasts they are listening to.
These settings are app-wide, not just for the individual podcast – and there are only two options.
- Remove completed episodes (you can choose between “After 24 hours,” “After 7 days” and “Never.”
- Remove unfinished episodes (you can choose between “After 30 days,” “After 90 days,” and “Never.”
Send app feedback
It’s super cool to see that the Google Podcasts team wants users to give feedback. That’s the only way apps can be made better.
When you tap this option you’ll get to write your feedback AND have the tick-box option to include screenshots and logs. WITHIN this feature you can also tap the “Highlight and hide content” option to annotate the screenshot, block out any sensitive information, etc. (SEE THE IMAGE)
That’s the basics… what do you think about Google Podcasts?
In my opinion, Google Podcasts is a pretty admirable attempt at a first-time app. It’s got all the basic functionality of your run-of-the-mill podcasting app.
Some things I’d like to see in future iterations…
- A truly “native” experience (with the app/icon installed and easy to find)
- Playlist functionality – I like to listen to multiple episodes one after another while driving
- Podcast specific “skip” functionality – I like to set some shows (with lots of ads at the beginning) to skip the first “how much ever long it takes to get past the commercials”
- Auto downloads – some shows are a “must listen” every episode. I’d prefer to have those automatically downloaded to my device instead of streamed.
- Sharing functionality – I love to share episodes and specific time-stamps on episodes. The current app I use allows this (Pocket Casts)
And I’m sure there are other improvements that could be made…
But overall, I’m excited that Google has entered the podcasting space with such an admirable first effort. That means the Google team understands that podcasting is a MAJOR form of content creation that is gaining traction for the long haul.
It also means that ANDROID users finally have a chance to easily discover podcasts – once this app is full-on native on all Android devices.
It’s a hopeful and positive step.
I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about the Google Podcasts app. If you’ve found functions I haven’t, please let me know!