Google is adding audio podcasts to its search results, alongside videos, photos and web links. You’ll be able to play podcasts directly from within Google.
That means searchers won’t have to leave Google and go to iTunes, TuneIn or elsewhere to listen. They’ll be able to listen via the Google Podcasts app on phones or on the Web.
Google estimates that there are now some 2 million podcasts available for listening, and it wants to help people find them.
Google has been bullish on podcasts for quite some time. In 2018 it launched a Google Podcasts app, saying at the time it hoped to double the audience by exposing more of the shows to more people.
In an interview Wednesday, Google product manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen said he expects it will take three to four years for the doubling to occur, “but with podcasts in search, we hope to accelerate that.”
The podcast search tools will be rolled out gradually, starting today, and searchers will need to include the word “podcast” in their query, at first. Eventually, the Google search engine will get smarter and be able to show results from shows without it, Reneau-Wedeen says.
Traditionally, Google indexes content based on written words. It needs text from web pages, photos and video descriptions to identify content. Reneau-Wedeen said Google is using “speech technology” to monitor each podcast and create an internal transcript for search results.
Later this year, Google will open up podcast search to the Google Assistant, which is available on its Google Home speakers, as well as on iOS and Android phones.
“For example, when you ask the Google Assistant for podcasts about a certain topic, such as `Hey Google, play a podcast about Marie Curie,’” Google notes in a company blog, “it will suggest episodes for you related to your search.”
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Because the audio will be played via the Google Podcasts app and web player, Google notes that your listening progress is synched, so you could start a show on your computer, for instance, and continue on your phone later.
Podcasts have been on the rise in the last year, by Reneau-Wedeen’s estimation having grown by 20%. The U.S. ranks No. 1, with countries such as India and Brazil joining the top 5.
The most popular podcast categories within Google’s app have been the tried-and-true crime shows and interviews, he says.
Podcasts have had a busy year. Streaming music leader Spotify in 2019 bought podcast makers Gimlet and Anchor to beef up its position in the category. In July, Bloomberg reported that Apple was looking to begin funding original podcasts.