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Mac Podcasts app concept
Yesterday in my WWDC wish list I included a request for pulling Apple’s podcast player out of iTunes and promoting it to a dedicated app on the Mac just like it is on iOS. iTunes in its current form can be a mess as a music player, but at least that tries to be its primary function; being a good podcast player is hardly the focus of iTunes. Aside from removing part of the bloat from iTunes, promoting podcast playback on the Mac to its own app would solve several existing problems.
First, there are issues introduced with the recent iTunes 12.4 update. Apple re-introduced the sidebar navigation to iTunes with the goal of simplifying the experience and included an option to disable it, but turning it off doesn’t revert to tab bar navigation like it does in the Photos app.
Turn off the sidebar in the Recently Added section of Music and now you can’t navigate to the Artists section in Music without turning it back on. No problem, just leave it on for Music. But go to the Podcasts section and notice the sidebar isn’t as necessary. I use Recent Updates and Podcasts but not Stations (which can be removed) but a whole column for two or three options is overkill. But turn it off for Podcasts and it turns off for Music which traps you.
For me, the solution is to mostly live in the Unplayed section which is a separate tab bar option and doesn’t show the sidebar. Another oddity created by iTunes the music player is that smart playlists like 90’s Music appear in the Podcasts section as podcast playlists but show music. A separate Podcasts app wouldn’t have this awkward and nonsensical behavior.
Another problem with having podcast playback happen in a music player is sharing the same playback settings. I really like the Crossfade Songs option on iTunes for continuous Apple Music playback. Spotify does this on iOS and it’s something Apple Music should add there too. But it’s super jarring when the end of one podcast crosses into another podcast. Stacked spoken word just doesn’t have the same effect.
Obviously the Crossfade Songs option should only apply to songs and it doesn’t, but iTunes is full of these examples. iTunes is also just not as good at podcast playback as iOS.
Apple’s Podcasts app on iOS includes an Up Next feature for managing a temporary episode queue without making a dedicated playlist. Up Next for Podcasts works just like the Music app on iOS but separately. iTunes on the Mac shows the Up Next option when playing podcasts, but it only works for music.
The Up Next section on the iOS Podcasts app is also where you’ll find chapters on supported shows like 9to5Mac’s Happy Hour podcast. Up Next is music-only on iTunes, and chapters just aren’t supported.
Podcasts for iOS also includes a timer for stopping playback, speed controls, and back and forward skip buttons that jump 15 seconds. iTunes lacks these podcast features and using back and forward skip buttons can easily lose your place in an episode.
Apple has a Podcasts app for iPhone, iPad, both Apple TVs, and CarPlay, but the experience is subpar on the Mac as it’s buried inside iTunes.
Complaints aside, iTunes is still a half-decent podcast player on the Mac. I use it almost daily. One benefit of being tied into iTunes is you can download iTunes on a Windows PC, sign in with your Apple ID, and your podcasts are all right there and sync like on a Mac. But the podcast experience on a Mac shouldn’t be limited for that reason alone.
And there aren’t many options for podcast playback on the Mac. Before iTunes, I used Instacast which offered a great experience but ran out of money for development. I also like Apple’s apps because they’re on iPhone, iPad, the Mac, CarPlay, and both Apple TVs (just not Apple Watch). Downcast is another podcast player that’s also on most of Apple’s platforms including CarPlay and even Apple Watch but not Apple TV yet.
Promote podcast playback on the Mac to a dedicated Podcasts app outside of iTunes (and someday throw in an Apple Watch app?) and I’d be totally happy.
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This year’s CES seems to have raised an interesting question, and it’s one that I’ve pondered myself on occasion. It’s an issue that often comes around whenever there is a trade show that Apple does not attend, so that’s basically all of them these days.
Take the recent CES as an example. Apple has not attended, and that has led many Apple blogs and fans to take a dim view upon anything and everything that has taken place. What it boils down to is this: if Apple doesn’t do it, it must be rubbish. Pointless, even. Why would anyone be even remotely interested?
So the question is this: why do some people seem to be such diehard Apple fans, or even that awful term “fanboys,” that they just cannot seem to appreciate anything that comes out of a company that doesn’t have a half-eaten fruit on its masthead…
I think it’s a valid question.
I like to think I’m a fairly well adjusted tech enthusiast. Yes, this is being written on a 13-inch MacBook – the first unibody machine before they decided to call it the “Pro” – and I can glance over to the coffee table and spy an iPad 2 and my iPhone 4S. My wife has another iPhone 4S somewhere and then there is the 11-inch MacBook Air that is floating around somewhere. Sorry, that’s a pun I just could not resist!
But all that is not to say that I can’t appreciate the competition.
I’ve had a few Android phones, the last of which was a Samsung Nexus S. I’ve had a Windows Phone 7 handset in the guise of the HTC HD7. I like toys, no matter the name. Hell, I even went through a spell of wanting to pick up a Palm Pre, and I’m still juggling with the idea of buying my third Android phone, a Galaxy Nexus.
See, technology is just so damn cool. Look at it all. There are so many smartphones these days that anyone, and I mean anyone, can find one to fit their budget and requirements. Why would we just decide one is rubbish because it doesn’t suit us, or has the wrong label on it? I’m all for being a fan of Apple’s products – they make some of the best around – but that doesn’t mean the various Android smartphones aren’t killing it, either. Or Windows Phone 7. OK, RIM might not be so hot, I’ll give you that one.
So why is CES being called a waste of time? We’ve seen some great-looking tablets come out of the show, and the awesome Nokia Lumia 900, too. There’s the umpteen televisions that have been shown off. The Ford electric cars and in-car entertainment stuff. There have been more Intel Ultrabooks shown than I dare count, and that’s just off the top of my head.
Any of that have an Apple logo on? No, but I’m sure I’m going to want plenty of the stuff that’s been announced anyway.
We’ll start with one of those Lumias I think…
Some time ago, I stopped listening to the same, tired Spotify playlist every morning and began listening to podcasts.
Packed with information and the perfect sprinkle of entertainment and light-hearted banter, podcasts are incredibly engaging and a useful medium for businesses and listeners alike. They are the sleeping giant of content types, though.
Most businesses don’t understand the true potential behind podcasts. And there’s a huge number of reasons why they are the perfect addition to any existing content strategy.
Let’s explore ten of the top reasons to add podcasting to your content assets.1. Podcasts Have Low Competition
The content marketplace is competitive, like really competitive.
Successful digital marketers find big wins with their content when they find a content type or topic with high engagement and low competition. That’s exactly what a podcast provides.
While there are around 80 million Facebook business pages, there’s only 700,000 podcasts airing. This number shrinks when you search by topics.
There may be only a handful of other podcasts discussing the topics relevant to your business, with hundreds-to-thousands of listeners.
With this low competition, it’s far easier to have your podcast stand out and gain listeners!2. Engaging & Convenient for Listeners
Podcasts require little effort to engage with, on the listener’s behalf.
Unlike written blog content, which has to be read, or even videos that require audiences to sit and watch. All a podcast listener has to do is hit play and listen.
It’s the perfect content type for multi-tasking, which most of us are doing on a constant basis anyways.
If content is too demanding of time or attention, it’s hard for audiences to want to engage.3. Another Mobile-Friendly Content Option
Part of the low-effort, multi-tasking richness of podcasts is due to how mobile-friendly this medium is.
As I mentioned, I enjoy listening to my favorite podcasts during my commute, through my smartphone. And, I’m not alone; 69% of podcast listeners are on their mobile devices.
As we increasingly choose mobile devices over other technologies, adopting mobile-friendly content types is important.
It’s easy for podcast listeners to consume this content while they are on the move, whether at the gym, in the car, relaxing at home, or elsewhere.4. Growing in Popularity
The number of podcast listeners is growing.
There were 48 million weekly podcast listeners in 2023, according to Statista data. This audience is expected to grow to 115 million by 2023.
This is a big turning point for podcasts and an important time period for marketers looking to begin creating a podcast.
Now is the time to get started, since more businesses are going to begin creating this content and developing their audiences.
Getting into the podcast game now will allow you to beat the crowd and begin developing an audience before the heavier competition sets in.5. Podcast Audiences Are Extremely Loyal
Developing a podcast audience ahead of the competition is incredibly important because listeners are loyal to their favorite programs.
They establish relationships with the host(s) and want to check back each time there is a new podcast episode.
If you can establish a strong audience before the podcast boom, it will be hard for your competitors to attract those listeners to their own shows.
This loyalty also translates to other marketing channels. For example, podcast listeners are 20% more likely to connect with a brand on social media.
When the podcast is over, audiences will turn to channels like social media to continue the conversations and interact with each other and your business.6. Interactive Options for the Audience
One of the reasons that podcasts are so engaging and foster such loyal audiences is because they are very interactive.
Hosts can create audience polls, answer questions, and take “calls,” just like a traditional radio show. This helps pull listeners into the show and makes consuming the content feel more like an interactive experience, rather than simply listening to audio.
This interactivity helps solidify that connection with audiences. Very few content types offer this level of brand-customer interaction.
You can also interview other experts in your industry, which helps build your professional network and establishes credibility in your field.7. Scalable Costs for the Creators
In terms of creation costs, podcasts are scalable. Like photo and video content, the cost to create is really dependent on quality.
Smartphones shoot exceptional videos and photos, but if you want to raise that content to the next level, then you need to invest in more expensive equipment.
The same is true for podcasts. You can capture good audio with relatively cheap equipment bought on Amazon. However, the quality may not be up to par with what audiences are used to from long-established podcasts.
As you develop your audience, you may decide to increase your podcast budget to include more expensive equipment. Luckily, this is totally controllable; you can scale costs to meet the demands of your audience.8. Establishing Thought Leadership
Aside from offering customers value, one of the primary reasons that we develop content is to establish credibility and a reputation as a thought leader in the market.
This is why informative articles, case studies, guides and all manner of other well-research content assets are so valuable.
They help showcase to audiences that you provide helpful information and solutions to their questions and problems.
Podcasts are very impactful at growing this reputation as a credible, expert source because audiences get to hear it right from your own mouth.
If you’re passionate and invested in what you do, as most business owners and marketers are, then it should be no problem conveying these emotions across in a podcast.
Audiences will hear it in your voice!9. Disposable Income Demographics
The average listener earns around $10,000 more than the average U.S. consumer, according to a 2024 report on podcast consumers. And, 15% of listeners earn over $150,000.
These individuals are also more likely to be college-educated than the typical consumer, as well. Thus, they are more open to absorbing new information, learning about complex ideas and purchasing decisions.10. Content Publishing Consistency
All of your blog posts and other content pieces should be scheduled, but audiences may not ever take notice, like they will with a podcast.
If your podcast airs on the same day each week (or same time each day), listeners will get used to the schedule. They’ll expect and anticipate the release of each podcast episode.
Not only does this help build buzz surrounding your show, but it also guarantees that your business’ name stays on the minds of audiences all week long. This does wonders for brand awareness,Conclusions
Podcasts bring a lot of benefits to a business’ posting strategy.
Some of these benefits, however, are dwindling, as these online, radio-like shows become more popular. The competition for podcast audiences is heating up.
If you’ve ever thought about beginning to record a weekly, or even monthly, podcast for your customer to listen to, now is the time to start!
You’ll be able to establish that loyal audience, before your competitors enter the podcasting space.
Music has been part of Apple’s soul since the launch of the iPod almost 16 years ago. Launched with the slogan ‘a thousand songs in your pocket,’ it’s no exaggeration to say that the device transformed the way we listen to music. It also transformed Apple into a major mobile device manufacturer, and laid the ground work for the iPhone.
Fast-forward to today, and Apple still places a huge emphasis on music. Its largest ever acquisition was the $3B it paid to buy Beats in 2014. The Beats Music service became Apple Music, a streaming service which has grown to 30M paid subscribers.
Apple’s move into exclusive video content also has a strong emphasis on music documentaries.
But there’s still one odd omission from the company’s music offerings …
Sure, you can rip CDs into lossless formats, and that’s the solution most audiophiles adopt when they want to have their music collection available in iTunes, but the last MacBook with an optical drive was the non-Retina MacBook Pro, last updated in 2012. Apple discontinued sales of the 15-inch in 2013, and the 13-inch last year. You can still buy an external drive, but Apple’s view is clearly that this is outdated tech. If we buy music at all – rather than stream it – Apple wants us to download it.
Lossless audio of course involves large file sizes, which was a good reason not to do it back in the early days of iTunes when we were all on slow connections. But that’s not a good argument against it today.
Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) typically gets an album down to around 400MB, and that’s not an unreasonable amount of data to download on the kind of broadband connections many of us have today. Given that we’re not downloading albums every day, I’d say that’s eminently viable.
And I think everyone would benefit from the option: consumers, music labels, musicians and Apple.
Lossless file formats are the only way we can enjoy music at its full quality. Now, you can argue that the AAC 256Kbps format currently used by iTunes is very good, and I’ll agree with you. You can argue that the difference between that and ALAC wouldn’t make much difference when listening to music on the move on a mobile device, and I’ll agree with that too. But play both on a decent hifi system in a quiet room at home, and I don’t think you have to be an audiophile to hear the difference.
But even if you disagree, I think it doesn’t matter. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from the early days of mp3 music, it’s that technology improves, storage gets cheaper and what sounded acceptable five years or ten years ago sounds horrible today. What I want isn’t something that sounds good today, it’s something that will always sound good.
The only way we can guarantee that is to have a lossless copy in the first place. Maybe we’ll never listen to it in that format, maybe we’ll just output it to AAC 256 and call it good. But in five years’ time, when iPhones have 2TB of storage and we’re using a much better lossy format, we’ll be able to output to that. Lossless is future-proof; whatever today’s flavor of the month might be, isn’t.
Music labels & musicians
Streaming generates tiny amounts of income. Apple Music is more generous than Spotify and YouTube, but it still only pays $0.00735 per stream – and that amount is then split between the label, the musician and the songwriter. Unless you’re a big artist, you’re not going to pay many bills from streaming.
Given the right marketing, and presenting people with a choice between an AAC album at say $11 and an ALAC one at say $20, I could see a profitable minority opting for the premium version – not dissimilar to those who opt for the top storage tier on an iOS device or max out a Mac.
Photos: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg; Squintyt4e; Apple
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PRESS RELEASE April 20, 2023
Major updates to Apple Podcasts make discovering and enjoying podcasts better than ever before
Cupertino, California Apple today unveiled Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, a global marketplace for listeners to discover premium subscriptions offered by their favorite creators alongside millions of free shows on Apple Podcasts.
Starting in May, listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can sign up for premium subscriptions that include a variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series. Listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent voices and premier studios, including Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, and QCODE, to leading media and entertainment brands, including NPR, the Los Angeles Times, The Athletic, Sony Music Entertainment, and many more.
“Fifteen years ago, Apple took podcasts mainstream, offering creators a premier, open platform to inform, entertain, and inspire hundreds of millions of listeners around the world,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “Today, Apple Podcasts is the best place for listeners to discover and enjoy millions of great shows, and we are proud to lead the next chapter of podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. We’re excited to introduce this powerful new platform to creators around the world, and we can’t wait to hear what they make with it.”
Also next month, listeners will be able to discover channels, which are groups of shows curated by creators with unique titles, descriptions, and artwork. Just as they can with shows, listeners will be able to browse free channels, which make it easy to find more shows from their favorite creators, as well as paid channels and channels that provide additional benefits for subscribers.Creators Share Their Enthusiasm for the Next Chapter of Podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions
Podcasts have made it possible for creators to share their voices with listeners around the world. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions takes this unique relationship to the next level by offering creators a way to tighten the bond with their most engaged listeners:
Martina Abrahams Ilunga, CEO and chief editor of You Had Me at Black: “As an independent show that started five years ago, we’ve always been powered by our community. And our community is hungry for more! More stories and more episodes — sooner. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions empowers us to deliver that. With our subscription, listeners can hear new seasons and episodes first, before anyone else, while also supporting our growth and sustainability.”
Donald Albright, president and co-founder of Tenderfoot TV: “With TenderfootPlus+, we’re able to provide our listening community with even more of what they want — exclusive, early-access, and ad-free listening for our tentpole titles and new shows. Launching this subscription on Apple Podcasts, where the large majority of our listeners engages with us each week, makes it easy for the Tenderfoot audience to seamlessly upgrade to the best experience.”
Alex Mather, founder and CEO of The Athletic: “Our team loves bringing deeply immersive storytelling to maniacal sports fans around the world, and our listeners tune in to over a million hours of sports news, analysis, and storytelling each week. We know true sports fans are always looking for stories about their clubs and teams told through a new lens, and with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, we can deliver even more great stories in an all-new way, ad free, directly through Apple Podcasts.”
Podcasts have also become an important way to understand what’s happening in the world. Listeners turn to podcasts to make sense of major moments in news and culture. With Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, listeners gain a simple and intuitive way to support quality programming from newspapers, magazines, digital publishers, local radio stations, and more, directly from Apple Podcasts:
John F. Lansing, president and CEO of NPR: “Apple has been a valued partner to our podcasting work since it all started back in 2005, and we support their plan to enable a new revenue source for content creators on their platform. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will provide another opportunity for listeners to support their favorite podcasters at NPR and our Member stations in our mission to create a more informed public.”
Chris Argentieri, president and chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Times: “Subscriptions have always been an important source of support for our business, and podcasting has established itself as a powerful medium for large audiences to engage with our brand of journalism and storytelling. The ability to marry the two with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will allow us to expand our audio offerings to cover new formats, stories, communities, and more.”
Stefan Ottlitz, co-CEO and head of Product for Der Spiegel, one of the top news publishers in Germany: “Audio is a uniquely powerful medium that provides Der Spiegel an opportunity to deeply engage audiences so they can form a meaningful relationship with our brand. We’re pleased to see this significant investment in podcasting from Apple, which will open doors to new, long-term revenue opportunities that will further empower us to pursue even more ambitious independent audio journalism.”
With Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, the freedom to develop and enjoy entirely new audio storytelling experiences will redefine podcasting in ways that are surprising and gratifying for creators and listeners alike:
Dennis Kooker, president of Global Digital Business and US Sales at Sony Music Entertainment: “Apple is putting creators first with their approach to the subscription model. Offering subscriptions provides new flexibility and options for consumers, and is an important addition to helping creators better monetize their works. All of this will lead to more investment and even better shows for podcast fans.”
Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg, co-founders of Pushkin Industries:“Podcasting totally changed my approach to storytelling, and Apple Podcasts Subscriptions is a mind shift,” said Gladwell, who also hosts Revisionist History. “Our producers and I have so many ideas that don’t fit into existing models but will now have an outlet. This is a big step forward in the evolution of the audio content business, and we are excited about it.” Added Weisberg, “Podcasting exists, and thrives, today because of Apple. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will help us connect more deeply with our listeners and build a healthy business. We strongly believe that paid subscriptions are what independent creators like us need to succeed and thrive over the long term, and we’re thrilled that Apple is taking the lead.”
This is part one of our look at the why and how of using a content management system (CMS) with a digital signage network. Read part two for insights into how to choose the best CMS for your business’ display strategy.
Although it’s often possible to run a digital display from a USB drive, a network with any sophistication, complexity or scale needs proper planning and a management system that enables businesses full control of their content. An effective content management system (CMS) allows end users and solution providers to develop, organize, target, schedule and distribute content more quickly and easily, and then monitor and manage the displays that share this content.
If you only have one or two screens in a single location, running a small set of files over and over with rare changes, then looping playback from a standard USB drive might be sufficient. But most end users need to do far more with their screens — and that requires software that’s tailored to the task.Content
Digital signage CMS platforms, like Samsung’s MagicINFO, provide a range of tools and capabilities. At a minimum, they provide file upload capabilities and the option to store and review images and videos. Many of the well-established or more sophisticated platforms on the market will have content authoring tools, which allow users to build media from scratch or use predesigned, preloaded templates to fast-track their designs. These tools are sometimes included in the CMS, or they may be sold as add-ons.Digital signage content management made easy
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Some platforms feature content stores that include templates based on predesigned functionality, such as a building directory or digital menu system. These stores may also be tied into third-party tools such as subscription content feeds from providers. Users subscribe to auto-delivered feeds that are regularly updated with materials such as news, weather and sports scores.
Many CMS platforms now use HTML5, the latest web presentation technology, to automatically update content, often based on specified data triggers. Practically speaking, this means that on-screen information — numbers, charts and images — can also automatically update in real time, without operator intervention, because they’re tied to a data repository.
HTML5 supports motion graphics and video, and it can be a huge cost-cutter and timesaver because on-screen changes are dynamic and not contingent on someone having the skills or the time to make changes manually.Management
The complexity of a digital signage network is tied to volume and scale, generally determined by how many pieces of content are in use, how often they’re updated, how many different locations and time zones the content is applied in and the uniqueness of programming per site.
There are other factors, but these four have a major impact on a signage network’s operating demands. A network of 1,000 media players and their screens can be relatively simple to manage if the same set of files plays at every location and they change infrequently.
But what if the use case is 1,000 bank branches in three time zones? What if the content varies based on the services each branch offers, the demographics of the surrounding area and the dominant languages used? A bank in a rural area may only need one language, but branches in more diverse environments may need messaging in multiple languages.
Organizing all of that manually would be a full-time job for one or several people, and subject to human error. But with the right CMS solution that uses data tags describing attributes and conditions, that scheduling is fast, accurate and largely automated.
Along with organizing, scheduling, targeting and distributing content, your display CMS should validate supplied material, like third-party videos that will play properly on screens, as well as archive old files and weed out expired ones that take up storage space.
Your management platform should also provide dashboard-style summary views of your displays’ performance, scheduling plans and anything else that helps operators maximize uptime.System
The system is the overall platform and the provided tools that keep it running, including these key aspects:
Remote management: The best CMS platforms have robust device monitoring tools that run computing routines to “watch” the media players and screens deployed across your network, and notify you when problems develop. These platforms come with online tools that automatically (or through easy operator intervention) remedy budding problems, and provide quick fixes that don’t require costly, time-consuming on-site service calls.
Network integrity: Is the platform secure against hacking and other cyberattacks? Screens and entire signage networks have been hacked before, causing service delays and data compromise. It’s crucial that your CMS solution meet the ISO standards for information security, which certify the highest level of security in the digital signage industry worldwide.
Redundancy: Most cloud-based digital signage platforms use third-party network services to host and run their systems. This grants high availability to end users and offers them peace of mind that there are backups for databases and stored files, as well as power and bandwidth. End users should check that potential CMS providers have layers of redundancy in place for when things go wrong. In most cases, the disruption will happen without anyone noticing. But if your CMS provider has cut corners, when it goes down, so will sales.
The benefits of an effective display CMS are clear. So how should your business go about selecting the right one for your specific needs? Read part two to find out.
See what makes Samsung’s MagicINFO the leading-edge digital signage platform that elevates the power of displays to enhance your business. When you’re ready to get started with your CMS, be sure to download this free guide to hit the ground running.
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