Updates to Apple Podcasts in iOS 11: What you Need to Know

Apple Podcasts iOS 11

It's no secret that Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes) is the largest, most popular, and widely used podcast directory available.

In 2016 alone it served up over 10 billion (that's with twelve zeros) downloads which is a phenomenal number though perhaps not surprising considering that Apple's own Podcasts app is preinstalled on all iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) and on Apple TVs too, and is available in 155 countries around the world.

This only further underlines the need for your podcast to be on the Apple Podcasts directory.

Not content with its already impressive stature and market capture, Apple recently announced new changes to the way that it handles podcasts in its Podcasts app that are great news for both creators and consumers.

Here's a run down of what was announced at WWDC and the session on podcasts.

1. Apple is opening up analytics to creators

One of the biggest struggles for podcasters is their quest for data on listener behaviour. Using a hosting service means you may get some data such as downloads/stream numbers or locations.

But soon with Apple Podcasts you'll now be able to gain access to a wealth of new analytics that were previously unavailable.

Now Apple will be able to present aggregated data about /consumption behaviour/ such as which sections of your show listeners might skip or when they stop listening. This can be incredibly valuable information for creators to understand their listeners' better, especially when it comes to choosing advertising partners.

It's important to remember that this is data /only/ available from Apple devices but since they count for an estimated 60-70% of all podcast listening, the behavioural insights you can gain could be extrapolated to other platforms too.

Preview of the analytics dashboard with episode performance (L) and listening behaviour (R) 

Preview of the analytics dashboard with episode performance (L) and listening behaviour (R) 

2. New Podcast Feed Updates

Apple Podcasts in iOS 11 features support for trailers and seasons

Apple Podcasts in iOS 11 features support for trailers and seasons

At the core of all podcasting is the RSS feed. It's one of the most used forms of publishing on the internet and Apple has announced support for some new feed tags that will allow listeners to receive your podcasts in new ways. This is a big deal since this spec hasn't been updated since 2005 when Apple first starting supporting podcasts.

One of the biggest updates is the support for seasons, bonus episodes, and trailers, all of which will now show up in a structured and organised way in the updated Podcasts app. If you host and write your own feed then you're probably aware of how to implement these changes but if you're using a hosting service it's up to them to integrate these new tags that will show up on Apple Podcasts.

So far Libsyn, Blubrry, Simplecast, and Omny have all announced support and it'd be unusual if other hosts don't implement these updates as well.

These new tags aren't exclusively read by Apple Podcasts despite their label being "< itunes:>". Without getting too technical, any podcast app can use this information and display it as well which means that audiences could start to see support for seasons in other apps too.

3. Updates to the Podcasts app

In iOS 11 Apple has given its own Podcasts app a new look to support the new feed updates and designed in a similar way to its own Music app.

From a listener's perspective you can now see podcasts seasons separated within a feed, with bonus episodes and trailers inserted at correct points. This makes discovering podcasts more like finding the latest season of a TV show where the episodes are presented chronologically in release date order rather than as one continuous stream with messy title prefixes like "S03E04."

All of this makes for a richer user experience for audiences and users of the Podcasts app. The update will likely be out in September 2017, if the release pattern of previous iOS versions is kept the same, with a public beta usually available June/July 2017.

Preview of the new Apple Podcasts app in iOS 11

Preview of the new Apple Podcasts app in iOS 11

4. WebRTC on Safari

This a really nerdy update to some but can have a real impact for podcasters, especially if you record a lot of interviews and/or work on mobile devices like iPads. WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication and is a technology that you might use without realising it.

It powers call recorders like Zencastr, Facebook Live, Cast, and many others. These were often only available on desktop browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox but now that Safari supports WebRTC, especially on mobile Safari, you may be able to record interviews and calls without the need for extra plugins or software.

That's it! These changes are bound to have a profound impact on podcasting for both for listeners and creators, and are perhaps some of the biggest since Serial launched, to quote Matt Lieber, co-founder of Gimlet Media.

Which of these updates are you most excited for?

Further Resources

Alex KontisComment