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After Apple & Spotify, what’s Google’s plan for podcasts?

Activity and investment in the podcasting industry is currently at its highest, with Facebook, Apple, Spotify and others detailing their latest efforts last month. One major player that has not yet responded with its own plans is Google Podcasts.

Relatively early start

Google resumed offering the podcast in 2018 after a failed launch two years earlier, which included broadcasts of shows and episodes on Play Music. This effort is a much more dedicated experience and closely related to Google Search and, as an extension, Assistant.

Google Podcasts launched on Android three years ago and then came online, as did the search results, in 201

9. An iOS app was introduced last year as the web client became more full-featured. The last big announcement came in late 2020, when the app received support for private RSS feeds, while a redesigned Now Playing screen and the ability to better customize (and block) recommendations have appeared in the last few months. In recent weeks, meanwhile, the sound product manager has risen to focus on search features for desktops / laptops, while its product leader has left Google for payment company Stripe. The course of the first coincided with the broader reconstruction of the search organization.

Search-aligned access

The biggest advantage of Google Podcasts today is its integration with Search. In 2019, as announced in I / O, the search engine began showing episodes for playback, “based on Google’s understanding of what is being talked about in the podcast.” The company goes beyond the name and description of the episode to index and transcribe.

Soon, you won’t need the term “podcast” in your search to see episodes, making it easier to find podcasts.

This gives users a natural introduction to Google Podcasts. Meanwhile, under Android, the podcast is technically part of Google’s main app – similar to Assistant. Given the pre-installed nature of the search app, all Android users have a podcast player to start listening to things they’ve just discovered. You can download Google Podcasts from the Play Store, but this essentially puts an app icon on your home screen.

This approach is most similar to the way Apple Podcasts are pre-installed on the iPhone, iPad and Mac, while Facebook already has a mini player in its main app and builds a more complete experience. The path taken by the social media company is similar to that of Google, as it wants to use the application that many people have already installed.

Elsewhere in the landscape, Spotify decided to follow the old route of Play Music, simply integrating podcasts into the main music client. Again, this is due to the reluctance of most people to download a new application. From an anecdotal observation, I saw people who are new to the world of podcasting, just use Spotify – over Apple Podcasts – for knowledge, as this is already their service of choice.

  Android Auto

For Google, the task is to keep listeners who encounter its application through Search. One way to achieve this is through the integration of different devices. Playback progress is synchronized across mobile and desktop applications, as well as smart displays and speakers. Resume playback is easy with Assistant voice commands. The Google Podcasts client is one of the simplest apps, with the main screen showing all your episodes, while Explore / Search is the next section, and the last section shows your queue and offline downloads. It is aimed at those who are just entering podcasts and is unencumbered by music or an entire social network.

In the other direction

Podcasting, by its very nature based on RSS, has always been open. This ongoing boom could change that in the long run. Spotify manages the fee with exclusive content that can only be listened to in its multimillion-dollar app to secure big names and personalities. On the other side of the spectrum, it has an easy-to-use and integrated Anchor creation tool.

Apple, meanwhile, is making it much easier this month for podcasters to start charging for shows and offering exclusive content only to paying listeners. Apple podcast subscriptions use the company’s vast payment infrastructure, which already has data for your App Store card and iTunes purchases, to allow very clear subscriptions. This approach of offering additional or bonus audio to those who pay involves uploading that content directly to Apple, not RSS.

The natural nature of Google podcasts brings a certain level of openness that can differentiate it and continue the open web nature of audio. However, Google is also able to make it easier for podcasters to receive paid subscriptions. At least on Android, it can use the Play Store / Google Pay infrastructure to facilitate registrations.

When viewing podcasts from a news angle, there is a Google Subscribe, which publishers today can use to make paid walls less rubbing, as Google fills in payment details and keeps you in its account on various devices.

Similarly, it’s hard to see how Google invests in original podcasts. The company does not have solid results from direct funding of content, as evidenced by the refusal to create prestigious TV and movie films for YouTube Originals (in favor of content from existing creators) and the end of Stadia Games & Entertainment. However, if Google’s podcasting efforts were more closely tied to YouTube – rather than the open network – things could be different.

The future

Again, Google is silent about its podcasting plan in the face of major competitive moves. From an industry perspective, it is most obvious that the company will start maintaining paid subscriptions using its existing payment infrastructure. This would be related to Google’s pressure to help news publishers.

It can offer another way to monetize podcasts through advertising. Last year, YouTube announced audio ads to “connect your brand to an audience engaged and engaged in YouTube listening.” It is aimed primarily at reaching music fans, but can also be applied to podcasts, given the knowledge of sponsorship breaks during episodes.

As for the product side of the plans, the discovery of podcasts in Google Search can be further enhanced by linking to “key moments,” as YouTube does today. This would be something for seekers who want to find a more nuanced answer or discussion about a query.

During the restart in 2018, the company talked about how “Google Podcasts will be a launching pad for building an even better experience for listening to podcasts using AI.” The example cited at the time was automatic subtitling, thanks to advances in speech to text to allow sound consumption in noisy areas without headphones, as well as increased accessibility. The feature is easier than ever, but Android now offers Live Caption for all playback media on your device. Another use of this would be to translate content and make podcasts available in more languages.

Overall, Google has a solid foundation with wide access to multiple platforms. However, in light of increased competition, Google Podcasts should announce what’s next in the plan sooner rather than later.

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