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Google is reinventing the way we listen to podcasts

Changes to Google Search and Assistant aim to simplify how we discover and listen to podcasts.

Published onApril 24, 2018

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  • Google has integrated new podcast functionality into Google Search and Google Assistant.
  • Podcasts can be played directly from search results, and accessed across multiple devices.
  • Subscriptions and downloads can also be managed within the Google app.

Google has developed a new podcast format for search and voice to improve how people access podcasts. The functionality is rolling out on Android via Google Search and Google Assistant now.

When using Search, Google results will now show episode lists when you submit a query for a specific podcast (such as the “Stuff You Should Know” podcast). These can be immediately played from the results page, though you can also tap on the name of a podcast to discover more on a new page (see below right).

From there, you can tap on an “alerts” icon where you’ll be able to discover new podcasts, pin them to your home screen for easy access, and manage subscriptions.

When a podcast is playing, playback controls will appear as a persistent notification, and you’ll also be able to download the podcasts for offline use. Podcasts can be resumed from the same spot on any device, should you stop listening to one halfway through.

To listen to podcasts via Google Assistant, you can use the “OK Google” hot-phrase followed by “play the [podcast name] podcast.” This will start playing the more recently published podcast episode, or pick up where you left off previously.

The purpose of this, according to Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen, is to increase the number of global podcast listeners in the future.

“The average iPhone listens to over ten times more podcasting than the average Android,” Reneau-Wedeen told podcast blog Pacific Content. The number is more surprising given that there are far more Android devices available. “Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years.”

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Reneau-Wedeen also apparently acknowledged that the service could make sense as an app in future — though I suspect Google would have simply pursued a new podcast app first if it was keen to do that. The company also already supports podcasts as part of its Google Play Music service.

Still, easy podcast access from the big G might give dedicated podcast apps like Pocket Casts and Podcast Addict cause for concern going forward.

Up next: Best Android podcast apps

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