Google has added support for playing podcast episodes that appear in results on its search engine. This feature is rolling out today for English results in the United States.
This product development adds an important dimension to Google’s podcast discovery mission, which puts native audio in Google search results for instant play of a podcast episode. (Zack Reneau-Wedeen, Google’s Head of Product for podcasting, described his company’s mission at the RAIN Podcast Business Summit in March; LISTEN to his keynote interview.)
Before today Google Search delivered that Play button associated with podcast programs, and lists of episodes. Now a Google search for any podcast topic can deliver single episodes from several different podcasts. It is both more granular and a wider net for podcast discovery and listening.
For now, a search phrase needs to specify “podcasts” for episodes to appear. However, Engadget reported that Google expects to update the feature to show podcast results even without that being a search keyword.
We tried this new feature in Google’s Chrome browser and in an Android (7.0) phone. Searching for “fitness podcasts” brought up several with play buttons. We drilled down to “calisthenics podcasts” and “push ups podcasts” — each worked perfectly to display playable podcast episodes, in both web and Android.
This development is an interesting one for podcasters. On the positive side, it could help with discovery, giving listeners a chance to discover niche programs away from the curated selections of a listening app. However, it may be difficult for podcasters to get any analytics about who tunes in via Google search, for how long, or whether they then convert to regular listeners. A representative from Google said it will add controls for publishers to specify where the episode playback should come from, which could help with the analytics question, but the company hasn’t given a timeline for adding that support. The spokesperson said this update will also let listeners discover podcasts that are paywalled or subscription-only.