Pastime: streamlining the podcast app

Helping new listeners discover podcasts with the Audiosear.ch API

Software engineer Andrew Roper first got the idea to build Pastime — a “rigorously simplistic” audiobook and podcasting app — when a relative was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

With its large buttons and straightforward navigation, Pastime was made to suit the needs of visually impaired people. That challenge prompted Andrew to consider broader issues of accessibility.

“A non-technical, simplistic experience is crucial to drawing in new users. My aim is to declutter podcasting technology to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to consume and discover audio content,” Andrew says.

Building a sleek, minimalist interface and deep-linking content within the app, Andrew hopes to make streaming podcasts in Pastime as intuitive as turning on a radio.

“Overcast, Castro, and Apple’s native app all cater to podcast enthusiasts who already know their way around. I’m trying to reach people who aren’t quite sure what they’re doing,” he says.

But Pastime isn’t just your grandma’s app. Andrew is problem-solving basic user experience issues that prevent the majority of mobile users from giving on-demand audio a go.

In a recent Nieman Lab article, Panoply’s Jacob Weisberg bemoaned the medium’s consumer gap, saying, “It’s still much too hard to get podcasts. People who know how to do it do it quite easily. People who don’t know how to do it find it a little bit intimidating. There’s so much infrastructure that needs to be built and upgraded.”

Even for the podcast in-crowd, discovering and sharing new content is extremely problematic. After designing Pastime’s basic functionality, Andrew began tackling what he calls podcasting’s Netflix dilemma — how do consumers find anything amidst the overwhelming number of choices?

Andrew turned to the Audiosear.ch API, which he uses as the backend database for Pastime. Not only does Audiosear.ch allow users to search for content by show, network, category, people, or topic, it also lists top-rated shows and tastemaker audio picks.

Andrew hopes to further integrate Audiosear.ch into Pastime’s own curation feature — Shortlist — which lets users create and share streamable playlists of episodes.

“There is just so much good content out there, but it’s hard to know where to start,” Andrew says. “Pastime provides an entry point.”

Try Pastime

Case Study: How transcripts help branded podcasts

Telling great stories on a budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punk rocker-turned-entrepreneur Brian Adoff has, of late, been trying his hand at podcasting. While considering marketing strategies for his software company, Swift Data Technology, Brian did what more and more companies are undertaking: he turned to on-demand audio to get the word out.

“From a business perspective, podcasts are an ideal format for content marketing because you can get right in someone’s ear. Instead of selling them something, you’re telling a story,” Brian says.

Owing to his DIY punk roots, Brian decided to produce the podcast himself. “I taught myself by listening to lots of podcasts about making podcasts,” he jokes. The end result was Campus Aux, a series of interviews with Swift Data users and industry experts.

Having discovered the PR benefits of his company’s podcast, which he shared with potential clients and partners, Brian founded Riveting FM, which pitches and produces series for other business-to-business companies. He sold his first client, door lock manufacturer Assa Abloy, on Unlocked, a six-episode podcast that gives first-person accounts of security-crisis situations like the recent UCLA shootings.

I used to start out by explaining to the sales team what exactly a podcast is. But now I think we’re hitting a tipping point as podcasting becomes an increasingly mainstream medium,” Brian says.

Panoply produces GE’s podcast The Message, which was #1 on the iTunes charts from November 21-25, 2015.

Unlocked is part of a rising trend of corporate podcasts, as Fortune recently reported (“Corporate America’s Love Affair With Podcasting”). GE, eBay, State Farm and the like are hiring powerhouse podcast networks like Gimlet and Panoply to oh-so-subtly use narrative content to promote their brands.

“I’m not Gimlet or Panoply. I’m not even a radio veteran,” says Brian, “but I taught myself how to produce a good story on a tight budget. That’s something business people can appreciate.”

Pop Up Archive helps Brian “run-and-gun” his one-person operation to stay on time and under cost. The timestamped transcripts, he explains, help him work as time-efficiently as possible and keep focused on producing new content.

Venturing ever deeper into the podcast realm, Brian is using the proceeds fromUnlocked and other contract jobs to produce Riveting FM’s first original series, “Drink Drank Drunk.” Sounding every bit as niche as his industry podcasts, though a good deal wackier, Brian describes the show as a heated discussion on grammar, featuring a heavy dose of alcohol and feminism.“Overall, I’m just trying to make shows that might not otherwise get made,” he says.

Learn more about Riveting FM

Take the Audiosear.ch clipmaker for a spin

Share your favorite audio clips on Twitter

Have you ever tried to describe a favorite podcast episode to a friend only to realize it’s more of a “guess you had to be there” situation? Ever wanted to share a zinger of a clip, but feel silly sending a podcast link and timecode? We’re right there with you.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are optimized for text, images, and video — but not audio. How do we make audio content flourish on our feeds just as much as photos, gifs, and videos? Let the words speak for themselves, we say. The Audiosear.ch clipmaker makes it easy for anyone to select a favorite podcast moment and share it on social media as a short auto-playing video. 

We’re pretty psyched and can’t wait to share it with the world. But first, we want your input. Sign up to be one of the first to test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker today! All you need is a Twitter account.

 

The Audiosear.ch clipmaker is the result of years of experience and observations in shareable audio. Segmenting audio files into snappy, quotable moments can help change the way people experience podcasts, taking them beyond the solitary work commute or dish-washing routine into more people’s daily lives and interactions.

Lots of people have lamented and examined the un-shareability of audio on the web, from Stan Alcorn’s 2014 piece “Why Audio Never Goes Viral” to various NPR experiments with social audio. Shareable audio was a popular topic at This American Life’s Audio Hackathon in the fall of 2015 and ultimately led to a Knight Foundation-funded prototype for shareable audio. Most recently, WNYC announced the open-sourcing of their producer-facing Audiogram Generator.

Our goal is for the clipmaker to be useable by anyone and embeddable anywhere on the web. The clipmaker will function for any of the 10,000s of podcasts indexed (and ultimately transcribed) by Audiosear.ch.

Click on any of the tweets in this email to see the clipmaker in action. Clipmaker tweets include words as they are spoken in the audio and links to subscribe in iTunes — or potentially other platforms.

Sign up to beta test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker!