Google’s Ambitious Ai-Backed Plans for Podcasts

Google has built a strong foothold in web search and video streaming, but it’s now looking to make audio its new forte with a reimagined podcast and audio search functionality.

Like Google co-founder Sergey Brin mentioned this week, Google is using its full AI and machine learning capability to transform a number of services. And it’s doing the same with podcasts, and how we listen to them.

Google Podcasts is now a standalone division at Google, being led by Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen. He recently sat down with Pacific Content in a five-part interview series, which we have linked throughout our summary here. Here’s everything you need to know:

Making Audio A ‘First Class’ Citizen

There’s a podcasts category in Play Music, but Google sees podcasts as a dedicated product and has decided to give it a prominent placement in search results. The search giant wants to make audio a ‘first-class‘ citizen that should be placed next to text, images, and video in search results. This could be a game-changer.

Google wants to people to be able to play podcasts, right from the search results, removing the need for a dedicated app. If Google thinks a podcast is able to answer a search query then it’ll show that to users and try to get new listeners.

This means one could expect to see podcasts that have talked about your search topic, be it sports, music, movie or celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Sachin Tendulkar over the next few weeks and months. This requires podcast metadata and Google has the power to decode and handle it all. Speaking of the same, Reneau-Wedeen says:

“In the longer term, integrating with Search means figuring out what each podcast is about and understanding the content of that podcast. This is something Google has done extremely well for text articles, as well as for images and even more structured data such as maps. We can help with audio, too.”

Podcasts in Search Results
Google has started acting on its plan and introduced a new native podcast section in its Google app on Android. It allows you to search for podcasts, showing them inline with all your results or directly queue them via Google Assistant using simple commands, such as “Hey Google, play the Vergecast podcast.”

The podcast section appears like a full-fledged app on its own, complete with your subscriptions and custom recommendations. The podcast player is baked right into the Google app and features your usual playback controls, along with seeking and speed control features.

Reneau-Wedeen said podcasts are more often consumed by iOS users and his team wanted to design a podcast experience that can work best on Android. At the same time, Google wants focus on device interoperability and wants to build an intuitive experience that’s consistent across all the Google products, be it Android or Google Home or any other Google Assistant product, and even on iOS. Reneau-Wedeen further added,

“Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years.”

Audio SEO & Monetisation

With audio getting prominent placement in search results, Google will tweak its algorithms to help listeners discover new podcasts while also defining guidelines that’ll help you rank your content higher in search. This is possibly going to be called Audio SEO.

Google already enables you to tinker with the settings to make your podcast appear in search results but there’s no audio SEO in place right now. This phase of the product is going to important when podcasts are finally able to give you an answer to your query, similar to the recently launched celebrity video answers in search.

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