Google Play Music Podcasts

Google announced way back in October that podcasts would be coming to Google Play Music. And today they officially launched, if you’re in the US or Canada.

It’s no secret that iTunes is the center of the podcast universe, or that everyone hates iTunes. Fortunately there are plenty of other great podcast apps like Pocket Casts or but most podcatchers still rely on the iTunes Podcast Directory for search and discovery. That means that iTunes subscribers, ratings, and reviews are still valuable, even if no one is actually using iTunes to listen to podcasts. When Google Play Music Podcasts (seriously, what is up with that name?) was announced it was also announced that interested podcasters would have to submit their podcasts to be in the directory which many hoped was Google taking a stand against the tyranny of the iTunes Directory.

But a head to head battle with an incumbent is a suckers bet because users need a reason to switch what they’re doing. Last week I read a tumblr post about NPR One and what it is actually trying to accomplish by playing seemingly random NPR content. From the post:

“Like Pandora or other similar apps, it gradually learns what you’re interested in from what you skip and what you mark “interesting,” and it shifts what it serves you…”

Her larger argument is about the importance of radio in delivering news, but the language about NPR serving you a variety of audio content came back to me when I read this line from the Google announcement today:

“…we’ll connect you with podcasts based on what you’re doing, how you’re feeling and what you’re interested in. Similar to our contextual playlists for music, we want to make it easy to find the right podcast—whether you’re a podcast aficionado or listening for the first time.”

By all accounts these feature of Google Play Music are excellent (I wouldn’t know, I’m the one-song-on-repeat while I’m working type.) It makes sense that Google would take this angle. Google is a search company after all, and podcast discovery is really hard. If they can make quality “radio” out of evergreen podcast episodes, instead of encouraging the traditional episodic chronological listening, they’ll have an incredible advantage over every other podcast player/directory. And if they can use their voice transcription magic to automatically create transcripts for every podcast submitted to their directory they’ll have an edge on every other player in terms of discovery and recall.

Assuming they build those features out, and don’t kill it off like Google Listen.

Of course you can find all the Sunrise Robot shows on Google Play Music Podcasts, but you have to scroll down because currently podcasts appear after music in search results.