App

Podcatcher aims to make discovering shows easier

Price: Free
Version: 1.0.3
Size: 14.7 MB
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Developer: Opinion Podcasting

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Podcasts are very in vogue at the moment thanks to shows like 2014’s smash hit Serial, through to the ongoing and improving output of the New Yorker, and the long-term support of the BBC. There’s no doubt the on-demand, audio-based downloads are a popular medium. However, much like apps, the more podcasts get released, the harder it is for people to really know where to start, or how to find hidden gems.

There are plenty of podcast players – from Apple’s own built-in Podcasts app which does an entirely decent job, to the celebrated Overcast player or the very Pocket Casts app, but while most will have some kind of chart or recommendation, these are often restricted to just new podcasts or episodes from big networks.

The stream of recommendations also focuses on episodes rather than the shows themselves

The stream of recommendations also focuses on episodes rather than the shows themselves

This is where Aurora comes in. Like a magazine, Aurora has ‘editors’ that recommend content to users and this is very much the central purpose of the app. In this regard it’s perfect for those that came late to the podcast game, or that have very specific interests. Much of Aurora’s recommendations are based on subject matter rather than their timeliness and often focuses on individual subjects or topics, making specific episodes the focus rather than an entire show.

Aurora is good at providing content based on what kind of podcast consumer you are, or may be

Aurora is good at providing content based on what kind of podcast consumer you are, or may be

Many podcasts, particularly interview-based shows, will stretch across comedy, politics, science and loads of other subjects without boundaries. This wide-ranging subject matter means many episodes won’t be particularly interesting to the individual. However, the whole notion of ‘subscribing’ to a podcast creates a completest attitude, which can quickly becomes stressful keeping up due to the sheer number and high output of many shows.

'Follow' podcasts to add shows to your feed if you like their output

‘Follow’ podcasts to add shows to your feed if you like their output

This is why Aurora is great – you follow shows instead, which is a much more relaxed, social approach. Think of Twitter – do you subscribe or follow? By following someone you drop in and see what they have to say, but you don’t want to go reading everyone of their tweets. That’d be madness! A tweet about what they had for breakfast may not hold the same level or interest as one that talks about a noble cause, for example.

Podcasts that you make available offline, episodes you add to your queue, and latest episodes are added to a social-style feed

Podcasts that you make available offline, episodes you add to your queue, and latest episodes are added to a social-style feed

Where Aurora falls down is in its longer-term use, and the app becomes less intuitive when the beginner podcast-listener has familiarized themselves with the shows they like. The consolidation between trying-before-you-buy style listening, and loyal following could be better. The streaming focus is good when you’re trying out episodes without having to download them, but when it comes to your most-loved shows, there needs to be some kind of auto-download function, which doesn’t appear to exist. Many users will want to know that the latest episode of their favorite show is downloaded and waiting for them when they’re about to leave the house and relying on a data allowance.

The discovery nature of the app allows you to find older episodes you might otherwise have missed

The discovery nature of the app allows you to find older episodes you might otherwise have missed

Aurora probably won’t be making a big splash in the pool of voracious podcast listeners, but it’s a great tool for beginners who like the sound of podcasts but don’t want to feel like they have a mammoth task ahead of them catching up with the latest NPR shows in the same way they’re still stressing at having not yet caught up with House of Cards. Because that’s what podcasts are all about really – flexibility and choice. Aurora does a pretty good job of genuinely producing an app that tries to take a new approach, and does it by taking the pressure off. However, it is unlikely to meet all the listener’s needs until the subscription and tracking features are improved.

Review: Aurora – Podcast Discovery made easy
A solid version one, but some key improvements need to be made
For
  • Discovery sections are great
  • The 'feed' and 'follow' approaches are refreshing
  • Design is also unique and pleasing on the eye
Against
  • It now needs more attention on housing the podcasts you follow
  • No progress bar or time remaining on downloads
3.5Overall Score