Blue sky sketch for Overcast

Replied to a tweet by Marco Arment on TwitterMarco Arment on Twitter (Twitter)

Marco, your post about supporting rel=”payment” for Overcast made me start thinking about other potential solve-able problems in the podcast space. Now that you’ve solved a piece of the support/payment problem, perhaps you can solve for a big part of the “who actually listened to my podcast” problem?

In a recent article on the topic of Webmention for A List Apart, I covered the topic of listen posts and sending webmentions for them. In addition to people being able to post on their own website that they’ve listened to a particular episode, the hosting podcast site can receive these mentions and display them as social proof that the episode was actually listened to. In addition to individual websites being able to do this, it would be awesome if podcast players/apps could send webmentions on behalf of their users (either with user specific data like Name, website, avatar, etc. if it’s stored, without it, or anonymized by the player itself) so that the canonical page for the podcast could collect (and potentially display) them.

As a proof of concept, here’s a page for a podcast episode that can receive webmentions. Someone listens to it, makes a “listen post” on their site, and sends a webmention of that fact. The original page can then collect it on the backend or display it if it chooses. Just imagine what this could do for the podcast world at scale for providing actual listening statistics?

In addition to aggregate numbers of downloads a podcast is receiving, they could also begin to have direct data about actual listens. Naturally the app/player would have to set (or allow a configuration) some percentage threshold of how much was played before sending such a notification to the receiving site. Perhaps the webmention spec for listens could also include the data for the percentage listened and send that number in the payload?

The toughest part may be collecting the rel=”canonical” URL for the podcast’s post (to send the webmention there) rather than the audio file’s URL, though I suspect that the feed for the podcast may have this depending on the feed’s source.

If you want to go a step further, you could add Micropub support to Overcast, so that when people are done listening to episodes, the app could send a micropub request to their registered website (perhaps via authentication using IndieAuth?). This would allow people to automatically make “listen posts” to their websites using Overcast and thereby help those following them to discover new and interesting podcasts. (Naturally, you might need a setting for sites that support both micropub and webmention, so that the app doesn’t send a webmention when it does a micropub post for a site that will then send a second webmention as well.)

One could also have podcast players with Micropub support that would allow text entry for commenting on particular portions of podcasts (perhaps using media fragments)? Suddenly we’re closer to commenting on individual portions of audio content in a way that’s not too dissimilar to SoundCloud’s commenting interface, but done in a more open web way.

As further example, I maintain a list of listen posts on my personal website. Because it includes links to the original audio files, it also becomes a “faux-cast” that friends and colleagues can subscribe to everything I’m listening to (or sub-categorizations thereof) via RSS. Perhaps this also works toward helping to fix some of the discovery problem as well?

Thanks, as always, for your dedication to building one of the best podcast tools out there!

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