The Amazon Echo line of smart devices is getting new integrations aimed at improving the options for podcast fans. Both Spotify and Apple announced today that their podcast content can be played on the Amazon devices.
Spotify published a blog post this morning with the update. The streaming service had already supported voice control for playing its music content, including understanding commands for specific playlists. The podcast integration needs Spotify to be set as the default podcast and music provider on an Alexa-enabled device. Once that preference is set, a listener can request a specific podcast, continue playing an episode, move through a show’s catalog, and navigate by podcast time frame.
Apple Podcasts has also been added to Echo devices. The move brings more than 800,000 shows to Alexa-enabled hardware. Apple Podcasts can now be set as the preferred podcast app in the Alexa app. The platform will now have the same range of functions: requesting specific shows, specific episodes, resume an episode that was started elsewhere, and navigate within a show or an episode.
Does It Work?
To casual smart-speaker owners, this announcement might seem confusing. Alexa was born with the ability to play podcasts, with TuneIn as the default platform. For most people there is little difference in selection between Spotify, Apple, and TuneIn, so for some users this new feature will have zero impact. For Alexa owners who already named Spotify as the preferred service for music, Alexa will now pull podcasts from there. Easy peasy. The listening experience doesn’t change, and neither does the command — for example “Alexa, play Ted Talks Daily.” That command pulls the newest episode from Spotify.
One interesting note: Spotify does not carry The Joe Rogan Experience, possibly the most popular podcast in the world, if you count the YouTube editions. As a result, when we set Spotify as our preferred audio platform, and asked Alexa for The Joe Rogan Experience, we were given The Joe Rogan Experience Review podcast, an unaffiliated show which analyzes The Joe Rogan Experience. Not a good outcome for Joe Rogan fans! And not an easily fixable one since the show is not in Spotify’s catalog. Solution: “Alexa, play The Joe Rogan Experience on TuneIn.”
Anyway, the addition of Spotify works well in a general light-usage way, and doesn’t require any configuration from the user. Calling a podcast plays the most recent episode. Exploring the user’s podcast collection (followed or downloaded) is not as easy. We couldn’t make any command about exploring our collection work properly — Alexa simply started playing our saved Spotify music.