In this week’s podcasting news: Podcasting received a fair amount of press recently, primarily focused on the comedy side of things. It looks like rising podcast host Soundcloud almost got bought, and Stitcher debuts a new feature that isn’t quite the “Instapaper of audio.”
Comedy Podcasters in the News
Rolling Stone revealed its “20 Best Comedy Podcasts Right Now.” Not unexpectedly, many of the usual suspects are on the list (and just because they are well known doesn’t mean they still aren’t good). However, the appearance of StarTalk Radio is a bit of a surprise, though astrophysicist host Neil deGrasse Tyson does have many funny guests and co-hosts, like comedian Eugene Mirman.
This week’s Billboard Magazine is dedicated to comedy, and it features a short profile of successful comedy podcasters Jimmy Pardo (Never Not Funny), Aisha Tyler (Girl on Guy) and Marc Maron (WTF).
Maron seems to be everywhere, no doubt due to the recent premiere of season two of his eponymously titled IFC television show (as I mentioned last week). AP television columnist Frazier Moore published an interview with the WTF host who reveals that he doesn’t really write his material in advance, so much as “write down little fragments.”
[H]e produces a pocket notebook and shares a sample entry: “Glad it’s over, ’cause I wanted to stay.” Another: “Nobody is honest because everybody lies to themselves.”
Soundcloud Almost Got Bought
Along with becoming the “YouTube of audio,” Soundcloud has been solidifying itself as a podcast host, too. On Monday Re/code’s Peter Kafka reported that Twitter was in talks to acquire the Germany-based audio host. But late Tuesday afternoon there were reports that Twitter backed out of the deal.
Last year Soundcloud raised $60 million of funding based on a valuation of $700 million and has 250 million users worldwide. Those are pretty significant numbers for a site based on sharing audio, and are strong indications of internet audio’s popularity. Tools that make it easier to upload and share audio, like Soundcloud, are likely to help further popularize podcasting by helping break the medium out of iTunes’ golden handcuffs.
That said, my opinion is that an acquisition of Soundcloud by Twitter or another social media platform would threaten to hamper that growth in the same way that services like flickr haven’t exactly thrived under the ownership of bigger owners, like Yahoo.
Stitcher Debuts “Listen Later” Feature
One of the common refrains explaining why podcasting has yet to break truly mainstream is that subscribing and listening to them can still be an arcane operation for many people. Stitcher aims to attack that problem with the debut of its “Listen Later” feature. Fast Company contributor Stan Alcorn <a href=“http://www.fastcompany.com/3030236/most-innovative-companies/listen-later-introducing-stitchers-instapaper-for-audio
target=”_blank“>dubbed it ”Instapaper for Audio,” referring to the web app that lets users clip articles on different sites to read later on their computers or mobile devices.
When I first read that headline I was excited, since I often happen upon a new podcast that I would like to check out later, but find it’s not convenient or possible to immediately jump into iTunes or start up my smartphone’s podcast app to subscribe. What’s happens next is that I usually forget about the show until I encounter it again.
Unfortunately, Stitcher’s “Listen Later” isn’t nearly as universal as Instapaper. Right now the feature is only available with a select number of partners, including public radio shows Science Friday and StoryCorps, Fox News Radio and the Heritage Radio Network. Film director Kevin Smith’s Smodcast network was also listed as a partner, but when I first tried the feature on the Smodcast site it didn’t work. When I went to test it again the “Listen Later” button had disappeared.
When I tried out “Listen Later” on the other sites it worked as promised, adding the selected episode to my Stitcher queue, letting me listen to it later. Of course, what I really want is to be able to queue up any podcast I encounter. Having the feature on only four partner sites means it really isn’t that useful, at least to me.
However, there are two other services that do provide this kind of functionality, Huffduffer and Later.fm. They differ from Stitcher, because unlike that platform they don’t actually store the audio on their servers or deliver it via an app. Instead they aggregate the links on their sites, and let you subscribe to a custom RSS feed of all your saved episodes. It’s a system that works provided your shows continue to be available from their producers.
I have to admit that when my friend and podcast co-host Jenny Benevento brought Huffduffer to my attention a number of months ago I didn’t take it seriously, thinking of it as more of a “Stitcher-lite” service. But after giving it another shot using the “Huffduff it” bookmark tool I see the light of its utility.