Smartspeaker listening is massively up, but sure, delaying podcasts will help drive adoption

The BBC really need to add more Siri intents to Sounds to enable smart speaker listening.

Rajar data continues to show that Smart speaker listening is on the up.

As someone thoroughly locked into the Apple ecosystem, until recently I’ve not been able to easily ask to BBC Radio services through my HomePods. I had to follow some Reddit posts to install shortcuts “hey Siri play Bbc 6 music” and suddenly I find myself listening to more BBC Radio as a consequence.

Previously I think you had to listen to stations ‘enough’ for Siri to recognise the activity, then it could be a suggested shortcut. It was a bit ugly, and down to how intents originally worked.

The Siri APIs have got more developed over time, and now it is possible to do this in a way that doesn’t require upfront declaration.

It’s funny then, that given the choice of “adding a play with Siri intent to BBC Sounds” or “delaying podcast release to open platforms”, that Auntie chose the latter…

This has the strange result:

  • The BBC’s first party actions have me listening to less BBC Podcast Audio – why listen to a topical podcast 4 weeks later, and having to remember to check BBC Sounds doesn’t match my workflow
  • Actions by a Third-Party, have me listening to more BBC Live audio

I know there are always backlogs, but Siri intents have been around for a while now…

Some great new/newish podcasts

Searching for a new podcast after Serial, there are loads of them to choose from right now.

Podcasting, after many of the UK newspapers pulled out of it, is going through a resurgence, here are some suggestions of additions to your listening list if you’re feeling a bit lost without Serial.

(I’ve still not listened to Serial, please don’t hate me).

NPR’s Invisibilia is from the same stable as RadioLab, but isn’t quite as heavily produced. Delving into the mind the first few episodes have been really enjoyable.

Alex Blumberg’s (formerly of This American Life and Planet Money) meta-podcast Startup about the launch of his podcasting empire (the one about the mistake is great listening to everyone who’s ever made one in business) has already stolen the hosts of internet show TL;DR to given us Reply All. Basically the same format, quirky stories about people and the internet.

Meanwhile back at WNYC TL;DR has a new host, and is still worth a listen.

Finally, Helen Zaltzman from Answer Me This now hosts a show about words, The Allusionist. It’s much shorter than AMT, and the first episode describing her suffering at her family’s puns will be all to real to anyone who listens to The Bugle.

You’ll be literally drowning Mail Chimp mentions and Square Space promo codes, did you know they’ve just launched Square Space 7 which integrates Getty Images… THEY’VE GOT TO ME.

The Meaning of Silence

Marco’s new podcast app Overcast can remove the silences. Does our relentless demand to make everything more efficient sometimes remove more than is desired?

Marco Arment, formerly of Tumblr, Instapaper,  and The Magazine, has released his podcast app Overcast. It’s generally very nice, and already seems to annoy me less than Apple’s own app.

As well as the standard playback speed settings, Overcast offers the option to shorten silences. This speeds up your podcast playing without distorting the audio. It’s an optional setting, and one that correctly you can set per-podcast.

Now… I can.. appreciate… how this might.. erm… help if you’re listening to a podcast by someone who has awful delivery. Most of mine are from radio shows from members of Big Media: there isn’t a lot of silence to be culled.

Some of the tweets have been very, for want of a better edited phrase, Techno-utopian-efficiency-fetishizing. Comments along the lines of “Already saved 30 minutes using SmartSpeed” and “Can you add up and display all the time I’ve saved?”

My issue is that well-meaning pauses are just as much part of good oratory as the words.

Take them away and things can go hilariously wrong:

This isn’t a criticism of the app, or the author. The feature has its place. I’d prefer to think about it being used to fix deficient audio, rather than eke every possible minute possible out of listening.1

I just tire of the endless demand for evermore efficiency in everything.

Yes I want my banking to be easier.  Of course I’d rather type data into systems directly rather than sitting on the phone, as someone enters it for me…

But when the need for faster/cheaper/better detracts from the experience, that’s when it starts annoying me. When it’s the kind of mindset that thinks that chewing food is a chore.

Not everything needs to be efficient, not everything needs to be a measured.2

  1. I’d prefer people to produce better audio in the first place, but it turns out producing decent audio takes time…who knew?
  2. And on that note my FuelBand is nagging me to get moving