A young woman happily listening to Podcasts

Podcasting's moving fast… and possibly breaking things

Some news from the podcasting world, as Apple gets transcription happy, Ai translations prove harder than expected — and the worst celebrity podcast is announced.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Another wee round-up of podcasting news, loving culled from the internet firehose for the edification of the MA Podcasting students — and you!

Here comes PSO — Podcast Search Optimisation

This is a press release. Be warned. It's hard to read without throwing up a little. But it does mark something interesting. The growth in importance of SEO, and specific aspects of it, can be tracked through the rise of tools to support that. And now we're seeing the rise of PSO — Podcast Search Optimisation — as a skillset, with tools to support that.

Podcast discovery is a huge issue. Demand for skills and tools in this space will only grow.

Ausha’s Podcast Search Optimisation (PSO) Control Panel Now Compatible with Every Hosting Platform
The service, which aims to get your podcast easier to find, is now available wherever your podcast is hosted

Apple's taking notes on your podcasts

iOS 17.4 dropped last night, and among its new features was automated transcripts for podcasts. This might be enough to get me to switch back from Overcast. The ability to search through a podcast for the specific information you're looking for could be hugely useful — as well as making it easier for people to quote what someone said on a podcast.

Apple Podcasts now includes transcripts
Closed captions, but for podcasts.

Jason Snell has some interesting context on how it works:

 It’s all happening up in the cloud—the moment it detects that a new episode has arrived, Apple kicks that episode into its transcription queue and quickly generates a full transcript. (This is why, if you start listening the moment an episode drops, you won’t be offered a transcript—but very soon thereafter, it should appear.) Apple supports transcripts in English, Spanish, French, and German, which should cover 80 percent of overall listening in Apple Podcasts.

Apple's using a custom transcription model that tried to identify dynamically inserted ads, and pause transcription scrolling while the ad is running. Oh, and there's one important category of podcast that is excluded at the moment:

The only thing that’s really missing is support for private podcast feeds, which is where most members-only versions of podcasts live these days. (Full disclosure: I produce several podcasts with members-only versions, and subscribe to several more!) I realize that there are some complicated technical isuses with members-only podcasts—technically each one is unique for each member, which is a real complicating factor—but between the file download URL and the URL of the transcript file, it should be doable for Apple to group all the members-only podcast episodes together.
Full transcripts arrive on Apple podcasts
(Left to right): A transcript playing back, selecting a paragraph in the transcript view, and sharing a quote from a podcast. As was foretold back in January, with the release of iOS 17.4 Apple&#82…

Now, what I want somebody to do is make transcripts of all the podcasts I have in my app searchable in one go.

The AI Translator Presenter isn't here – yet

Several podcast companies are now experimenting with using Generative AI to produce translated version of their popular podcasts. Now, you could already use AI to do this: use it to do the translation of a transcript, and then have native speakers tidy it up and present it.

But that would still involve those messy, expensive people. The companies want to jump straight to having an AI translate and present the show.

Once again, they're pushing where the tech isn't ready to go — and the date for a usable product keeps falling backwards.

Why podcast companies are investing in AI-generated podcast translations despite questionable quality
While podcast networks like iHeartMedia, Spotify and PodcastOne have publicly announced plans to debut AI-generated audio translations, few have gone live yet.

Wait — Serial is a decade old…?

Well, that makes me feel old. Serial, the investigative podcasts that kicked off the second wave on podcasting in journalism, is a decade old. And they're doing a series on Guantanamo Bay. Two interesting things:

  • Guantanamo Bay? That's a subject that's going to appeal to the over-30s. Remember, some people in their early 20s were born after 9/11…
  • Serial has only produced four series in a decade. There's protecting the brand, and the n there's under-exploiting it…
‘Serial’ Returns for a Tenth Anniversary Season on Guantanamo | Podbam
Serial will return for its 10th anniversary season, providing an intimate look inside Guantanamo Bay detention camp through interviews with former prisoners and staff.

X-Files veteran does podcast on minor setbacks

David Duchovny, he of X-Files and Californication fame, is the latest celeb to fire up the mic, and do a podcast. And his topic? Failure! Who's gonna bring the insight on that…?

Confirmed guests include Ben Stiller, Bette Midler, Gabor Maté, Sarah Silverman, and “Freakonomics” author Stephen J. Dubner, among others.

What a panel of well-known failures…

If “wildly successful people pontificating about failure” doesn't kill the celeb-led podcast boom, what will?

David Duchovny Enters Podcasting to Launch “Fail Better,” A Production of Lemonada Media
Premiering this spring, the weekly seasonal series will feature Duchovny in conversation with guests to explore the ways in which failure shapes our lives
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.