Why Has Google Decided To Not Build A Podcast App?

David Murphy, writing for Lifehacker, reports on his experience using the new Android experience for downloading and managing podcasts. Other descriptors used in the above article include ‘crude’ and ‘curious’. But I think that is doing a disservice to Google and shows how we expect everything to be an app nowadays and we get confused at things that blur that line.

One of the many clever things about the iPhone was the app-ification (yuck) of every function on the phone. To make a phone call, you used an app .This meant that making a phone call was just one function of the mini computer you were carrying. Nowadays we assume everything must be an app, which might explain why Mr Murphy felt Google’s podcast experience was ‘curious’. Google has opted to not make a podcasting app but instead extract its functions into the web browser and the operating system. The weakness of the app paradigm is that the user needs to know which app does what and where to find it. To listen to a podcast, the user needs to know what a podcast is, know where to find the app and know to open it and how to search for a podcast once there are there. If you move away from that, you might be able to provide more continuity of service if you can merge searching, playback, sharing and surface podcasts as an option when people are searching for specific information.

The other thing to consider is that as voice controls and smart speakers become more prevalent, we move away from an app-centric (yuck again) experience. If you ask your Google Home to play NPR, do you care if it comes from NPR One or Spotify or the Google podcast app? With voice I think we move away from the idea that there is a ‘podcast app’ and towards the idea that it is just ‘Google playing my podcast’ and seamlessly integrates and syncs with my computer, phone and smart speaker. And this is key if Google are going to ‘double the audience’ for podcasting (as they have stated). They aren’t going to hit that goal by explaining how to use an app. They are going to get there by offering the most convenient way to listen to people who aren’t already listening.

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