To the Cloud: Podcasts

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All this talk about the cloud but there isn’t much that seems to work correctly at this point. It’s sad that I’m going to have to use iCloud so I can have something that will let me cleanly edit documents across my Apple products when Dropbox has served me well but is limited by what Apple lets it do.

It seems that music in the cloud is the popular topic recently, especially with Spotify finally launching in the US. I don’t see what the big deal is as it is not much different than a bunch of services that are already out there. I’ll have more on the topic soon as I spent a month with a Slacker trial and currently trying a rdio trial. No Spotify trial means rdio has a good shot at winning out. Again, more on that later.

All these music services have struggled to deal with the labels before than can do any innovating. Hmm, if there was only some sort of audio product where there wasn’t much worry about licenses. How about podcasts?

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who still listens to multiple podcasts across a couple of devices at the same time. I’m tied to iTunes to sort of keep things organized and sync’d. Evey that is tricky. iTunes podcast syncing was broken for months earlier this year and they didn’t seem to really care as it went a few updates without a fix. What I mean by broken: I’d listen to part of a podcast on my computer, then sync my iPhone and it would reset to the beginning of that podcast the next time I played it, instead of starting where I left off. For a while I had to be very careful of when I could sync and started listening to certain podcasts on certain devices. I looked for an alternative, but no luck.

The closest a product has come to being useful in a podcast management system was Odeo. It kept track of everything and would stream the podcast. I don’t think it remembered where you were in a podcast if you stopped listening in the middle and there was no downloading, so it wasn’t good for mobile. If you haven’t heard of Odeo, you might want to read up on your internet history as Twitter was dreamed up by the team while working at Odeo.

So what do I want and how does this so-called cloud work?

  • Podcasts streamed or downloaded to devices
  • Podcast management – subscriptions, new episodes, what has been listened to, etc. all kept track of
  • Syncing – Which podcats need to be downloaded and where you left off listening to each episode.

That’s it. And the podcast hosts handle almost all the bandwidth because they freely distribute. All this cloud has to handle is all the status information. Podcasts don’t even need to be tied to music, so something could easily be developed outside of iTunes. Really all that’s needed are mobile apps because the desktop could be just a web site with streaming at the start. This even solves a problem I had considered too much to hope for: syncing between desktops. I have my own computer but then another computer at work. When I’m at work, I will just listen to podcats on my iPhone because who knows when something will pop up and leave me in the middle of a podcast.

Audiobooks and paid podcasts could easily follow a similar model. Audiobooks are even more crucial when it comes to remembering the position in the book. I can only assume Audible has not come out with their own app because they make too much off of iTunes.

This really doesn’t seem that hard. If I was solid on iOS development and had a few free days, I feel like this could be quickly dealt with.

Oh, and as for making money. You have a podcast directory like iTunes. Again, the hosts do most of the work setting up their accounts. Then you just have podcasters looking for attention to advertise on the site.

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