Podcasts in Twitter

Podcasts in Twitter

Note: This is a slightly expanded version of a Twitter thread that I published earlier today.

Last week came news that Twitter was including podcasts in its app, and today I noticed that my beta version of the Twitter Android app now included podcasts, so here are a few initial thoughts based on playing with the app.

Clicking into the Audio section of the app reveals that “Podcasts are here.”

In general Twitter seems to have automated or curated some podcasts based on the acccounts I follow on Twitter.

But the selection of podcasts selected for me is slightly underwhelming. For example, News seems to be mostly NYT and NPR titles. Perfectly fine, but there’s a world of news podcasts out there.

There’s a carousel of broad subjects, which then have a central highlighted title (The Daily in the above screenshot) and a selection of others. You can scroll left and right to see other subjects.

Some of these “podcasts” are in fact Twitter Spaces.

For example, here’s a version of the Sports category with “Arsene’s Son” appearing in the middle. Twitter has correctly identified me as an Arsenal fan in this instance.

But clicking through reveals it to not be a podcast, but a live chat about tomorrow’s Arsenal fixture.

Oh, and look back to that Sports category just above. It says at the bottom, “Because you follow Cycling.”

And yet, there’s no actual cycling themed podcasts showing. There’s a little folder icon at the bottom of the page when you’re playing some audio, and that shows you the full curated list.

Definitely no cycling in there. Indeed, the list is nearly entirely NFL, aside from the Premier League Space that’s playing and The Ringer NBA show.

The Cycling Podcast might be a sensible podcast to include for podcast fans 🙂

To be completely fair, there is a Soccer category.

And some of the titles here are well chosen. The Guardian Football Weekly and The Totally Football Show are perhaps two of the largest football (soccer) podcasts. Although The Football Ramble and 5 Live’s Football Podcast are missing.

But then I look at Entertainment category and, it’s, umm, interesting.

I Googled the lead title “Talk is Jericho” to find out that it’s a podcast from the WWE’s Chris Jericho. I’m sure it’s popular with wrestling fans, but goodness knows why I’m being shown this – I have zero interest in WWE.

Music does include the excellent Song Exploder podcast. Here’s what it looks like when you play a podcast.

But what I don’t see is any way to Follow or Subscribe to this podcast. There’s no way to curate the titles you want to listen to. And if I come back to Music later, I’m not certain I’ll even see this title again. Indeed, I did go back to Music later and Song Exploder had disappeared entirely!

While I couldn’t find a way to subscribe, pressing the ‘…’ at the top of a podcast – this time Tiesto’s Clublife podcast – does allow me to “Report this podcast” or “Report copyright infringement.” Further down the page, after the title’s show notes, a Twitter disclaimer makes clear that they’re not responsible for the content. Interestingly, this particular title seems to be a very music-heavy EDM podcast that I’m sure has been fully cleared 🙂

And then there are weird things. Here’s the Fitness category:

The lead Fitness title is, er, Radiolab. It’s the most recent episode about someone getting rabies. I really don’t understand how it counts as fitness.

Other “Fitness” titles include a podcast about happiness that seems to mostly be dissecting the recent Game of Thrones sequel. I think, at a stretch, “Wellbeing” might be a better descriptor.

OK – this is a beta product, so I shouldn’t be too harsh.

I think in general, Twitter could be a decent discovery mechanism for podcasts – assuming users actually press the “audio” button in their apps.

In the short term, Twitter needs to improve navigation and allow users to in some way curate their lists of podcasts and subscribe to titles. Another thing I didn’t mention was that you only seem to be able to get to a specific episode of a podcast. There doesn’t seem any way to explore all the episodes of that podcast that are available – just the episode that Twitter is recommending. That’s not very helpful.

I’m not sure about merging podcasts with Twitter Spaces so that the user doesn’t really know what they’re going to get. But it does appear that Twitter is looking for ways to keep you on the app right now. They might be thinking of a different use case to the traditional podcast app.

I’m not against including podcast functionality in the Twitter app – anything to grow podcast listening is good in my book. Indeed, I’ve no doubt that there’ll be a decent number of users of Twitter who haven’t tried podcasts, so this is a way in.

I do think the AI engine to recommend podcasts should be better, with a little more personalisation based on accounts I follow. But I’ll be curious to see how much engineering resource Twitter put into this. In the last week they’ve announced the introduction of Twitter editing, and they have Twitter Blue rolling out. With everything else going on in the company, it’s not clear to me how much resource they have.

And I’m not sure that the product they’re designing is expected to be anyone’s primary podcast app. This seems to be about being guided to specific episodes, with the user expected to find other ways to listen if they find something they love.

But I’m hopeful that things will improve over time. Twitter does seem to be taking a decent amount of interest in audio.