Google has been upping its podcast game over the last year or so, and now the company is making it easier than ever to find and listen to your favorite podcasts. When you search for specific podcasts on the web, say, This American Life, Google will find the most recent episodes and list them with direct-play links. These links then open the selected episode within Google’s Podcasts web player interface, showing episode details in the main webpage, and placing playback controls at the bottom of the browser window.
The move follows several podcast product debuts from Google in 2018, including the launch of a dedicated podcasts app, and the ability to launch podcasts directly from the Google app itself. Don’t expect Google’s new web search podcast shortcut to work with all podcasts, however. Earlier this year, the BBC announced that it was pulling all of its podcasts from Google’s platforms over concerns relating to control, audience data, and possible monetization via advertising. If you search right now for some of the BBC’s most popular podcasts, like Inside Science, you’ll only get the regular web search results — no links to play recent episodes.
The BBC might not be the only podcast producer with concerns around Google’s expanding ambitions. Spotify has been making big investments in podcasting lately, and it is becoming evident that original content production is one of its growth pillars for the future as it moves beyond its record 100 million subscribers. For Spotify, podcasts represent an opportunity to increase listener engagement, create new types of audio programming for its platform, and perhaps most importantly, drive additional revenue in the form of advertising. In the future, that advertising will be interactive, with listeners being able to take action via voice commands. All of this requires that listeners use Spotify’s various apps. If Google manages to divert some of Spotify’s audience by granting easy, direct access to its podcasts, that could be a problem.
As interesting as Google’s new feature is, it’s still just an enhanced search result. Podcast junkies looking for their next episodic obsession might be better off exploring Pandora’s Podcast Genome Project launched in 2018. Much like its algorithmically-powered music recommendation engine, listeners can get customized podcast recommendations based on their existing podcast listening tendencies.
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