Thanks so much for all your well wishes and encouragement after the big announcement we made last week.
Today we’d like to address some of the concerns that have been voiced since our announcement. It’s human nature that some people assumed that the things we left out of our original blog post were somehow nefariously omitted. We feel that literally none of these concerns are warranted so we’re more than happy to tackle them head on and publicly.
But first, a brief note from the new guy: Hi, Owen here, and I’m thrilled to be part of the team at Pocket Casts. Like you, I’m an avid podcast listener and a HUGE fan of the Pocket Casts app. I consider it a privilege to be leading the team, and I hope to earn your trust by helping to improve the overall Pocket Casts experience for the benefit of all listeners and podcast producers. Our commitment to build an open platform stems directly from the mission-driven approach of our public radio partners — and we promise to ALWAYS respect your privacy. We also promise to take bold leaps with great new features that help you find your next favorite podcast, and most of all, have FUN! And while it may go without saying, the Pocket Casts team and I are on the same page regarding everything that follows. Can’t wait to take this ride with you!
Concern 1: This is just a play for radio producers to buy user data
It’s also worth pointing out that we’ve spent 8 years caring about the kind of data we do and don’t store about you, it’s literally the minimum amount required to run our sync service. If you don’t sign in and leave push notifications off, we literally have no data about you. That’s less than any other podcast platform we know of. If you choose to sign in we have your email address, password and data to sync to other platforms. If you turn on push we store the unique ID Apple gives us so we can send you push notifications. We find it so easy to justify this because every piece of data we store is to provide you with services, not us with your data.
Concern 2: Pocket Casts will now be used to exclusively push the content of the 4 podcast producers who bought it
It won’t. We remain an open podcasting app featuring podcasts from producers across the globe. We will continue to accept podcasts on every topic under the sun. We’re not in the business of censoring content on our platform. We’ll continue to feature unique and diverse content from all producers!
That said, we have and will continue to feature content made by NPR, WNYC, WBEZ and This American Life. They make great shows, and we’ve featured them long before we were involved with them, so that part isn’t going to change.
Concern 3: Pocket Casts will start pushing invasive ad technology on people
We’re not in the ad sales business. We’re not in the ad tech business. We’re in the building great products that people love business. We have no intention of changing that. We believe podcast producers all over the world need ways to make money, and while advertising is one of those ways, it’s not an area we’re interested in.
Concern 4: Pocket Casts will start tracking users locations
This one perplexes me, but hey we did say we’d address everything. We don’t need your location data. We don’t want your location data. We won’t be collecting or storing your location data. Where you go day to day is none of our business…I have no idea why people even think we’d do that.
We have for years had aggregate data about which regions of the world our user base is in, but this is in the form of how many people are in a particular country, not specifically where individually people are. We use this data to figure out which markets we should translate and localise to, as well as what kind of country-specific features we should be supporting. This for example drove some of the localisation work we’ve done to the new web beta because we knew what countries to focus on first.
Concern 5: All of the above is well and good, but what if things change?
That said, we have no intention of standing still. Our app will continue to grow and evolve, as it has since we launched in 2010. We intend to keep innovating in ways that make the experience better for you, the listener, and all producers. That’s what we do — that’s who we are. We all use this app everyday, we always have. We want to improve on what we’ve built — and we know you want that too!
Concern 6: If all of the above is true, why would 4 of the biggest radio producers even bother to buy Pocket Casts?
That’s an easy question to answer for those that know a bit about the podcasting industry. The industry is amazing because it’s open. Anyone can publish a podcast and distribute it everywhere. No podcast is treated differently than another. However, “open” is not the default state of markets as they mature, as we’ve seen in other content businesses. When power is consolidated into the hands of just a few closed platforms, creators rarely win. And we care deeply about the fate of podcast producers everywhere.
It’s our mission to ensure that this doesn’t happen. If we succeed, we all benefit. If we lose, well, we feel it was a thing worth attempting. In the meantime there are some steps we need to take to get where we want to go, and we’ll talk about those when we’re ready. It’s early days, but we’re really excited for the future. Hope you all are too!
Not to wax too nostalgic on you all, but back in 2008 when Philip and I started Shifty Jelly (and picked that ridiculous name) we didn’t really have any lofty goals or ambitions. We just wanted to build an Australian Weather app for iOS in our spare time after work, so we did. Somehow this little weather app rocketed to #1 in the Australian charts and surprised us both. At one point I think we were on 1 in 5 iPhones in Australia. I mean let’s be honest, that’s crazy, right?
Two years later in 2010 we decided that we liked this whole app development thing, so we quit our jobs and went full time. We needed a new app to make use of our newfound skills and our now full-time roles. Finding that app wasn’t hard: both Philip and I loved podcasts and there were no podcasting apps available. Syncing podcasts over to our iPods or iPhones manually was way too much of a pain and we decided that this was something we needed to fix.
Fast forward to 8 years later and our little baby, Pocket Casts, is now available for iOS, Android, Web, Mac & Windows. Literally anywhere you want to listen to podcasts (except your toaster sadly) you can. It’s been an amazing journey and the product has grown so much over the years. One thing hasn’t changed though: Philip and I still use Pocket Casts every single day to listen to our favourite podcasts. It’s hard to describe but there’s always been something supremely special about that.
But Russell, you ask, why are you leading me down this rather long path of self introspection for 3 whole paragraphs is there a point to all this? Well dear reader, I’m glad you asked because yes, yes there is!
Today we’re excited to announce a partnership with some of the biggest producers of podcasts in the world to take Pocket Casts to the next level. We’ve had a lot of companies in the past contact us about acquiring us and or Pocket Casts and we’ve always had one simple answer for them: thanks, but no thanks. In talking to each of them it was obvious that they didn’t have the best interests of our customers or us at heart and as much as cashing out and walking off into the sunset is a nice ideal, it’s a crummy outcome for all of you and in turn for us. You see we care so damn deeply about what we’ve built and our relationship with each and every one of you that we know deep down inside that would just eat away at us. That’s why when a combined group comprised of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life approached us with the goal of partnering for the good of the entire podcast industry, we knew that this opportunity was something else entirely. Everything from their not for profit mission focus, to their unwavering belief that open and collaborative wins over closed walled gardens resonated deeply with us. Together we have the passion, scale and laser focus needed to achieve some truly great things. We’re not ready to talk about what those are just yet but we do want to quickly cover some questions you might have.
OMG ARE YOU ABANDONING US?!
No, the whole team (Russell, Philip, Chris, Priya & Simon) are joining the new venture.
OMG ARE YOU TOTALLY GOING TO RUIN THE APP AND MAKE US HATE YOU?!
No, today nothing about the app is changing. Going forward our aim is to make it better, like we always have, year in, year out.
OMG IS THIS GOING TO BE A PUBLIC RADIO APP NOW?!
No, we’re still all about podcasting, and still about the entire world, not just the US of A. We do live in Australia after all.
OMG I JUST PAID FOR THIS YESTERDAY!!
Good news, it’s still a paid app just like before, and the price is identical. Not sure if you’ve picked up on the theme yet but: nothing has changed.
OMG IS EVERYTHING CHANGING?!
No, nothing is changing. Same app you know and love, same team working on it but now with more resources than ever before.
I MEAN YOU KEEP SAYING THINGS WON’T CHANGE BUT THEY TOTALLY WILL RIGHT?!
Wow, you really won’t let this one go, huh? Ok, the point we are trying to make is that as of today, nothing has changed. Going forward things are going to be different. We’ll be moving faster, we’ll be more ambitious in the things we do and we’ll have some amazing insights from the top podcast producers in the world to help guide our future steps. I mean if you’re not excited by that, then you’re just not hooked up right.
OMG ARE YOU GOING TO GO ALL CORPORATE ON US?! WILL THE RELEASE NOTES JUST BECOME ‘bug fixes’
As tempting as that might be, I suspect if you’ve read this blog post you’ve got a taste for how we intend to keep the core part of what makes us, well, us.
WHAT ABOUT US BRAIN DEAD SLOBS?
You’ll be given cushy jobs!
Can I join you on your new private yachts?
Firstly, thank you for calming down and no longer shouting, really appreciate it. Sadly we chose to not sell our souls or you all out for crazy amounts of cash money, which means that you owe us one. So following this solid line of logic: can we join YOU on your yachts instead? There’s enough of you out there that at least one of you must have a decent size yacht. Call us.
I’ve run out of questions?
That’s an odd question, but yes, this is a great time to wrap this up.
Here at Pocket Casts we’re a tiny team that’s passionate about all things podcasting. We want to be able to listen everywhere we go no matter what we’re doing. That’s why our app is available in your pocket on iOS and Android. It’s also available in your car through CarPlay and Android Auto (as well as standard Bluetooth integration). It’s on your TV through AirPlay and Google Cast. It’s even available on your Sonos speakers. You get the idea, we want to enable a seamless playback experience of podcasts everywhere.
Today we’d like to talk about the Web version of our app. Originally we built it as a small satellite service to see if our customers wanted podcasts on their computers as well. It turns out they did, and in far bigger ways than we ever anticipated. This forced us to rethink the original approach we had a for a really simple web version that took a back seat to the mobile apps. It was clear that for a lot of people, this was their primary listening platform for their podcasts. Long story short we took that to heart, and we’ve been hard at work for a while now on a massive update to web version. Today we’re excited to share some details about that with you, and also invite you to help us beta test it.
This new version is a ground up re-write of the old one, to enable us to do some really ambitious things going forward. This was a huge undertaking, but even in this initial beta version we have some exciting new features for you to try out:
- You can now build Up Next lists in the web version, and play through as many podcasts as you want continuously, without needing to come back to the web app.
- There’s a great looking dark theme for those of you that like listening at night.
- A lot of people wanted a more fully featured experience than having the web app running in a tab, so we now have a companion Mac app.
- You can now search for episodes in a podcast by their titles, and even their show notes.
- While it’s always been possible to change the sort order of episodes, it’s now easier than ever and you can also sort by time remaining, a feature a lot of you have asked for.
- The web app now supports listening stats, which will sync seamlessly with the mobile versions. Never wonder how many hours of your life you’ve spent immersed in podcasts again.
- You can now play episodes of podcasts without needing to be subscribed to them.
- New and improved Discovery section, including curated lists.
There’s a lot more in this version of the web app, and it has support for some features we’re not ready to announce yet as well. We’ll have more to say on those later this year, but in the meantime if you want to help us test it, here’s the details:
- It’s open only to people who have paid for the web app
- You can login at https://playbeta.pocketcasts.com/
- There’s a Mac companion app that goes with it available here (requires macOS El Capitan 10.11 or above): https://static.pocketcasts.com/mac/PocketCasts.zip
- Please use the built in feedback button to let us know what you think, and any bugs you find.
- You can go back to the previous version at any time, it’s still at https://play.pocketcasts.com/ and will be for a while.
In terms of a release date, we’re very much taking the approach of “we’ll ship it when it’s done”. We’re not trying to rush out something that’s not finished yet and this release is still very much a work in progress. We value and want your feedback though, so if you’re keen to join us, please do! If you want to be notified about when that is and keep up with other Pocket Casts news, you can sign up to our mailing list.
Today we’re excited to announce that Pocket Casts support for Sonos has gone into Beta! Judging by the amount of tweets and emails we’ve had over the years this is one of your most requested features and we’re excited to finally share it with you.
Before we continue, we should set some quick expectations. This is currently in beta, so you may experience the odd issue here and there as we scale up the service and make sure everything is running smoothly. That said if you’re excited to get started here’s what you need to know:
- You’ll find Pocket Casts listed as a beta in the Music Services section of Sonos. On the desktop app it’s under the ‘Sonos labs’ section.
- For the linking part to work on iOS and Android you need to make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of our app (v6.8 on iOS, v6.3 on Android).
- Use of this service requires a Pocket Casts account. They are free to create inside our apps and we can’t do things like show your podcasts or sync your progress without one, which is why it’s needed.
So what can you do on day 1? Through the Sonos app you’ll have access to New Releases, In Progress and Starred episodes. So if like me you listen on your phone on the way in to work (or home), you can now jump into the Sonos app and go straight to what you were last listening to and continue from where you left off. As you play things on your Sonos speakers your progress will automatically be saved back to your Pocket Casts account so you can continue listening on your other devices as well. It’s the complete experience you’ve come to expect from using Pocket Casts on your phone, tablet and computer, now available on your speakers as well.
We’ll be adding more features to this integration over time, and we look forward to hearing your feedback as you try out this feature. We also have more exciting things to share with you later this year, this is just the first step of bringing your podcasts to more places.
Pocket Casts 6.8 for iOS is now available from the App Store.
First up is a brand new Apple Watch app. Think of it as a tiny Pocket Casts remote that’s always strapped to your wrist. Play and pause podcasts, skip over boring bits or back to things you just missed. If you feel like something new: browse your Up Next or Episode Filters for a different episode to play. One tap, and it’s playing on your phone. A lot of you asked for this so we’re happy to finally bring it to you. As always hit us up on Twitter with feedback about what you like about it and what things if any you’d like us to change.
We’ve also made huge changes to our CarPlay integration to address connection issues and other bugs. Unfortunately this meant removing the tabs we added in the previous build because they were part of the cause. For reasons known only to a certain Fruit Company the tabbed implementation in CarPlay doesn’t play nice with third-party apps like ours. On the bright side we added the currently playing episode to the Up Next list, a feature lots of you asked for so you can quickly tap that and get to your podcasts after playing some music. Additionally your podcast subscriptions are now sorted the same as they are on your phone, making them easier to find.
We’ve also made a lot of under-the-hood improvements to the app including having it better recognise mis-labelled information in podcasts. For example if a podcast author has accidentally labelled a video episode as being audio, the app will now figure this out on its own and fix it. This goes alongside the usual bug fixes and performance improvements we make in every release.
Finally we’ve been making big improvements to our server infrastructure to support future Pocket Casts updates, so look out for more features from us later this year.
Random House Keeping Note(TM): We’re also going to make a renewed effort to keep this blog up to date. Many of you were relying on it for updates on what we’re doing and what new things have launched and we’ve been a bit lax about posting these here.
We’ve been hard at work on some new features for Pocket Casts and also some refinements. Today we’re excited to share some of these with you! Shipping today Pocket Casts 6.2 for iOS and Pocket Casts 6.0 for Android. The stand out feature in both is a new Shared Lists feature. We all love collecting our own personal podcasts and curating them. Adding new ones as we find them, evicting old ones as they are retired or we grow out of them. Pocket Casts has always supported sharing these with other people. Wouldn’t it be cool though if you could share more than one? Well starting today you can!
Start by tapping the button in the top right of your podcast grid, and choose to share your podcast list. You then pick the podcasts you want in that list and give your list a title and optionally a description. Once you’re happy, you can share this on whatever your social platform of choice is. Mine is MySpace, because you can’t beat that old school Timberlake vibe.
What do these lists look like? Well here’s a few we’ve made as an example:
- My Entire Collection
- Interesting Story Telling Podcasts
- Chris’s Design Podcasts
- Phil’s Australian Podcasts
That’s not all that’s new in these updates though. On the Android side we have:
- Nougat support. This includes quick shortcuts on our launcher icon as well as split-screen support if you want to use two apps at once.
- We’ve implemented one of your most requested features: you can now use Audio Effects when streaming. So if you love our Remove Silence feature but haven’t planned ahead and downloaded an episode, or if it’s too soft and you want to Volume Boost it, we have you covered.
- Refined Now Playing screen.
- Accessibility improvements.
- We also spent a lot of time fixing bugs. Playback bugs. Sleep timer bugs. Chromecast bugs. Soooo many bugs big and small are all now squashed 🙂
On the iOS side:
- Double tap our logo on the main page of the app to quickly change from light -> dark theme. It’s a small thing, but sometimes I’ll sit there tapping it for hours.
- You can now scrub through your podcast from Control Centre (requires iOS 10 or above)
- You can now 3D-Touch links in show notes to get a preview of them
- Enhanced CarPlay support
- All sorts of enhancements and bug fixes. Everything from performance to the fixing the crash reports we’ve received we’ve tightened up every aspect of our iOS app.
We can’t wait to see how you use the new sharing feature and we can’t tell you how happy we are to share some of these new features and bug fixes with you all. Happy podcasting!
Update: This job has been filled. Thanks so much for all your applications!
At Shifty Jelly we’ve always gone to great lengths to make sure our customers receive the best support that we can possibly give. We’re one of the few companies our size that hire dedicated people for this role and we now have an opening for just such a person.
If you’re adept at Twitter and Email, if you get along well with people, if you have outstanding written and verbal communication skills then this could be the role for you! You’ll be responsible for managing our Twitter accounts, answering customer emails and helping out in other tasks that go with releasing and managing successful products like Pocket Casts and Pocket Weather.
This is a full time role, preferably based in Adelaide, Australia. If you’re interested, please email us!
Less than a month since our HUGE 6.0 update to Pocket Casts, we’re proud to bring you our first feature update. The headline addition is quite impressive:
That’s right, Pocket Casts now supports CarPlay. If you have a compatible stereo you can now browse through your podcasts, filters and downloaded episodes without ever having to touch your phone. You can also access all the playback controls too, skip those pesky boring bits or pause the podcast so the teenager at the drive through window won’t judge your taste in podcasts. If you don’t have a compatible stereo, well you know what you need to do.
There are also iPad enhancements like being able to sort your podcast collection as well as show unread badges in the corner if you’re into that sort of thing. We have of course squashed a lot of small niggling bugs as well, and we thank you for reporting those to us.
You’d think after this it would be time to take the rest of the year off and plan our vacations, but we’re straight on to working on Pocket Casts 6.2, in which we’ll be focussing on iOS 10 and all the great new features it will bring to your phone and more importantly the apps that run on it. So head on over to the app store, grab the update and take it for a spin…sorry, I had to get one pun in there.
On the 27th of January 2011 we introduced Pocket Casts to the world. Being huge podcast fans ourselves our aim was to build the best possible app to listen to them. Our goals back then were simple: insanely fast refresh speeds, push notifications for new episodes, offline downloads and a streamlined player that let you do things like quickly skip over boring parts. Fast forward 5 years and here we are at version 6. Our basic goals remain the same, we’ve just become more ambitious over time and added more features to our must haves. Cross device syncing. Variable speed playback. Episode filtering. Tablet support. Podcast chapter support. Silence Removal. We also added an Android version, a web version and so much more.
But back to the iOS version. It was the original incarnation of Pocket Casts and it’s served us well over the years. That said, it was built in a time when the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 were the devices of choice. When a lot of the modern frameworks and languages that Apple provide to developers weren’t available. This led us to an interesting question: how much longer do we see Pocket Casts being a product we support and maintain on iOS? The answer was a simple “for a long time to come, since we all use it and love it”. This meant we had to make some hard decisions. If this was going to be a platform we could build on for the future it would have to be modernised, and parts of it completely re-written. So in mid-2015 that’s what we set out to do. To bring our iOS version into the modern era both at a technological and a feature level. All the things we’ve done since then could fill many more blog posts, but allow us to give you some of the highlights:
Swifter than Swift
The majority of the app has been re-written in Apple’s modern programming language, Swift. This gives us amazing performance and stability improvements over the old code base. Re-writing most of the app also allowed us to rethink decisions we made over 5 years ago with the knowledge that we’ve gained since then. Long story short the entire app is now faster, more reliable and built for quick iterations and future updates.
Redesigned User Interface
We’ve always been proud of the Pocket Casts User Interface. It’s simple to understand, easy to use and it doesn’t hurt that it looks good as well. Instead of throwing that all out and starting again we’ve refined every part of it. Many things can now be accomplished faster than before and it just looks and works so much better.
Trim Silence And Volume Boost
First pioneered by RSS Radio, we’ve heard from a lot of our users that they really wanted a way to make voices sound louder and to remove silences in conversations. Version 6 of Pocket Casts for iOS brings both of these features. We’ve been refining this algorithm for well over a year now to get it just right and we’re so excited to finally share it with you.
Ever since adding iPad support to our app we’ve been watching closely to make sure it’s always a first class citizen on that platform. This release is no exception, it brings both Picture in Picture and Multitasking (split screen) support. So whether you want to watch a video podcast while using something else on your iPad or browsing our Discover section while also surfing the web, we have you covered.
We originally added Up Next as an easy way to see and decide on what to play next. The idea was simple: you’d start a podcast, then pick one or two to follow it. It’s always felt like a far simpler approach than most other apps that make you manage lists, priorities and so many other confusing features. This release we make it even easier, just swipe the mini player over in any episode filter, and add episodes to up next with a simple tap. Long press to re-arrange or remove episodes straight from the mini player as well. Finally the addition of an option to automatically add downloaded episodes to Up Next is yet another way to make sure there’s always a few things queued up for you ready to go. You can see a quick video demo of the feature here.
We know a lot of you love to listen to podcasts at night, and that a lot of you are sensitive to bright, vivid whites scarring your retinas for life. Well the new Dark Theme is definitely for you. At a touch of a button the entire app turns dark and wonderfully pastel.
And Much Much More
The features in version 6 are far deeper than what we’ve outlined above. There’s improvements to auto download, including a new waiting for WiFi state. There’s 3D Touch shortcuts for those of you with fancy new phones. There’s MP3 chapter support (including images) for all your favourite podcasts that are starting to support those. There’s a new filter option which lets you see only episodes that have come out in the last 24 hours, or a different time of your choosing. A new dedicated download area lets you see all your downloaded podcasts in the order you downloaded them and gives you options to quickly clean these up as well. A new stats area gives you insight into how long you’ve spent listening to podcasts and just how much time various features of our app have saved you in doing so. There’s a brand new Discover section to make finding new podcasts even more enjoyable and quicker than ever. In short there are a lot of things to explore and enjoy in our new hand crafted update.
That’s a quick summary of what’s new in this update. We look forward to many more years of updates. Our plan is to make these far smaller and more incremental going forward. We’ve heard your feedback loud and clear that it would have been nicer to get the feature list above in a steady stream of incremental updates instead of a yearly ‘big bang’ style release. This time around because of the sheer amount of things that had to change this wasn’t possible, but part of this redesign was to make sure that in the future it is. So while we work on version 6.1 and 6.2, please take the time to enjoy 6.0 and let us know what you think. We’re excited about being able to finally share it with you and we’re also excited for all the great feedback you’ll continue to give us going forward.
So what are you waiting for? Grab the update or if you’re new to Pocket Casts come join us as our journey continues!