Sharing Podcasts

How we can use technology to save podcasting!

February 20, 2014 •

Some recent posts have highlighted the challenges facing Podcasting as a medium. Stan Alcorn’s “Is This Thing On?” explains how audio rarely goes viral and Joe Steel’s rebound “Let Me Share This Podcast With You” explains some of the deeper challenges of sharing. I believe that by using HTML5 we can overcome some of the hurdles.

1) Embrace HTML5

If we want people to share podcasts, they need to be accessible. <audio> should be as easy to share as an <img>. Breaking away from proprietary flash players and adding download links puts power in the hands of listeners to use Huffduffer (Instapaper for audio) or share/control your audio using a browser extension. With HTML5 you can also embed short clips of audio. Here’s 7 seconds of ShopTalk:

<audio src="ShopTalk/080.mp3#t=103,110" controls></audio>

Solutions like Squarespace and Soundcloud make podcasting easy but maybe we can encourage these platforms to support audio players better suited for podcasting. Which leads me to…

2) An Audio Player, Specifically for Podcasts

We need an easily-skinnable, open-source, HTML5 player built specifically for podcasting. At its core the player should have the two features that avid podcast listeners use most: 2x Speed Control and 30s Rewind.

These features make long-form audio easier to consume and, hopefully, easier to share. Here’s a functioning demo of how I think a web-based podcast player could work:

See the Pen Pcast Player by Dave Rupert (@davatron5000) on CodePen.

It’s a rough prototype but intentionally forward-looking (supporting IE9+ with no Flash fallbacks). Perhaps we could just extend or fork MediaElement.js. The PodLove Web Player has already done this, but (IMO) already seems feature heavy. A nice “simple” alternative could be refreshing and easily extended into a fancy x-podcast-player web component.

3) Add Deep Linking

People have limited time so I helped create a plugin called TimeJump that adds deep linking functionality to HTML5 audio. I’m biased, but I think every podcast should implement it.

Easily create deep links or “chapters” in your shownotes:

<a href="#t=1:23">Chapter One</a>
<a href="#t=4:56">Chapter Two</a>

When clicked, TimeJump will detect the hashchange and fast-forward your player. Try it out on any episode of ShopTalk. If your shownotes syndicate over RSS, mobile podcast apps like Instacast can use the deep links as well.

Giving your listeners the ability to jump around allows them to share specific moments from your episodes. You can index important thoughts or off-the-cuff reviews. Organic traffic can arrive at a timestamp.

We run a weak social media game at ShopTalk so it could be more successful, but when a “power listener” knows about TimeJump and shares a part of our podcast with their friends it feels like we’re doing something right. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback.

Lastly, don’t forget to share

This may come across as obvious or evangelical; but if we love podcasts and want listeners to share them, we must foster a culture of sharing. I’m not referring to self-promotion, we spend enough time doing that, but rather being intentional about sharing the great podcast content we come across.

We set out to do that with ShopTalk’s Crossovers, smash two podcasts together so there’s some cross-audience exposure. I love those episodes but I think it goes beyond that. I need to not just be consumer of shows. I need to take time, press pause, and share with the community at-large those insightful moments that makes podcasting special.