Podcast discovery has long been limited to recommendations from friends or the hosts of shows listeners already know and love — but podcast apps are starting to integrate smarter discovery features into their offerings. We’re building the Audiosear.ch API to help podcast apps delight listeners with serendipitous discovery — in particular by using our podcast intelligence to surface specific episodes based on content, tone, and quality.
How to sort through all the choices and find the ones you’ll love? Here’s a roundup of how seven popular podcast apps handle discovery.
Apple’s share of the podcast listening pie is as much as 65 percent, making it the dominant player among podcast apps — though its share has arguably decreased a bit in the past year as other platforms add spoken word audio to their offerings. This bread-and-butter app has a clean interface with minimal discovery features: if you know the name of the podcast you want to listen, you can search for it and check the “Related” tab to see what other shows listeners subscribed to. You can also check the “Top Charts” and “Featured” sections; the latter includes a “Podcast Collections” link with more subjective categories. If you want to search by more sophisticated criteria like theme, mood, or topic, you’re out of luck.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music has a clean interface, but the focus is clearly on music, not on podcasts. The discovery tools are pretty limited: you can filter by “Top Charts” or by category (such as Business, Religion & Spirituality, or News & Politics), and also use the search bar to type in a topic or theme and get served some related results.
Incredibly, Spotify’s desktop app doesn’t yet offer the ability to listen to podcasts — but if you use the app on your phone, you’re all set. Spotify brings a similar approach to curation of podcasts that they do to songs, offering categories you can browse (Lifestyle, Storytellers, Tech & Gaming, etc.). Once you pick a category, podcasts are displayed without an obvious order, and there is no ability to filter by episode.
Stitcher, which is merging with Midroll’s Howl app, offers standard browsing categories arranged by theme, plus “New & Noteworthy” and “Popular & Trending” sections. Its coolest discovery feature is a predictive tool that lets you create stations based on podcasts you already know and love, just like Pandora. For example, you can create a This American Life station, or a How to Be Amazing station. You can also see what your friends are listening to by using Stitcher’s Facebook integration.
Overcast offers a number of discovery options, including a “Most recommended” section derived from in-app user behavior. They have typical browsing categories (“Business,” “Technology”), and the ability to browse collections by publisher (Gimlet, Radiotopia, Earwolf, etc.). Overcast also offers a Twitter integration that allows you to get recommendations based on what people you follow are listening to.
One of RadioPublic’s express purposes is to make podcast discovery simpler, more dynamic, and more fun. Their playlists — some handpicked by tastemakers, some organized around themes — do a great job of achieving this. You can follow playlists so that you automatically see episodes as they’re added. RadioPublic will also deliver suggestions for you based on past listening experience. They even have an “Ask a Librarian” feature where you submit a form with a few of your favorite music, TV, books, and podcasts, and you get a personalized recommendation straight to your inbox.
A personalized listening experience appears to be baked into 60db right from the start. The app asks you to select categories of interest (such as Sports, Politics, Business, News, etc.) when you sign up. Once you’ve done this, it immediately delivers “Quick Hits” (recommendations 10 minutes or less in length) to try. The “In-Depth” section does the same thing, but for longer programs. 60db also allows you to browse collections based on themes. Some of these are expected, but some are more unusual: “Black Voices Matter,” “Feminism,” “LGBTQ.” For a more human touch, there are Editor’s Picks and playlists compiled by selected tastemakers that you can follow. Finally, they have a section called Regional Radio, which is a neat way to support local news and stations.
What types of discovery features do you want from your podcast app?