A podcast player that doesn’t feel like a hacked music player

Cover Image for A podcast player that doesn’t feel like a hacked music player
Morten Just

What if podcasts were invented before music? Would a podcast player still act like a music player? This prototype explores a podcast-first player. From discovery to playing to diving deep into what the hosts talk about.

In 2003, it took me a full hour to get ready for a 20 minutes run, and not (just) because I lacked the motivation. Wearing my full running outfit, I’d record a streamed radio show, convert it to MP3, and put it on my 1st gen click-wheel iPod. I had to hack it. It’s easier today, obviously.

But the actual listening experience hasn’t changed much apart from the “skip 15 seconds” button. Podcast apps today still feel like hacked music players.

Discovering a new podcast isn’t much better either. If you think it’s hard to pick a movie on Netflix, try picking a podcast. Itunes now counts more than 1,000,000 shows – twice as many as just two short years ago.

Yet, our podcast players look like they did five and ten years ago, when you subscribed to the only ten good shows and that was it. Today, shows worth listening to run into the thousands. Subscribing to all of them would make no sense. Why can’t we subscribe to topics? Or the people who are being interviewed? Or all currently trending podcasts about books?

That was the first thing I built. Let’s take a look, starting with discovery and subscriptions. Or rather, no subscriptions.

Don’t hit subscribe, hit play

When you launch it, the app filters through those 60,000,000 episodes out there, and picks one that you’re likely to enjoy.

Swipe up, and it plays another one.

It keeps going.

And going.

Click the little knob icon to go to the channel selector.

And yes, that Elon Musk channel is a thing.

I found a lot of great podcasts this way. And the best podcasts inspire you to go deeper.

One-tap research

A typical podcast app has no idea what’s going on inside an episode. Think about that for a while! It’s like a waiter who has no clue what he’s serving.

Tap once on the player to show the topics. Tap on one of the topics to Google it.

So that’s one tap to Google. But what if a podcast episode could google itself? Realizing it sounds a bit crazy, I decided to try it out.

I even put the results right on the lock screen.

But some things you want to save for later. For that, we have bookmarks. Expand the episode and click bookmark. It really shouldn’t have to be more work than that.

But the one thing we can’t fix is your brain (sorry!) When it needs a break, it takes one. And that’s when you zone out, just like in a long Zoom meeting.

Listen, zone out, drop back in

If you’re an avid podcast listener, you may have noticed that you don’t listen to as much music anymore. Why don’t podcasts play music? Turns out podcasting has a complicated relationship with the music industry.

The short story is money. Paying for the rights to play music is expensive. But you already have purchased those rights with your Spotify subscription.

Enabling Mix With Music pauses your podcasts every 5 minutes and presses play on your Spotify or Apple Music. Bring your own playlist or use ours – like in this case, the global top 100.

You could even imagine the podcaster deciding the music. Maybe they could add a soundtrack tag to their RSS feed, telling the player to play Oasis 12 mins 42 seconds in.

It’s time to unhack

These things are just the tip of the iceberg. Why aren’t podcasts interactive? Why can’t we pay podcasters with one click, right from the app? Why aren’t there live episodes like on Twitch and Youtube? Why can’t we buy the products they talk about? We can’t even follow a link to an ad in a show! Podcasts are great and open, but they’re also kind of stuck in the past. Let’s change that, and let’s keep them open.

Anyway, now I’m really curious to hear what you think.

All this is currently running on my phone. It can run on your phone too if you want to help test.

Follow me on Twitter and send me a DM if you want to try it out!

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