Just hours ago, I had posted about Yahoo! getting ready to launch their new service, Yahoo! Podcasts (thanks to TechCrunch). It has now been released and it has proven to be as great as my hopes were. The site makes is very easy for someone that does not know what a podcast is to learn about it, how to find podcasts, and they even teach you the basics of publishing podcasts. The interface is nice and clean and browsing through the site, searching, and listening was very simple. Lets start by taking a look at the service.
Above is the main page. On the top, they provide a box for people that may not know what podcasting is and how to search and listen to them (you can hide this area). You can use your current Yahoo! account and if you don’t have one, it is very simple to signup and get going. You get a search bar on the top that allows for searching for either series, episodes, or both series and episodes. On the left they have a noteworthy and a “What we like this week” section along with a “Staffs picks” section. In the middle you can see what people like by popularity or rating. Lastly, on the right, you have the exploration column. They assign podcasts to categories that you can choose from and they even provide tagging. I find this really great because now people that aren’t as tech savvy as some of us can still easily navigate by categories. Not everyone is into folksonomy yet, so it is was a good choice to have categories as an alternate way of finding podcasts.
On the top navigation bar, Yahoo! Podcasts has two sections that are to help the community get started with the service and even how to publish your own podcasts. As you can see from the graphic above, they are quite open with the way they talk and it really does put me in the right mood while browsing the website. The “Getting Started” section has guides on what a podcast is, how to search for podcasts, and how you can listen to them. They suggest to first find a podcast you like on the web and then subscribe to the podcast. They also suggest their Yahoo! Music Engine or Apple iTunes to listen to the subscriptions that you make. In the “Publish a Podcast” section, they provide content on preparing for a podcast, how to record, and lastly how to publish the podcast. They suggest things like being in a closed quiet room and adding background music. Their recording guide goes over the usage of Audacity and Apples GarageBand. The guides that Yahoo! has provided should prove to be very helpful in expanding the podcasting community.
When searching podcasts, you can select to search by both series and episodes or either of the two. I like to use both because Yahoo! Podcasts will seperate the two when you perform a search giving series on the top and episodes right below them. In the search results area, you can see a rating of the podcast and how many subscribers there are. You then can click on the names for more details, subscribe, or listen the podcast. For the most part, the results seem relevant. It doesn’t appear to use any technology like Podscope, but it does find good results matching your keywords. I have also noticed that when a result does not have a tag, it will not show any. But when a result does have tags, it will show the tags each seperated by commas. They are also linked so you can switch search terms to the specific tag you clicked.
Going into the more details page of a result gives you a description about the podcast, a picture that goes along with it, number of episodes, the podcasts website and RSS feed, who the author is, and other information. You can see the current rating and then give a rating your self and while your at it, you can even give a review of the podcast. Around the middle of the page you will see a tag cloud that the series has been assigned along with an easy field that allows you to insert tags, each seperated by a comma. More towards the bottom of the page you get an overview of all the episodes that the series has had. When clicking on a series it will give you a bigger description and a field to add to the tag cloud for the episode. Back to the series page you can also see reviews that the podcast has received. Now, below the image for the series, there are two buttons. One that allows you to listen to the podcast and another that allows for subscription. First lets click on the listen button.
Above is a screenshot of the podcast player used when selecting the listen button. It is a simple interface that allows you to play and stop or go to the next or previous episode. It tells you where the cast is from, what the podcast is, and how you can view reviews or make a review or rating yourself. One thing that I did not notice in here was that in the exclusive podcast with John Furrier and Geoff Ralston, they mention that there are to be some fun things you can do with the podcasts like making it increase its speed. Geoff has said, “when you listen to a podcast on the web you can actually speed it up and listen to it a higher speed – if you want to jump through it to get to the content that you’re looking for.” I however had not seen this available yet. Maybe they are working on it?
Subscribing is very simple with Yahoo! Podcasts and you can tell that they really wanted to be open to what technology you are to use. They provide you with the RSS feed and you can subscribe using either Yahoo! Music Engine or Apple iTunes. I, being an iTunes user went straight to the subscribe with iTunes button and got started. At first, when not selecting a method of subscribing, it brings you to a page that you can select either the Music Engine or iTunes. But, once you choose one, supposedly you can’t get back to that page? Or at least not that I am aware of. I am also a happy user of the Music Engine and wanted to see how they have incorporated the podcasts with it. So, I clicked on subscribe again but it just assumes I am wanting to continue using iTunes. This is good, but I wanted to see how the Music Engine looked and could not find any page that I could reset or edit my settings or even a way to choose a file for the Music Engine instead. A problem? No. I am sure the average user would select the application of choice and stick to using that.
Yahoo! Podcasts has proven to be very useful in finding, learning, and listening to podcasts. The website is clearly very easy to use but also provides some more features for the more tech savvy, like tagging, where others may understand the categories more. I feel that this is a huge move for Yahoo! and will definitely make the podcasting community a larger. On top of all that, I really get a kick out of them saying, “What the heck is a podcast?” Great work, Yahoo! I now am a happy user of launch, the Music Engine, and now I am giving Yahoo! Podcasts a go.
Update: Thanks to Joe, in the comments, who has pointed out to me that you need to use Internet Explorer to view the Playback Speed effects, as seen below:
The playback option actually sounds surprisingly clear when setting it all the way up. I was expecting a little chipmunks/Mickey Mouse type voice, but it actually is pretty clear and understandable. It also looks great too.