Hi all, it's Julian here again, and welcome to another episode from Productivity Matters. If you're new here, then welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
In this series I've been looking at apps that are designed to help you be more productive; to get things done as efficiently as possible.
I'm not sure that listening to podcasts actually counts as being productive. I mean, listening to the radio or music isn't actually productive, although it can lead to being more productive. Podcasts, on the other hand, are less about the music and more about the information.
There are many apps out there to consume podcasts, and today I'm going to take a look at one in particular. Pocket Casts has been around a while, available on iOS and Android (and a web player too) and they have now released version 7. I couldn't let the opportunity slip by to take a closer look.
So - buckle up, here we go.
What is a Podcast?
This might seem like a strange way to start this episode, but let's look at what a podcast actually is?
It's strange, because that's how you are here right now. Listening to this podcast.
The straight definition is "A digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically."
Podcasting has become very popular in recent years, allowing many people to get involved - including yours truly!
It's a mechanism for anyone to speak their mind, investigate issues, tell stories and more, using the audio medium. The way to access these podcasts is usually via a podcast app; of which there are many. Some are basic and some offer a wealth of functionality.
One such app is Pocket Casts; it's been my app for listening to podcasts for the last few years, and it's brilliant.
Over the years, they have made changes and updates to improve the experience, but today they launched version 7 - and it's beautiful.
I use the iOS version, although it's also available on Android and the web, and there's a Windows and Mac version too.
The look and feel is fresh, with icons along the bottom of the screen leading you to what you want to do. Starting with the Podcast icon, which takes you to a list (or grid) of the podcasts you've subscribed to. Next, the filters.
You can create quick filters, similar to channels - call them what you like, literally; and then add podcasts to them so you can get to them easily. This is helpful if you have bucket loads of podcasts.
The Discover section leads with the Featured podcasts, then a selection of Trending. Scroll down to find other sections that will highlight podcasts you might be interested in.
Alternatively, towards the bottom of the list, you can search by networks, or categories.
The search bar at the top of the page will allow you to enter the name for finding a specific podcast quickly.
The final icon is Profile. This will tell you how many podcasts you've subscribed to, and then how many days you've listened for. Depending on your settings; which I'll talk about soon, it will also tell you how much time you've saved.
Further down the Profile page is a link to all your stats, downloaded podcasts, those you have starred and finally, your listening history. This is new and it's great to be able to find a previous episode of a series.
Right at the top of the screen, on your Profile, is the Settings icon. In here, you have completely granular control over each part of the app.
Playback gives you control over how far you want to skip forward or back, in seconds. You can set the screen to say awake and more.
The Notifications section sets the global setting for getting notified of new episodes; you can then set each podcast individually. The App badge allows you a number of options for being off; showing the total unplayed, new releases, or a specific filter count.
Under Appearance, you can set to dark mode (or extra dark!) and also the colour of the app icon that appears on your home screen.
Storage and Data use is as the name suggests, and you can set it to warn you before downloading over mobile data.
Finished a podcast? Then auto-archive an episode. You can set this to happen after a set period.
Auto download - one of my favourite settings. Set to download only when connected to Wifi, only specific podcasts and more.
There are now even Siri shortcuts to make accessing and playback easier, using your voice.
Things get really interesting when you look at the settings for each individual podcast. Just open up the podcast and click on the settings icon.
You can set the auto-download and whether you want to be notified when a new episode is available. You can automatically add the new episode to your playlist, so it will appear in the ‘Up Next’ section of the app; and you can decide if you want it to appear at the top or the bottom of that section.
For example, you may have some news podcasts, which are time-sensitive, due to the very nature of the content, so you want to prioritise them over an entertainment podcast, which you could listen to at any time.
When you select the Playback Effects, you can set the speed for the playback; which is useful for speech only podcasts; and you can trim the silence - this means that pauses are skipped, to let you listen more quickly.
Remember I mentioned the statistics about time saved? This is where the figure about how much time you’ve saved comes in. On my app, it tells me I’ve saved over 20 hours through skipping pauses.
The final setting is called ’Skip First..’ and it means you can set the episode to start a pre-determined number of seconds from the beginning. This is useful if you know there will be a ’sponsored’ section, and want to skip it to get to the content.
New in Version 7, you can now listen to the episode without subscribing first. This is something that used to annoy me a little - having to subscribe to a podcast before knowing whether I want to commit. So now I can try it beforehand.
The ‘up next’ syncing is great to set it all up once, and then listen on your PC or tablet.
There are new archiving features, enhanced Apple Watch support, and you can also view your listening history.
So, there you have it. A completely fully-featured podcast app, that gives you full control over how you want to listen. It’s completely free to download and use on your mobile device. If you want to listen via the web, then there is a one-off cost of £8.40.
Does listening to podcasts make me more productive? Not really; but Pocket Casts makes it a breeze to download and manage the podcasts I like to listen to.
If you have any questions about Pocket Casts, then please get in touch via the Contact Me button at the top of the page.
Don’t forget to subscribe where you normally listen to your podcasts and until next time, remember, Productivity Matters.
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