As a podcast enthusiast, I’m obsessed with the problem of podcast discovery. Simply put, finding interesting new podcast content is far more difficult and fractured than it should be. No single service has solved the discovery problem and many enthusiasts like me must cobble together a variety of tools to accomplish the task. The types of tools run the gamut: word of mouth recommendations, featured listings in podcast apps, directories, forums, blogs, newsletters, and more.
I’ve written two previous articles on the topic, Resources for Discovering New Podcasts (which looks a community, search, and blogs) and an article on Newsletters for Podcast Recommendations. Both articles identify a number of helpful resources, but I still find regularly working with so many disparate services cumbersome and messy. It doesn’t help that I currently use five different podcast clients on my phone; each one specializes in one feature that I can’t do without.
Will there ever be one app to rule them all? One app or service where I can discover, consume, and interact with podcast content à la YouTube or Kindle/Goodreads? If it does exist, I have yet to find it.
While I await podcast nirvana, there are positive developments on the horizon. In particular, I’ve been intrigued by three different services working to solve the problem: Podchaser, Podz, and Syncify. None has the definitive solution to the podcast discovery problem, but each is making progress in a distinct way.
Let’s take a look.
Podchaser isn’t a new service, it’s been around since 2016. However, recent news about the service led me back to give it a second look. Podchaser’s self-described goal is to create the IMDB for podcasts. From an informational standpoint, it definitely delivers.
Each podcast page in Podchasers database has a wealth of information: episodes, reviews, creator and host information, guest information, and category tags. In addition to recent episodes, users can view the best episodes as well (based on user ratings). There are helpful links to the official podcast page, RSS feed, social media, and related podcasts. Basic podcast information such as the program start date, publication frequency, average episode length, are also available.
Podchaser doesn’t offer a native mobile app, you must access it via web browser (it is mobile optimized though). While Podchaser’s forte is podcast information and ratings, users can listen to individual episodes via Podchaser. I don’t like listening to podcasts via their web player, but it’s nice to have the option to do so (especially if you want to audition a program before jumping over to your main podcast app).
Podchaser’s most compelling feature for discovery are its lists. Visitors can find lists of the podcasts and episodes by popularity. Numerous filters allow for fine-tuning these results by time period (e.g. this week, this month), genre, episode length, and more. In addition to popularity lists, Podchaser also features user-curated lists. These are great ways to discover interesting collections of podcasts. Some popular lists include podcasts about Ronald Reagan, coffee podcasts, and binge-worthy true crime.
Bottom line: Podchaser offers a wealth of information that can lead to discovery, but the podcast listener still needs to actively sift through that information.
Podz brings the TikTok experience to podcast users, and I mean that in the best way possible. When you fire up the app for the first time, Podz will ask you to indicate which podcast genres you enjoy (e.g. comedy, entrepreneurship, motivation, sports, and more) and indicate which podcasts you follow (e.g. Planet Money, The Ringer, etc.). Based on this information, Podz delivers a steady stream of short excerpts from single episodes related to your interests. If you’re not interest, you can swipe up and get a new excerpt from a different program. If you are interested, you can elect to listen to the episode in its entirety.
The overall experience is delightful. Instead of active discovery on the part of the end user—which is the norm—Podz delivers targeted content algorithmically. It’s a fun way to sample a wide range of content in a short time and stumble upon something interesting (StumbleUpon, now there’s an old-school web tool that Podz also reminds me of). It reminds me a bit of channel surfing cable TV. There’s a spontaneity and serendipity in the experience that many other discovery tools fail to capture.
Podz is relatively new, but in terms of ease of use and surprise-factor, it delivers. Moreover, there’s a level of polish to this app that you don’t always see in newly released products.
Bottom line: Listen to short excerpts from genres you like. Swipe to move on or pause and listen if your interest is piqued. Podz makes podcast discovery insanely simple.
Syncify’s spin on podcast listening is the social experience. Syncify aims to connect podcast enthusiasts with one another to share highlights, playlists, comments and even a simultaneous listening experience with one another. The app lets you check out other user playlists and discover new content through their subscriptions and listening activity. Users can also recommend episodes to one another and see what programs are trending with the overall community. I’ve been delighted to find a number of programs I normally wouldn’t have consumed via Syncify’s discovery tools. As Syncify’s community gets bigger, this recommendation network will only get better.
At present, the app is iOS only and still in beta, so it’s still a little rough around the edges. There are more pieces still needed and additional polish, but if they can keep iterating they may just solve the social discovery problem. Meanwhile, interested podcast enthusiasts can sign up to join the beta wait list.
Bottom line: Get inspired by what others are listening to or are recommending from a community of podcast enthusiasts.
There you have it. Three solutions, each quite different. Podchaser is an IMDB-style reference tool. Podz brings a TikTok-style experience to podcast discovery. And Syncify aims to inject more social into the listening experience.
I’ll be keeping my eye on all three in the hopes that one of these will crack the code and solve the vexing podcast discovery problem.
And heaven forbid that I have to permanently add all three to my already cumbersome discovery workflow...