🎧 Podcast Directories | Why Can’t We … ?

Listened to Podcast Directories from Why Can't We ... ?, August 19, 2016
Every year there are millions of podcasts published by tens of thousands of people in hundreds of languages, yet there are really just three podcast directories where people are able to go and look for new shows to enjoy. The vast majority of podcast players will read a directory listing from iTunes in order to provide the most comprehensive search, but none seem particularly good at recommending shows. Given how just about every other service we use online has some sort of algorithm in place to show us music, movies, TV shows, advertisements, and social accounts we might be interested in, why is podcast discovery still such a complicated endeavour?

There are obviously a lot of problems with the podcast ecosystem, and primary among them is podcast discovery and curation. I really wish there were more people working on this problem. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an indieweb solution?

It also makes me wonder what happened to audio platforms like Seesmic, Audioboo.fm, and Cinchcast which made uploading audio pretty simple, though I suppose that there wasn’t much of an audience for that type of audio, in part because the production value and actual content often wasn’t very good. Perhaps things like Soundcloud or streaming video/audio services like UStream have replaced them, but for any kind of bandwith, the cost of hosting goes up, but this also has the economic value of making the quality go up because it requires a bigger investment in production too.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

17 thoughts on “🎧 Podcast Directories | Why Can’t We … ?”

    1. Sorry to hear that! You should have written your reply on your own site first… It’ll be a while before I’m in your neck of the woods next. Are you in LA soon? Otherwise perhaps video conference with beers?

  1. You mention SoundCloud, which a lot of people, including podcasters, are using. Fine, for them, but more than a silo, SoundCloud is a locked room. I use Huffduffer.com a lot to sample audio and — even more — to share what I’m sampling and to see what other people are sharing. A sort of recommendation engine, if you like, though not a very powerful one, I admit. And SoundCloud deliberately makes it hard to share. There are ways around that barrier, of course, but not everyone will want to use them. And so, as ever, by hosting on SoundCloud you may be denying yourself listeners. #indieweb

    1. @eatpodcast @jimpick @realkimhansen @abrams @Feedly Jeremy, I agree with you wholeheartedly that SoundCloud is a dreadful option overall–apologies if I gave the impression otherwise. Given it’s cost and the fact that it’s what I would call a super-silo make it a non-starter unless you’re looking for a very sort term solution or if you’re a mega-media company and have the money to burn to try to reach another tiny sliver of audience you didn’t have before.
      Sadly, given their position in the space, companies like Apple, SoundCloud, and perhaps a few others haven’t continued building out and innovating. (Marco Arment, who you mentioned in this particular podcast, recently had an episode on being “Sherlocked” that touches on the economics of perhaps why they haven’t gone the extra mile http://boffosocko.com/2017/02/02/%F0%9F%8E%A7-under-the-radar-65-getting-sherlocked-under-the-radar/ ) Given the technology they’ve already got, they could/should go the next several steps to leverage their position to make things easier for everyone. The search and AI portions could also be done by Google, but presumably they’d need some additional motivation to do this as it’s the type of niche area they’ve been getting out of lately. (And could we really take another GoogleReader-type shutdown?) Perhaps it might be a rich area for a feed reader company like Feedly to get into? Or maybe Jonathan Abrams with Nuzzel has some of the search/algorithm technology to be able to extend into this area, particularly for the discovery portion which Nuzzel is quite good at for articles.
      We also need a better/easier solution for the average Jane who wants to create a simple podcast without spending two weeks doing a mini-startup to set it all up and get it going with the widest distribution possible.
      I’m honestly puzzled that YouTube doesn’t get into the space as they’ve already got a huge piece of the puzzle built. Just provide the ability to strip out an .mp3 file from a video (there’s a huffduffer bookmarklet that allows this: http://huffduff-video.snarfed.org/ ) and make that available for download/subscription within their ecosystem. I’d suspect that with a week of coding, they could completely corner the entire podcast market from soup to nuts. One of the toughest parts of web is audio/video, and it’s one of the few places that indie developers don’t/can’t touch because of the high technical and even intellectual property hurdles.
      I do appreciate larger companies like This American Life doing things like Shortcut [https://m.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2016/10/introducing-shortcut ] though it would be better if the technology was opensourced. (See also thread at: https://twitter.com/rdhyee/status/809556321871622144 )
      As an aside, I’ve just noticed at http://indieweb.org/podcast that Kevin Marks’ ever useful unmung.com will apparently “turn podcast feeds into playable HTML5 audio with microformats markup”.

  2. Over the weekend I created an English audio version of the most recent This Week in the IndieWeb newsletter. This led to some great discussion in the #indieweb chat about improvements and next-steps in creating a podcast from audio posts on one’s own website. Today I added a couple of features to my site towards that end.
    First up, I added support for “tag aggregations” – essentially, pages that list all posts with a certain tag. So, any future editions of this audio newsletter that I post can be tagged with “this-week-indieweb-podcast” and will then show up on the “This Week in the IndieWeb Podcast” page. It should soon be possible to feed that page to a tool like Granary to convert the feed on that page, with its audio entries, into an RSS feed suitable for subscribing with a podcast app.
    Next up, I added support for “Media Fragments“, a W3C recommendation that allows linking to a specific timestamp to start (and even stop!) playback of video and audio. Aaron Parecki’s recently implemented this on his own site and was kind enough to share the implementation! Now, you can create links that jump to a specific time of any audio or video post on my site.

    For example, if you want to quickly jump to the part of the This Week in the IndieWeb audio edition that contains info about the next upcoming Homebrew Website Club meetings, it looks like this: https://martymcgui.re/2017/02/18/151503/#t=54

    Media fragments could enable some fun things, such as a list of links that index directly to particular sections of a long recording.

    Aaron also documented a fun way to use media fragments for attribution of other people’s audio or video posts. For example, my audio newsletter made use of several of Aaron Parecki’s pieces from his 100DaysOfMusic project. I gave attribution by linking to Aaron’s posts from my post, and because Aaron’s site supports Webmentions, you can see that my post shows up in the “mentions” list for one of the clips I used. With media fragment support, it should be possible to have the mentions on Aaron’s post link directly to the exact portion of my audio post where it appears!

    Features like this give me hope that it could be possible to make an IndieWeb podcasting experience that is richer and more interactive than the current directory model.


  • Theron Westervelt
  • Jim Pick

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