Google says it’s making it much easier to find — and listen to — podcasts. The internet giant is now surfacing podcast episodes in search results based on an analysis of the topics in a given show, and will let users play back the podcast right from the results page.
All told, according to Google, its index now spans more than 2 million podcasts across the web. Now, when you search for a podcast about a topic on Google (such as “instant pot recipe podcasts”) show you playable episodes in search results alongside web pages, news, images and videos.
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With podcasts today, “there’s a discovery problem,” said Zack Reneau-Wedeen, founder and head of product, Google Podcasts. “There’s stuff people want but can’t find it — and that aligns perfectly with Google’s mission to organize the world’s information.”
Google won’t index the content of all 2 million-plus podcasts right off the bat. The new podcast search and streaming features are available initially for English in the U.S., and will expand over time. Eventually, Google search queries won’t even need to include the term “podcast” to return a list of relevant episodes.
Google has been slower to embrace podcasts than Apple, which introduced the Apple Podcasts as a default native app with the iOS 8 release in 2014 — a move credited with helping fuel the current boom in the podcast biz. The Apple Podcasts app accounted for about 63% of all podcast listening as of February 2019, according to App Annie data. The Google Podcasts app for Android, launched in June 2018, accounted for just 0.9%. To date, Google Podcasts for Android has over 5 million installs.
Apple is also enhancing its podcast-search features by transcribing the words and phrases used in episodes — although those will initially be available only to Mac users.
This fall, Apple is doing away with the native iTunes app for the Mac with the release of macOS X 10.15 (code-named “Catalina”). Instead, the new operating system will include three dedicated media apps — for music, TV and podcasts. The Apple Podcasts app for Catalina will provide enhanced search, starting with top shows in English. Apple’s podcast search today relies on the metadata included with a podcast (i.e., show title, author, description).
Meanwhile, Google also announced that later this year, users will be able to find and listen to episodes on the Google Assistant and the Google Podcasts for web service (via Google Play Music). That will let users issue a voice command to the Google Assistant for podcasts about a certain topic, and it will suggest episodes for you related to your search. In Google Podcasts for web, you’ll be able to search for relevant shows and episodes and listen directly on your computer or phone.
Google noted that a user’s listening progress is synced across all of its podcast services, so you can start listening on the web then resume playback in the Google Podcasts app.
“Our goal is to double worldwide podcast listening, to not just make it easy to listen to podcasts on Android but make podcasts a first-class citizen on Google,” Reneau-Wedeen said.
Also, Google said it plans to add the ability for publishers to specify a preferred playback destination, such as a third-party website or app. That will provide for discovery of podcasts that may be exclusively available via purchase or subscription on third-party podcast providers.
Apple currently has more than 750,000 podcast shows registered in iTunes, comprising more than 24 million episodes. Apple manually curates the list of podcasts available through its platform and requires publishers to go through a review process for Apple Podcasts.
This spring, the company updated Apple Podcasts Preview pages on the web, which introduced dedicated episode pages and lets visitors listen to podcasts in a browser.