“I’ve heard of podcasts, but I don’t have an iPod.”
iPods ran on iTunes, making Apple’s clunky music software the unfortunate defacto experience for the vast majority of podcast subscribers. This was both a good and bad thing. Sure, the implementation of podcasts in the iTunes update of 2006 changed everything. Millions of people immediately saw that word “podcast” alongside Music, Videos, Radio et al. It added a certain instant credibility to the medium. Moreover, it gave users a way to subscribe to an RSS feed without ever needing to know what the heck that meant.
However, in typical Apple product release fashion, it also meant that some folks mistakenly credited the almighty Steve Jobs for inventing podcasts. Hyperbole to be sure, yet today this association is pretty tough to shake. Many people still believe you need some form of “i” device to have the luxury of listening to these elusive podcasts.
So what about the “not-so-hip” Android users?
Millions of Android users have been left out in the cold. Worse, hundreds of thousands of podcasters have seen a senseless barrier between their shows and a potentially huge, new, and interested audience. Fact remains, it just hasn’t been as easy for average users to discover and subscribe to podcasts on Android, which seriously begs the question:
Why doesn't Android have a native app for podcasts?
Let’s not address the philosophical differences between the somewhat fragmented Google Play Store and the ‘mother knows best’ approach of Apple. I’m not about to get involved in the holy war of mobile OS. What matters is the raw statistics on either side of the camp are simply staggering.
There are nearly 100 million Android users in the U.S. alone. Just over 50% of all smartphone users are on that platform. Were a native application to come preloaded on these phones, there is little doubt that podcasts would find a massive new audience.
There’s just no love for podcasters in the Google-verse
Why not? Well, Google - now technically Alphabet Inc. - is a publicly traded company. What’s more, they’re an algorithmic ad serving machine that answers to no one (save for their investors). What does that have to do with podcasting? Well, there is currently no effective (or profitable) way to serve automated advertisements to podcast listeners. Add to that, there are not a lot of listeners in the first place (compared to say, YouTube viewers). Therefore, there is little to no viable reason at the moment for Google to point its big, shiny Internet money laser at the medium - not yet anyways.
Granted, Google Play is starting to roll out their own Podcast directory. It’s a slow rollout, and not yet available in all regions. If you’re in the USA at time of this post, you can check it out here.
Along comes a one-click solution for Android users.
There is hope for Android users. As with any technology, the combination of time and iterations will win the day. Blubrry.com has created the appropriately named Subscribe on Android as its answer.
Subscribe on Android is a free service that provides easy subscribe links for all Android podcast applications to utilize. Todd Cochrane, CEO, explains: “Since the Introduction of One Click Subscribe on Android nearly a year ago, 10s of thousands of new listeners are subscribing to podcasts who have added the One Click Subscribe on Android link / icon to their sites across 11 supporting Android Apps weekly.”
Blubrry.com created the One Click Subscribe on Android protocol to give Android listeners the same One Click subscription experience that iOS and iTunes users have enjoyed for years. This may be a kludge, or it may be the start of something good.
“We know based on subscriber data we are seeing, that we have moved the needle on the number of Android listeners subscribing to podcast”, said Cochrane. Podcasters would agree, any solution that makes the path from discovery to subscription easier is a good one.
These are not the droids you are looking for.
It’s not the grail, but it’s a good start. At the least, podcasters can give listeners an easy way to subscribe, provided they have already installed a Subscribe on Android friendly application. Furthermore, many of the top podcast apps for Android are adopting the technology. However, it is only when we take a fresh Android phone out of the box, turn it on and see a podcast app on the home screen, will the tides begin to truly turn podcasters’ way.