Google’s journey into podcasting has always been a bit of a weird one. First, there was Google Listen, which they killed off in 2012 and replaced with Google Play Music Podcasts. Then, they released their first dedicated native podcast-listening app, Google Podcasts, in 2018.
But they didn’t really launch it.
Google Podcasts was preinstalled on Android devices, but only accessible through Google Search. You could download the app, but only if you proactively searched for it in the Chrome Store; it didn’t appear automatically as an icon on Android devices. So you could say Google has never really shouted about being in the podcasting game.
So why would Google choose to discontinue Google Podcasts (if they are doing that), and at a time when other tech brands are racing to move into podcasting?
Signs Google Podcasts Could Be Phased Out
Rumours that Google could be phasing out its podcasting app have been floating around the community for a while.
Primarily, this is because the app hasn’t had any updates since 2021. And when Google stops improving a product or adding new features, this is normally a clear sign they don’t see it as lucrative anymore.
Google has always been happy to kill apps. Just think about Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Surveys… the list goes on. In fact, there’s even a Google Graveyard, Killed By Google, where you can go to mourn your favourite discontinued apps. RIP.
Earlier this week, our friends over at Podnews reported that Google Podcasts has now been removed from Google Search (for those using Google in English. It’s still available for now in German and Spanish).
As mentioned, it’s through Google Search that listeners use Google Podcasts if they don’t proactively download the app. You search for a podcast in Google, and a list of shows appear. Hit the play button and a Google Podcasts branded player would pop up.
This image from Podnews clearly illustrates the change:
It’s possible that removing this function from search pages may negatively impact shows’ numbers. Though, as Todd Cochrane argues on Blubrry’s Podcast Insider podcast, if these links had been getting clicks, “Google would’ve left it.”
Why Would Google Want to Exit Podcasting?
Our two cents here at The Podcast Host? They’re not exiting podcasting at all.
They’re just re-strategising – something that Google is very good at doing. With Google Podcasts, they were pretty late to the game in developing a native app. With so much existing competition, it was always going to be hard for them to become number one.
So, what’s likely to be happening here is that, with the sharp rise in demand for video podcast content, Google are going to focus all their attention somewhere else: YouTube.
In the last six months, we’ve seen YouTube launch a dedicated podcasts platform and roll out new podcasting features and improvements. Clearly, they’re investing a lot of energy in the platform. It’s likely their plan is to push all podcast-listener traffic towards YouTube instead of Google Podcasts, as that’s where they have the opportunity to really dominate the market.
There’s also a trend where many companies and commentators are announcing that the future of podcasting is video. Whilst this is arguable, at best, video undoubtedly has a big role to play. As YouTube is the video platform, it makes sense for Google to push all of its podcast traffic there. They may feel this gives them the ultimate USP.
Would Google Podcasts Be a Big Loss For the Podcast Community?
It may not be the best listening app on the market, but Google Podcasts has been a good thing for the podcasting industry. Bringing podcast plays directly into Google Searches has undoubtedly helped many podcasters reach new audiences.
But it’s true that the app itself doesn’t have any stand-out redeeming features. It just ‘works’. The fact that the app doesn’t support video as an option is also limiting compared to other apps, and there are various other features that the player lacks. For example, listeners can’t add podcasts to the platform using an RSS link, and you can’t automatically queue downloaded episodes to play. You need to add them manually.
What Podcast Creators Should Do Now to Prepare
Whether Google Podcasts is on the way out or not remains to be seen. As a podcast creator, though, this is actually a reminder of the major benefit of open podcasting – you’re not reliant on any one app or company.
If you’re a “YouTube influencer” or a “TikTok Superstar”, these platforms could, in theory, be taken away tomorrow. We only need to look at the Musk/Twitter fiasco to see that any app or platform is at the mercy of its owner.
But in podcasting, even Apple or Spotify could shut their doors, and your show would live on via its RSS feed and the many other places it was still available. Sure, this would be a major blow for podcasting, but listeners would move to one of the hundred different apps out there, and the medium would survive.
So in these situations, here are two key pieces of advice:
- Make your show available in as many different places as possible.
- Don’t sweat what you can’t control. If a company kills its app, so be it.
Podcasting is bigger than any single app or company, and the great news is that you’re firmly in control of your show’s reach and growth.