Another podcast curation app with personalized suggestions – but does it deliver?
Size: 40.2 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
RadioPublic’s not the first app trying to curate podcasts for listeners. This new audio-listening app wants to use personalized recommendations to help new listeners decide what to listen to. The thing is, almost all podcast apps have a semi-curated section – using charts or impersonalized suggestions. However, it’s not even the first to offer editorially selected or personalized ideas. Others like Aurora, released earlier this year, already do this. Though that app failed to set the world alight. RadioPublic, on the other hand, is putting curation front and center, to prevent the new podcaster listener from becoming overwhelmed.
So – quick recap on what podcasts are. They’re essentially audio snippets – ranging from as short or long as the publisher desires. They can be streamed or downloaded online or on a device via an app. It’s basically radio for the internet that can be listened to whenever you want.
The problem is, every man and his dog has a podcast these days, and it can be hard to find things focusing on your interests. RadioPublic curates episodes based on individual subjects. And it’s done by real people. Examples of themed episode collections include ‘Totally rad!’ with the subtitle ‘Remember the 80s?’ Inside the playlist are episodes on Wet Hot American Summer – a film and TV series set in the 80s – by NPR podcast Ask Me Another, an episode revisiting the movie Airplane! from The Awesome 80s Podcast, and an interview with Molly Ringwald on Alec Baldwin’s podcast Here’s the Thing.
Elsewhere there are categories like ‘Essential Listening,’ and ‘Be an informed Human.’ There are also personalized suggestions based on your listening history. Head to the ‘Home’ tab and there will be playlist suggestions waiting for you there too.
Listening is based around your profile. Tap ‘Follow’ under any show or playlist and they will be added to your profile, accessed via the person icon. From here, you can add episodes to your queue for listening. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an option to add an entire playlist to the queue, which seems like a huge oversight. You have to individually add episodes, despite RadioPublic specifically collating them into a collection.
This kind of neglect kind of sums up the app for us. It’s an interesting idea for sure, and reflects the changing podcast landscape. However, podcast apps have been around for years, and fundamentals have been established. If they’re taken away, it can be jarring. For example, when you play an episode, RadioPublic only plays it in a mini-player along the bottom of the screen. You can’t expand it. It contains options to skip forward 15 seconds or skip back 15 seconds, a play/pause button and options to look at your playlist, or details on an episode. There is a scrubber to manually move forward and back, but you have to tap the podcast episode icon to access it, which doesn’t make much sense at all.
The worst omission has to be the lack of a download option, meaning everything on the app streams using a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Though the developers say downloads will arrive soon, in a world where users adhere to data plans, the app shouldn’t have been released until this was ready.
There are some interesting features, though. For example, ‘Ask a Librarian.’ If you navigate to search, there’s an option to ask for advice. Tapping on it will take you to an external form where you can request suggestions based on your tastes.
RadioPublic makes and interesting case for itself but it’s focused too much on what it wants to do conceptually and forgets to ensure technical usability is there. If it’s trying to make it easier to find podcast episodes, it should be just as easy to play them. Curation is important for new listeners, who may not miss many of these features, but seasoned podcasters won’t be drawn away.