While Google Search gained a podcast directory in 2016, it was not until earlier this year that the company seemed to fully commit, especially after a false start with Play Music. Since March, Google has been rapidly iterating on the feature and today is officially launching Google Podcasts.
The Android app available globally on the Play Store is just a shortcut to the existing component in the Google app. As such, the experience will get updates alongside the primary Search app.
Google Podcasts features a home screen where the shows you’ve subscribed to are available in a grid up top. Tapping provides a list of all available episodes, with users able to download for offline listening. The app automatically removes downloads to manage device storage with users able to customize in settings how long completed and unfinished episodes are kept.
A “For you” section comprised of New episodes, In progress, and Downloads lists is directly below, while the rest of the app features carousels of top and trending shows in various categories. The app will also recommend podcasts to you based on subscriptions and listening habits with AI suggestions getting more personalized over time.
An audio player is always accessible at the bottom of the app with basic controls to adjust playback speed, rewind/forward, and see show notes. The latter interface was just added last week and gives a dedicated page for each episode. From the listing, users are also able to pin artwork right to the homescreen for fast access. Other features include playback sync across devices and integration with Assistant and Google Home.
The app uses the Google Material Theme with a centered title, various new styled icons, and the signature stark white background. In the future, Google Podcasts will leverage speech-to-text for automatic subtitling and Google Translate to make episodes available in other languages. The latter opens up a podcast to a global audience, while the former is useful as an accessibility feature.
Meanwhile, with today’s launch, Google detailed other aspects, including how there are 2 million podcasts in the app. The company is also launching the Google Podcasts creator program “to help promote inclusive storytelling in podcasting.” A sign-up form is available today with more details coming over the summer.
That’s why we’re also partnering with the podcast industry on a program to increase the diversity of voices and remove barriers to podcasting. The program will be guided by an advisory board from around the world, with the primary goal of enabling skills development and experimentation from underrepresented voices, as well as cultivating ideas and processes that can scale throughout the industry.
Google is making a very big and serious push into the lucrative podcasting industry. It has already detailed its ambition earlier this year, and sees audio as a big component to Search in the future. It’s starting with a first-party application for Android users to access shows, while trying to attract podcasters. Compared to previous attempts with Play Music, this appears to be a more signficant push that will improve over time.