The Best Podcast Apps for Smartphone, Smart Speakers, Apple Watch, and More
Updated September 28, 2020 | Posted October 29, 2018 | Jon Street
With the current surge in popularity around podcasting it’s important that podcasters and podcast listeners be given the tools needed to make sure the process is as smooth and simple as possible from start to finish.
Part of the process that causes a lot of anxiety and frustration especially for podcasters is the distribution process, or getting their podcasts out for the world to hear. The 2 main components to this process are the hosting setup and the directory set up.
While we’ve already discussed the first part of the process, setting up the podcast hosting platform, there’s still something that needs to be said about the final phase of the distribution…getting it out onto the directories for people to hear. The main podcast directories require that you manually submit your RSS feed from your hosting platform to the directory. After this one-time setup they will update your content daily for your listeners.
A podcast hosting platform stores and serves your podcast audio as an RSS feed. A podcast directory is a podcast listening app (e.g. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher) where your audience can find your podcast, download and listen, subscribe, rate and review. Podcast directories receive RSS feeds (from the hosting platforms) submitted one-time by creators when they start their podcast.
Part of what makes hosting platforms and directories confusing is that some companies, like Libsyn and Podbean offer both services, helping both creators and listeners in serving up content and playing back content.
Now that we’ve talked about what a podcast directory is, and how it differs from a podcast hosting platform, the question still remains about which directories are best, why they are the best, why they are the most popular…which ones you need to be on as a podcaster, and where you need to turn as a podcast listener.
To help answer this list of questions we are offering you a review of the best podcast directories to consider. While we will cover most of the better known podcast directories, we will offer some additional options for you to consider for your podcasting experience as well.
Overview: Without a doubt, iTunes has been the most popular directory for podcasters to date. While Apple’s app solution for podcast listening has been branded as Apple Podcasts, the content is available at the touch of a thumb. Like nearly everything that Apple offers to the world, it is a simple, clean and easy-to-use solution to the podcaster looking to make their content public. Truth be told, because of the overwhelming impact of Apple’s imprint in our computing and digital-connectedness today, the majority of your listens will come from Apple (whether it’s through the Apple Podcasts app or straight from the iTunes platform on your device). Statistics have shown (and our experience has verified) that as of right now 70-80% of your listeners will come from this platform alone, so it’s important to make sure you are live and relevant in Apple to have a successful podcast that is available to the world.
Unique Features: Aside from a simple, clean and easy to navigate design, Apple offers podcasters the highly coveted opportunity to make it into their Top Charts and New & Noteworthy, which is basically gold to new podcasts looking to make a real impact in the world. Making it in these categories means you have had great initial success, worthy of a little practical love from Apple, putting you on their front pages. For more information on having the best shot at getting your podcast in these spots, check out our previous blog about it here. They are also in the beta version of their analytics tool through the Podcast Connect page. While the feedback they are offering currently is somewhat minimal, the expectation is for them to rollout a more robust presentation of your analytics in the near future to help you better know where you stand with your audience.
Overview: By now everyone has probably used (or at least heard of) Spotify. Spotify burst onto the scene in 2006 when streaming and online music was beginning to rise in its popularity. They have become the go-to source for streaming your favorite music for free. Spotify allows you to listen to some exclusive music that is not immediately available (or available at all) through other platforms.
Because of this as well as its simple, user-friendly design and the ability to follow and create playlists for your favorite songs, albums and artists, people are relying heavily on Spotify to make listening to music simple. While this doesn’t speak to the podcasting world, it does set the stage for why it is becoming so popular for podcasts. With estimates of upwards of 83 million paying listeners alone in 2018, it just makes sense for Spotify to step into the podcast space to become another solution for steaming digital audio content.
Right now there is no option for direct submission of your RSS feed to Spotify, rather you have to use the integrated feature in your hosting platform to get on Spotify. Also, you currently need to have 5 episodes live to be submitted to Spotify, two hurdles many hope will be alleviated moving forward.
Unique Features: Aside from offering you a more diverse range of content and the ability to listen to all your audio through one clean, simple interface, Spotify offers listeners the prototypical myriad of opportunities to look through Genres and Editor’s Choice options to keep up to date with current top podcasts.
Also, the forthcoming Spotify For Podcasters (currently in beta) is reportedly allowing podcasters more access to analytics, engagement with their audience and a more streamlined submission process. Stay tuned for more on these great features!
Overview: For a long time Google was utilizing their Google Play Music platform to house and deliver popular podcasts to podcast fans. But after some poking and prodding (and probably a realization on what opportunities they were missing out on), they released their Google Podcast app earlier this year that is tailored for Android and mobile users. While the new “app” is really just a new, downloadable, one-touch icon to take users to the already existing platform being utilized, the truth is it’s still a simple solution to alleviate the accessibility frustration Android users had been facing. And truth be told, it’s a good thing that Google listened. As some have highlighted, “In spite of Apple devices being responsible for about 60% of podcast downloads, Apple has a less than 20% share of the global smartphone market. Android has well over 80%. And for the first time, Android devices have a proper in-built podcast experience.” So it may perhaps seem a little behind the times, but Google knows what it’s doing…It’s preparing for a potential industry domination.
Unique Features: Like most things Google puts its hand to, they are not only looking to be a contender, but a leader in the podcast space. Seemingly trite features like tracking top podcasts, category-leaders and features of this nature are less important to Google when compared to finding ways to make podcast listening a better experience. Translation? There is talk that Google is looking to improve podcasting through a more effective integration with Google Assistant, offering closed-caption options for podcast listening as well as potential incentives to groups currently underrepresented in podcasting. The kicker for all of this is Google is also looking to more heavily rely on AI to make the user experience more approachable. Podcasting will never be the same
Overview: While the Apple crew currently has arguably the lion’s share of the podcast listenership through their platforms, the reality is not everyone has an Apple product or will access podcasts through the Apple-based portal. This is where the other directories come in to play. Whether designed for Android users or just as another alternative to Apple Podcasts, there are multiple key players who are vying for the attention of the non-Mac world, with Stitcher being a major contender. Stitcher positions itself as, “The easiest way to listen to podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, smart speaker — and even in your car. For free.” Additionally, they boast that, “Bonus and ad-free content available with Stitcher Premium.” Stitcher gives you access to over 100,000 podcasts to listen to at the tap of a finger while on the go, or in the comfort of your own home. The Stitcher crew offers you some great listening features like the ability to create a favorites playlist as well as recommendations for other podcasts that will appeal to you based on your listening history.
Unique Features: Similar to Apple, Stitcher offers podcasters some performance love through their creation of performing lists like their Top 100 Shows, their Top Movers and also their Most Shared podcasts which are their weekly rankings of top performers in these categories.
Overview: TuneIn is another offering as an alternative to Apple IOS which allows Android and non-Apple users the ability to listen to their favorite podcasts on the go. Historically, TuneIn has been a large contender in the podcast consumption space, but due to the surge of other major players, it seems their popularity is beginning to decline in some measure. Truth be told, they make listening easy and simple, but there are few unique or TuneIn-specific features that make them a highly coveted solution for listening. While their access to top podcasts is solid, there is little to write home about by way of features or specialties you could not find elsewhere.
Unique Features: Their major contribution as a directory is their integration with a lot of current technologies. As they tout, TuneIn is available on hundreds of home, car, and portable devices, and works with Alexa and Google Home, which makes listening a breeze. They also offer a First Play feature which offers early access to some of your favorite podcasts. This may be a nice feature for podcasters looking for a way to offer exclusive content to their listeners before going public to the rest of podcastdom. Additionally, upgrading from the free account to Premium allows you to have access to live sports coverage as well as ad-free listening.
Overview: It’s no doubt that EVERYONE loves YouTube and uses it…probably daily. What’s not to love? They have everything from DIY instructional videos and tutorials to streaming music and now, even livestreaming television and video entertainment. While it might seem strange to think of YouTube as a platform for distributing your podcast, the truth is people are looking at YouTube in a new light with the rise in podcastings’ popularity.
Yes, it is primarily seen as a video platform, but people are seeing the incredible value of leaning into YouTube for podcast distribution because of how highly video ranks, especially for SEO purposes. So how is this done? Well, there a few methods for utilizing YouTube for your podcast.
One option is to post a recorded video version of your podcast content as a visual platform for your episodes. The alternative is to pull the audio from your podcast episodes and export it as an mp4 or other video file in a video editor to have it play over a stagnant or transitional image. Either way, YouTube is gaining great traction with podcasters by offering yet another easy and already highly popular platform for people to consume their content through.
Unique Features: You’re likely familiar with YouTube, so there’s little to be said by way of uncovering unique features. And since it’s not designated as a podcast directory per se, the features it offers may not be all that appealing to podcasters outside of the typical things it offers to all of its users. That being said the ability to have comments, likes, shares and subscribers for your content (in combination with it simply being another highly-utilized platform for your content to engage people through) prove to be helpful for your overall online presence and SEO goals.
Overview: RadioPublic is another directory that has risen to the top for podcasters around the globe. As they note, “RadioPublic is a podcast startup, helping podcasters build their business and listeners discover great stories. RadioPublic is a Public Benefit Corporation, which means that in addition to our ambition to create a successful venture we have a mission to help benefit society that is core to our values, our business, and our strategy.” While most directories are merely looking to enable listeners to access podcast content more conveniently, RadioPublic is additionally focused more on enabling the podcaster to get what they are looking for out of their podcasting experience. “We help listeners discover, engage with, and financially reward podcast makers—you.” The realities of monetization through podcasting is becoming a real motivator for new podcasters, so if you are looking for a platform to broadcast your content as well as kickstart and streamline your monetization opportunities, RadioPublic may well be worthy of your consideration.
Unique Features: While they offer the usual search directory and embed players, the real offering they bring to the table is through monetization opportunities. Through features like the Paid Listens Program, Affinity Messaging, direct financial support from listeners, customized membership options for your listeners and advertisements, you’re one step closer to getting paid for your podcasting efforts. Who wouldn’t love that!?
Overview: Another podcast directory that is worthy of your consideration is PodBean. While PodBean is most well known as a podcast hosting platform, the truth is that it also functions like a directory for people to search, find and consume your content. While you will be required to use PodBean as your hosting platform to reap the benefits of the directory features, the pros may well outweigh any cons you would have. By offering unlimited storage and bandwidth as well as a website builder feature, they are rising to the top as a reliable solution for podcasters looking to get heir podcast content accessible in the best way possible.
Unique Features: Again, PodBean functions as a hybrid of hosting and directory platforms, so there are many things that make them unique. As their website touts you can, “Automatically get listed in the Podbean directory and podcast app, with special promotional opportunities. Share your podcast to social networks automatically. Integrate with Facebook and Twitter.” Having the ability to get your podcast on the landing page of any search portal is a win-win. These are real advantages to the podcasts they host because they offer greater exposure in some real ways that other traditional hosting platforms aren’t. If you’re interested in trying them out, be sure to use the Resonate Recordings affiliate link for a special offer of 1 free month of hosting.
Overview: With an expanding number of podcast directories to choose from it’s becoming more challenging for podcast listeners to know which ones to choose between, especially when each seem to offer variations of the same features. This means that the directories must begin to find ways to distinguish themselves as a refreshing take on the same thing others are offering. Understanding this need, Castbox has stepped into the podcast world offering something different that will appeal to podcast listeners worldwide. Awarded the Google Play Android Excellence App of 2017 and Google Play Best App of 2017 as well as flexing an iOS App Store 5-Star Average User Rating, Castbox is doing big things for podcasts as a directory that is packing a serious punch.
Unique Features: What makes this directory so unique is how it has optimized SEO and AI to make podcasts more relevant to what listeners want. As they note, “Castbox uses advanced artificial intelligence to automatically transcribe and index every podcast within our network. That means you can search for anything you like—from politics to polka—and we’ll serve you up a relevant episode.” For podcasters this means your listeners will be able to more appropriately find your content when searching for what appeals to them. Additionally Castbox offers a suite of original content and pre-crafted playlists for listeners to enjoy.
Overview: Again, in a world of copycats and been there, done that type offerings, podcast directories are hard-pressed to find ways of making themselves relevant, especially as podcasts continue to gain traction and more players step into the arena. But like most of the others already mentioned, Pocket Casts has done a great job of offering fresh options for podcast listeners (and podcasters) who are looking for something different. They offer over 300,000 unique shows as well as Pocket Casts Discover which lets you find new and popular podcasts as well as search option by author, title and feed.
Unique Features: For unique features, Pocket Casts is focused on helping listeners consume as much content as possible with minimal distractions. With features like Playback Speed which changes the play speed from anywhere between 0.5 to 3x, you can power through long episodes in less time. They also offer Trim Silence which cuts silences from episodes so you can finish them faster which saves you hours of playback time, without changing the natural pace of episodes. They also have integrated Volume Boost which turns up the volume of episodes, without changing your device volume and reduces background noise, so your favorites sound better than ever and your podcast listening experience can be truly unique. And while all these are great features to offer, they could simply be alleviated by entrusting your audio to someone who can offer a better post-production process. They also offer filter options to organize and categorize the content as well as queue features to get yourself all lined up for the next listen.
Overview: Another platform worthy of a review is Podchaser. While Podchaser is not a directory where you will either post your content as a podcaster, or consume the content as a listener, it offers a unique service to podcasts that nobody is really offering. Dubbed as the IMDB of podcasts, Podchaser is the ultimate podcast database that lets you keep up to date with your favorite podcasts, rate and review individual episodes and podcasts, as well as create curated lists of podcasts and join a growing community of podcast enthusiasts.
They note that, “We’re building Podchaser to be your go-to podcast database and discovery tool. Our goal is to make it easy for you to provide feedback about the podcasts you love and easily discover podcasts you’ll soon love.” They are currently in beta and are welcoming feedback on any features or bugs that need improving as they look to roll out additional features in the months ahead. Features like the ability to follow and review podcasters, interacting with other users, browsing user profiles and claiming podcast pages are all on the docket for future improvements. Plus, they’re Louisville natives like the Resonate team, so what’s not to love!?
Unique Features: Even in beta, Podchaser lets you explore categories, see trending episodes, see currently top-charting podcasts, and see curated lists of podcasts from other users, as well as allows podcasters and content creators to claim their content and create their own profile for fans to discover more about them and their show(s). “Creator profiles are public pages that allow listeners to follow, share, and learn about the podcast creators who build the podcasts they love. Podcasters, producers, guests and anyone else involved in the podcast creation process can have a Creator Profile and take credit for their hard work. Register to be notified when they launch.” As with IMDB, Podchaser lets people discover more about the people behind the show, learn more about the show in general, as well as reveals details about individual episodes as well as the ability to rate and review each; something very valuable for podcasters looking to get more feedback about their work.
Overview: Breaker is proud to call themselves “The Social Podcast App.” And the title is well deserved. Their “Activity” page offers intuitive ways to find your own current friends and also to connect to new “recommended tastemakers.” Their “Profile” page feels like a social media app, but the rest of the app is just a well-designed podcast directory, including a new-episodes page, library, search, and activity page.
Honorable Mentions for Great Community Feature
Overview: Castro was ostensibly built to combat the clutter and chaos for people like me who subscribe to far more shows than they can actually consume.
When you open the app, it displays the “New” page, where new episodes from your subscribed shows land. From there, you either add it to your queue or archive it, which allows you to easily stay at “inbox zero.”
The queue, new episode inbox, library, and discover page are all crisp and clean. Each page has lots of white space, smooth fonts and buttons, and high-resolution podcast artwork. Moreover, the episode descriptions are well laid out and easy to access by clicking on the podcast thumbnail on the bottom right of the screen.
Lastly, the media player layout features a clean gradient dynamic to the episode artwork, with easy-to-use buttons and simple access to the audio-enhancing features.
Honorable Mentions for Great Design:
Overview: Wilson is not a traditional podcasting directory to browse all your favorite shows. It’s more like a boutique podcast curation discovery tool. The interface is modern, dramatic, and moody, and feels like the magazine that it is.
Their website’s homepage boasts “No onboarding, no registration, no algorithms.”
When you open up the app, the homepage displays the previous weeks’ curation playlists and shows who the curator was. Some of the playlists are curated by Wilson’s team, and others are curated by prominent tastemakers.
Honorable Mentions for Great Curation Tools:
The Podcast App (iOS only)
Overview: For the hyper-productive among us, or those simply looking to cut out all of that boring dead space in one of their favorite shows, overcast offers “Smart Speed,” an audio feature which removes the dead silence between the talking.
In addition, if your favorite podcast is too quiet or has a lot of background noise, you can use their “Voice Boost” feature to balance out and boost the audio.
Overview: Entale is the multi-media podcasting app. It’s the only podcasting app (that I can find) that offers an accompanying visual experience. On Entale, podcasts can have dynamic show notes replete with high-quality photos, outbound links so you can see what they are talking about in the moment, and additional text and notes.
But the best feature of Entale is that it chops podcast episodes into “Chapters,” including any ad spots, and the natural breaks in the conversation. This makes longer podcast episodes more followable and provides an easy way to skip ahead to the section you are actually interested in.
The interface is beautiful, the multi-media aspect is highly engaging, and their discovery page even offers suggestions of the most popular chapters, rather than just showing the most popular podcasts.
Again, there are many other additional directory options to post your content to and to consume content from. With new ones popping up regularly, there will no doubt be additional directories you will want to review in the months ahead.
We recognize that understanding the more technical side of podcasting can be a challenge and that it can be a headache as a podcaster thinking about getting your podcast available in these different directories. The Resonate team can help with that.
Feel free to email or schedule a call with a Resonate team member to learn more about the services we offer and how we can help ensure you understand the submission process and how to get your podcast live in the directories of your choice.
As the Operations Manager at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team and ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon and his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida and now live in Simpsonville, KY.