Google vows to double podcast audience with new Android app - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Google vows to double podcast audience with new Android app

Posted: Updated: Jun 19, 2018 11:40 AM
Google's new stand-alone Podcast app Google's new stand-alone Podcast app
Home screen of Google Pixel and new Google Podcasts app Home screen of Google Pixel and new Google Podcasts app

LOS ANGELES - Google released a new podcast app, Google Podcasts, that it claims will double the size of the podcast listening audience within two years. It eventually will let Google search users see podcasts alongside article and video results when they look up a topic.

Google backs up its ambitions by noting its Android mobile operating system Android has an 85 percent share of mobile. At the start, the mobile version of the Google search app will surface podcast links next to web, image and video links.

"Eight out of 10 smartphone users have an Android phone, and there are over 2 billion Android users," says Zack Reneau-Wedeen, a product manager for Google. "So the potential to have an impact here is really huge."

According to market tracker Edison Research, some 50 million people tuned into podcasts monthly in 2017, mostly via the Apple Podcast app on the iPhone. Apple got a head start: Podcasts have been around since 2004 as a vehicle to originally help Apple sell iPods.

Android users have turned to apps such as Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Pocket Casts.

Nick Quah, who writes the "Hot Pod" newsletter about podcasting, says Apple's market share on most podcasts is 70 percent. "It stands to reason that the overrepresentation of Apple suggests an underutilization of Android," he says.

Google Podcasts is available for free at the Google PlayStore. After downloading it, start by finding shows and subscribe to them. Google also will make suggestions, based on top listening charts and categories such as tech, news, arts and culture.

Google says that for now, the podcast app is Android only.

Once you start listening to a bunch of shows, Google will sense your listening history and suggest new podcasts for you. Another feature, if you have the Google Home connected speaker: You can listen to a podcast on your phone, pause it, and ask Google Home to play it at home, where it will pick up where you left off.

Reneau-Wedeen says that down the line, Google is looking to add automatic transcription of podcasts to enable better search via its index. So, if a comedian on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast were to discuss hypothetically slipping on a banana while doing his or her comedy act, and somebody searched for "comedians who slipped on bananas," the Google mobile app could potentially offer a link to listen.

He notes that more than 1 billion people search on Google daily, mostly via the mobile app on Android.

"When they search, they get articles, videos and images but don't get audio stories," he says. "Since there has been an explosion in audio, it's important we start to treat audio as a first-class citizen throughout Google."

Google, which makes money based on selling targeted ads to advertisers, is always on the hunt to know more about us and our interests, so the Podcasts app provides another opportunity for sales.

Quah says it's not inevitable that Google really can double the podcast audience just by using its power. "Simply making something more available within an actively-used platform isn't any guarantee of greater usage," he says. It needs to be followed by push from publishers as well, he said.

Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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