Home Podcasts What are Google's plans for podcasts after Apple & Spotify?

What are Google’s plans for podcasts after Apple & Spotify?

Activity and investment in the podcasting industry are currently at an all-time high after Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and others detailed their recent efforts last month. One major player that hasn’t yet responded with their own new plans is Google Podcasts.

A relatively early start

Google restarted its podcast offering in 2018 after a failed launch two years earlier that resulted in shows and episodes showing up on Play Music. The current endeavors are much more of a dedicated experience and closely aligned with Google Search and, in a broader sense, the Assistant.

Google Podcasts started on Android three years ago and then hit the internet and search results in 2019. An iOS app was introduced last year when the web client became more comprehensive. The last major announcement came in late 2020 when the app gained support for private RSS feeds, while in the past few months it has been showing a redesigned screen for current playback and the ability to better customize (and block) recommendations. In recent weeks, the founding product manager has focused more on desktop / laptop search functions, while its product leader has left Google for the payment company Stripe. The first step coincided with the more extensive reorganization of the search organization.

Search-oriented access

The biggest advantage for Google Podcasts today is integration with search. As announced at I / O, the search engine popped up playable episodes in 2019, “based on Google’s understanding of what a podcast is talking about”. The company goes beyond the name and description of the episode to index and transcribe it.

Soon the term “Podcast” no longer needed in your search to display episodes, which simplifies podcast detection in the search.

This gives users a natural introduction to Google Podcasts. On Android, the Podcasts experience is technically part of the main Google app – similar to Assistant. Given the preinstalled nature of the search app, all Android users have an out-of-the-box podcast player that they can use to listen to the things they have just discovered. You can “Google Podcasts” from the Play Store, but this essentially brings up an app icon on your homescreen.

This approach is most similar to pre-installing Apple Podcasts on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, while Facebook now has a mini-player in its main app, offering a more immersive experience. The social media company’s path is similar to that of Google in that it wants to leverage the application that many people have already installed.

Elsewhere in the landscape, Spotify opted for the old route of music playback by just adding podcasts to the main music client. Again, this is due to most people’s reluctance to download a new app. For anecdotal reasons, I’ve seen people new to the world of podcasting use Spotify – via Apple Podcasts – because they are familiar as it is already the streaming service of their choice.

For Google, the job is to keep listeners who come across their app through search. One way to do this is through cross-device integration. The game progress is synchronized in all apps for mobile devices and desktops as well as in smart displays and speakers. Playback is easy to resume using the assistant’s voice assistant. The Google Podcasts client is one of the easiest apps out there. The main screen is a feed of all of your episodes while “Search” / Find is the next tab and the last section shows your queue and offline downloads. It is aimed at those who are just getting into podcasts and is not weighed down by music or an entire social network.

Go the other way

Podcasts based on RSS have always been open. This ongoing boom could change that in the long run. Spotify leads the way in exclusive content that can only be listened to on its app with multi-million dollar deals to secure big names and personalities. At the other end of the spectrum is the easy-to-use and integrated creation tool Anchor.

In the meantime, Apple podcasters are making it very easy this month to charge for shows and offer exclusive content to paying listeners only. Apple Podcasts subscriptions take advantage of the company’s massive payments infrastructure, which already has your card data from App Store and iTunes purchases, to make subscriptions very easy. With this approach of offering additional or bonus audio to those who pay, this content is uploaded directly to Apple, not via RSS.

The search-oriented nature of Google Podcasts brings with it a degree of openness that can set them apart and perpetuate the open web nature of audio. However, Google is also able to make it easier for podcasters to get paid subscriptions. At least on Android, it can use the Play Store / Google Pay infrastructure to simplify registration.

If you’re looking at podcasts from a news angle, there’s a subscription to Google that allows publishers today to keep paywalls running smoothly by entering Google’s payment details and logging you in across devices.

Likewise, it’s hard to see Google investing in original podcasts. The company does not have a solid track record of direct content funding, resulting from the withdrawal from producing prestige television and movies for YouTube originals (in favor of content from existing developers) and the end of Stadia Games & Entertainment . However, if Google’s podcasting efforts were geared towards YouTube rather than the open web, things could turn out differently.

The future

Again, Google hasn’t taken its podcast plan seriously in the face of huge competing moves. From an industry perspective, the most natural way for the company to support paid subscriptions by leveraging its existing payment infrastructure. This would be related to Google’s drive to help news publishers.

It could also provide another way to monetize podcasts through advertising. YouTube announced audio ads last year to “connect your brand with audiences who are engaging on YouTube and listening to their surroundings.” It is primarily aimed at music fans, but can also apply to podcasts, as sponsorship breaks are known during the episodes.

On the product side of the plans, podcast detection in Google Search could be further enhanced by linking it to “key moments,” as YouTube is doing today. It would be something for seekers who want to find a more nuanced answer or discussion about a query.

During the relaunch in 2018, the company talked about how “Google Podcasts will be a launchpad to create an even better podcast listening experience with AI.” Enable audio consumption in noisy areas without headphones and improved accessibility. It’s easier to implement than ever before, but Android already 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 stable foundation with broad access to multiple platforms. However, with increasing competition, Google Podcasts has to announce what’s next on their plans sooner than later.

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