We released Player FM 1.3 a few days ago and it includes a feature we hope will help you juggle your podcasts like a Pro. It’s the ability to select multiple episodes similar to the way GMail lets you select multiple emails.
Long-hold any episode and watch the action bar transform before your eyes:
In this mode, you can check as many episodes as you like, and you’ll see the quantity appear on the top-left. Feel free to swipe left and right as usual, to navigate among channels, as you can happily select episodes from different channels as part of a single operation.
Once multiple episodes have been selected, you can perform three possible actions: Share them; add them to your Play Later list; or mark them all as played. (Of course, the reverse actions are also available in the event you initially chose an episode that is already in a certain state.)
The selection mode replaces the old context menu which was revealed upon long-press. You can still perform the same operations in the same number of taps, but now you can do much more too. You’ll also notice new icons for Play Later (using a pinning metaphor) and Mark as Played (tick and play button).
To Inbox Zero and Beyond!
Okay, but some of you want to do more than select a handful of episodes … you want to select the whole lot and mark them as played. Inbox Zero for podcasts, as it were. As of today, that’s possible too — check out our 1.3.1 release, which should land on Play a few hours from now:
This is launched from the top-right overflow menu and applies to whichever channel you’re in. So to mark all episodes, simply launch it from Everything.
Slice and Dice
I hope these advanced features help you take control of your podcast collection, letting you save for later what matters to you and wipe out what doesn’t. If you’d like to see anything else here, please send suggestions to email@example.com or leave them at the Uservoice board. Thanks!
A huge benefit of podcasting is offline access, and Player FM launched with a powerful but simple “Auto-Download” feature to ensure offline access for your subscriptions. However, it’s easy to stumble on episodes that aren’t downloaded, either because they’re too old to be auto-downloaded, or they appear in another channel. So users naturally wanted a way to download any episode, and we delivered it last month via the Play Later feature.
To add an episode to Play Later, simply long-hold the play button. Or you can long-hold the episode title to reveal Play Later in the context menu. And on the episode detail screen, you’ll also see a “Play Later” button. Then, visit your Play Later list anytime from the main (channel selection) menu. As you can see below, episodes marked Play Later have a top-right triangle with clock icon.
So why not a simple “Download This” button? Three reasons.
“Download This” buttons have always been flawed, because when do you clean up all that you’ve downloaded? Your web browsers’ Downloads folder is probably piled up with miscellaneous scraps of files you forgot about long ago. This is worse on mobile, where space is limited. Now, Player FM already has a way to auto-delete played episodes, so it’s possible these episodes will be cleaned up. But how often do you finish listening to an episode? No, you’d have to periodically walk through all your downloads, each time making the hard decision to remove them by marking them as played.
With Play Later, the app simply holds on the latest 10 episodes you’ve added to the list. (Or zero, or 50 … you decide in Settings.) Played episodes will be automatically removed from the list, and episodes you didn’t get to will “fall off” the back of the list. They’ll still be present at the bottom of your Play Later list, but the download will be deleted to make room for the new episodes at the top. This way, you’ll always have a maximum storage requirement (e.g. about 500MB if you choose a limit of 10 episodes) and you won’t be on a collision course with your device’s limited storage.
A related reason is that Player FM itself works great for offline browsing. You could be on the train flipping through favorite channels and spot a few interesting shows. Just add them to Play Later and the app will sync everything up when you’re back online. If it was a simple Download This button, it would fail for lack of network connectivity and you’d have to remember them in your head. Ah, but what if the app had a way to directly queue up Downloads? There is — it’s called Play Later!
Finally, there’s our cloud-first approach. Just as subscriptions and favorite channels sync across devices, we plan the same for Play Later. We want it so you can see an episode anywhere, pin it down, and it will then be available for offline consumption on any device. For a cloud app, Play Later just makes more sense.
All that said, if you really do want to grab the raw MP3 and stick it in a folder somewhere, “Export to File System” is still present in the Episode Detail screen.
Some people wanted to see episodes from the top first. This lets you listen to episodes on your phone just before the auto-download fairy whisks them away in favour of fresh ones. And some shows do actually make more sense in chronological order, e.g. fiction series.
With the new sort feature, you can not only reverse order, but sort by duration in either direction as well. A quick way to find the show matching your workout or commute.
Advanced playback settings
As with other media apps, there’s now an option to pause when you remove headphones. We took this a step further, and the app will also resume when you put the headphones back. It’s actually a neat way to quickly pause and resume, e.g. when you get to the front of the line in a store. Resuming will only work if you have an active Player FM notification, if Player FM was the last app to control playback, and of course you must have the option turned on.
The other setting applies to lock-screen and Bluetooth. A new option lets you skip 30 seconds within the current track using next/previous controls, instead of switching episodes. If you’re not listening to Player FM on Bluetooth, I highly recommend it. Being wireless is much more convenient when you’re mobile. And no more heroic un-tangling efforts!
You’ll notice episode playlists have had a bit of a facelift. The progress bar is now thicker for episodes you’ve begun playing. We’ve kept it minimal for episodes you haven’t, because we like comparing episodes by length, but we don’t want the distraction of a thick bar for all episodes. Episodes you’ve finished playing are now faded. Remember, you can also hide these altogether from the overflow menu; and you can manually mark any episode as played anytime. As always, the current episode is shown in red.
With the release of version 1.2, Player FM for Android is now friendly on devices of all sizes, just like the Player FM website. And the release comes hand-in-hand with the much-requested ability to download older episodes. These two features work great together, as tablet mode is an ideal way to flip through episodes for later listening. Even when you’re offline.
Here’s a summary of these new features, as well as a roundup of other recent updates.
Player FM has been called “Flipboard for podcasts” by some, as it makes it easy to kick back and browse through podcasts. You can swipe left and right to explore at any level (channels, series, episodes, catalogues. And full episode descriptions are retained when you’re offline.
Here’s a look at the main screen on the big screen … 4+ million delicious Nexus 10′s pixels.
It’s fun to see all of a producer’s recent productions on one screen:
Episode mode is a quick popup:
With the new Nexus 7 out, mid-range tablets were not forgotten either. Here’s the N7 in portrait mode:
Existing users won’t see it, but the signup page and product tour got some attention too:
(Tip of the chapeau to Cinemur for the classic login button inspiration.)
Play Later is available on all form factors, from phones to tablets. It’s your personal playlist or queue which you can add shows to any time. By default, the most recent 10 episodes are always sync’d, but you can update that in settings. It isn’t yet cloud-sync’d, but be sure it’s on the roadmap.
To mark an episode for Play Later, you can tap Play Later from the episode’s detail screen or the episode’s context menu. Or even simpler – just long-hold the play button in any playlist. You can see below a few shows saved for later, as well as the Play Later list in the menu.
Other updates since launch
It’s been a wild ride since launching this three months ago. We launched with a new kind of podcast app that emphasises discovery and syncs settings across devices and the web; but even so, we were missing some basic podcatcher functionality, and I’m pleased to see we’ve mostly closed the gap now. As well as the updates mentioned above, we are also now saving episode positions for later resuming, and tracking played episodes. We can also delete episodes automatically after a play – or if marked as played – depending on settings.
We are now making a series of “happiness” releases to add small features that people have been requesting, like changing sort order and pausing when headphones are removed. We’ll then be doing a big catalogue upgrade and adding more cloud-syncing capability.
How are you finding the tablet version? Let me know what you’d like to see next – firstname.lastname@example.org or on UserVoice.
Player FM is now receiving new episodes faster. Much faster. Whereas the average lag — from publisher upload to appearance on the site — was previously 2-3 hours, it’s now about 5 minutes. Generally, it will be a maximum of 15 minutes and in many cases, it will be just a few seconds. Furthermore, the new setup is scaleable; as the site grows, the update lag should remain constant.
Previously, Player FM’s server was doing what most podcatcher apps do: polling. Every hour or two, it would check all feeds for an update. Unlike normal podcatchers, Player FM has thousands of feeds to check, so the process was resource-intensive and as the site grew, there were more feeds to check and the updating got slower.
Polling is inefficient. Most of the time, you get the same result: nothing happened. But you have to keep checking in case one day, something does happen.
So you’ve got 30 minutes to learn everything about basket-weaving. You search for basket-weaving (I love how that actually returns four episodes). It returns the fabulous “Everything You Need to Know About Basket Weaving in Sixty Minutes” show (we’re well into hypothetical territory at this point). 60 minute show, but 30 minutes to countdown! Not to worry. Go double-speed with Player FM’s new playback rate feature. It’s literally* like warping time (* but not literally).
And thankfully, the browsers make this a chipmunk-free zone. They modulate frequency as you speed up the episode, so it’s sounds quite normal.
It works as a slider control, just slide up and down from 0.5x to 3x in the permaplayer area. As always hit “?” to see keyboard shortcuts, where you’ll discover you can also speed up and slow down with “<” and “>” keys.
The new control is available on desktop browsers only, since I’ve discovered the main mobile browsers don’t support it so far. Also, it’s only available with browsers supporting MP3 in native HTML5, which rules out Firefox until the planned MP3 support lands (this is available in their bleeding-edge Windows releases, so the wait is maybe a few months for everyone). I hope to add playback rate to the Android app too … playback rate is one of those features that separates true podcast apps from music apps.
This latest update also introduces a volume control, and again there’s keyboard shortcut support — “+” and “-” will increase/decrease volume, and “m” will mute it. Because I’m lazy, I like hitting “+” without shift, so “=” will also work to increase volume (nice for QWERTY keyboard owners anyway).
One more thing …
Player FM now supports the SubToMe standard. This is a fabulous initiative to make the whole process of subscribing and RSS easier across the internet. Wherever you see a “Sub To Me” button on a website, you can just hit the button and you’ll be presented with a list of your favorite blog readers and podcast apps, so you can quickly subscribe to them. You can try it by clicking the “Sub To Me” button on HNPod’s website (as long as you’ve visited the updated Player FM from the same browser).
To be clear, the web app is alive and well, and in fact has received several upgrades recently. A few years back, the question was “Web versus Native”, but now it’s well-understood this is a false dichotomy. A cloud-based service like Player FM needs to get the most out of both.
It’s not all Android around here. Big update on some other fronts today …
First up, the website gets a fresh lick of paint.
The sidebars have been re-designed and are now more consistent in appearance.
Channel/topic views have also been re-designed.
Full-length topics side-menu is gone; it now opens when you hover the mouse over it (or touch it on mobiles).
Some extra tools when viewing the list of series in a channel. You can sort on several criteria and also clear them all in one click.
Channel view shown below:
As I’ve said previously, Player FM has some wiki-like characteristics, and so it makes sense that you can track past edits to your channel. So there is now an archive feature allowing you to see series you previously unsubscribed from (it’s only active from today, so your archive starts as a fresh slate). Over the years, I’ve lost track of series I had to drop, sometimes just to save space, so I thought it would be pretty handy if I could go back and add them again. This new – and experimental! – feature makes it possible. You’ll see the archived list on the side of the channel – only if any archived series are present:
And then you’ll see the list, where you can easily add the series back:
Archived series are private — only the owner can see it — but maybe it will be an option to make it public at some stage. if there’s demand for it. You can also clear the archive with a single click.
Again, this is experimental and currently only the most recent 50 subscriptions are shown. (Clearing the archive will delete all past subscriptions, however.)
The other aspect of history is tracking when you added your current subscriptions. As of today, it’s now possible to see subscriptions dates when you look at the channel in series mode (by clicking the “ Series” button beside the channel). They are only shown when you sort by “Recently added to channel” since most of the time you probably don’t care much about that.
Unlike the archive feature, this is retrospective, so you’ll be able to see subscription dates from the time you began using Player FM. If you signed up before today, you’ll need to turn this feature on in Settings page. I’ll be turning it on for all users on July 1, 2013. I doubt anyone would mind those dates being shown, but in case you do, you can make your channel private by editing it. (Editing is now launched using the top-right pencil icon in your channel.)
Faster Updates to Featured Topics
A number of topics have been updated with more recent shows and there are now a few more topics too. But the more important thing is what you can’t see. A bunch of back-end updates mean Player FM researchers can now update topics directly on the site, whereas the previous process was script-based and meant topic updates were only happening once every month or two. It will soon be possible to update topics in real-time.
Part of this is based on controls to manage multiple channels and I hope to allow users to own multiple channels too. e.g. if you don’t like Player FM’s Baseball channel, you can just make your own version of it. More to come on that front!
As always, interested to know if these features would be useful to you. Any comments -> email@example.com, thanks!
Wow! It’s been two weeks since launching the apps, and Player FM received more feedback in that time than in 11 months of being online as a website, a mobile-friendly one even. Here’s a run-down of how we’ve responded to feedback so far…
Browsing is great, but not enough for people who already have a specific show in mind. You can now search for any series to subscribe to, a familiar feature to users of many other podcatcher apps. If you’ve seen the website’s search, you’ll know Player FM can do much more than this and we’ll eventually integrate more advanced search features into the app.
Podcasting thankfully has an industry standard for imports and exports: OPML. So it’s easy to bring subscriptions in from iTunes or other players, and now Player FM supports this directly in the app. In the event we don’t yet have a series indexed, you can submit it and we’re generally adding them within a few hours; but we’ll also automate this process soon too.
Incidentally, you can export OPML from Player FM subscriptions too. Just add .opml to your channel’s URL. e.g. http://player.fm/michael.opml
We’ve added several more settings to control auto-updates, and warnings about bandwidth impact of streaming 3G episodes. Furthermore, we’ve now added these settings into the signup process, so users can set up their main preferences without even going into Settings. The view below is present in the current version and will be simplified in the next.
Better Image Loading
Image loading was sluggish at times. We were using a technique to ensure low memory usage, but we needed to tweak settings further to ensure images would load quickly. But what happens when images don’t load? For example, your wifi drops out just after adding a channel. We’ve improved from those “blank images” to incorporate the series title.
And More …
Among other updates:
The notification can close itself now. When paused, it shows an “X” button. Simples.
Signup is possible in landscape mode. We’re not yet tabtastic, but it’s an okay experience now.
Media library option. Funnily enough, people don’t like seeing podcasts appear in their music playlists, e.g. when using Google Music. So we’ve turned this off. But since some people do need this, for integration with apps and hardware, you can turn it back on. Find the option in Auto-Download settings.
Bug fixes. There’s always bug fixes. And we have this ready to go for Android version 2.3 users.