Podcatching frustration: on leaving Stitcher, looking for a new podcast strategy

I continue my podcast listening adventure in this post (previous entries here, here, here, and here).

Stitcher logoIn November I started using a new podcatcher on my Android phone, the Stitcher app.  As I noted then, it was a mixed bag, with some nice affordances, some switching costs, and several annoyances.  I got used to the interface, took the time to manually add each and every podcast I liked (no RSS import), then settled in.

Most of the time Stitcher worked.  I mean that literally, because sometimes it would hang up instead of playing some podcasts, or just crash.  Some podcasts weren’t on Stitcher (again, no RSS), so I just listened to them through other means.  Otherwise it was decent, playing podcasts clearly. When I learned about new podcasts I searched for them in  the app, adding them manually if they were there.

Stitcher errorThen Stitcher blew up.

Starting on Thursday the app failed to do anything at all, beyond displaying the cheerful and repeatedly disproven error message to left.  No explanation could be found on the app or the website.

When I poked around on Twitter, I at last found a long, sad, and saddening list of plaintive official tweets.  There wasn’t much in the way of explanation, beyond one mention of failed servers.  No hacking, no DDoS, no lighting strike.

Please understand that this meant users couldn’t access not only new podcast content, but couldn’t play podcasts they had already downloaded.  Stitcher – podcast listening – was off.  It’s akin to someone remotely removing Windows Media Player or iTunes from your desktop.

I turned back to my decade-old mp3 player and laptop.  Seriously.

An hour ago today, almost one week after the crash, Stitcher seems to be back.  I’m checking my feeds for corruption.  So far so good.  48 new podcast episodes are fighting their downloading way across Vermont’s limping networks.

But it’s a chastening experience.  Stitcher is a fragile single point of failure, vulnerable to… whatever happened this time.  I feel sympathy for them, if they’re a tiny group grappling with a monster database problem.  Still, I need an alternative.

Thanks to the recommendations of storybooth and others I installed Podcast Addict.  It’s much more feature-heavy than Stitcher, with so many menu items that it seems more like a desktop program.  I’m still trying to figure out the offline playback feature.

I’m tempted by Pocket Casts (thanks to Pete Wright for the recommendation), wondering if it’s worth the four bucks.

Google is apparently considering launching their own player (thanks to Pete, again), but it doesn’t seem to be available yet.

mp3 files: how complicated can this be?

I’ll post again as my experiments continue.  Dear reader, do you have any suggestions to offer or experiences to share?

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7 Responses to Podcatching frustration: on leaving Stitcher, looking for a new podcast strategy

  1. Seth Goodman says:

    I was exploring podcasts a little when I read a post by you a couple of years ago about how much you enjoyed them. When I realized the “world” of content available to me through podcasts, I jumped down the rabbit hole and have been enjoying a delightful fall ever since. I know I looked critically at podcast apps back then but can’t recall exactly what motivated me to select and ultimately upgrade to the paid version of Pocket Casts, but that’s what I use and I’m very happy with it. I particularly like the way they facilitate discovering new podcasts and grouping podcasts by subjects and networks. As for the $4, I consider it a privilege to support good work. So, I second Pete Wright; go for it.

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    • I’m so glad to have helped you into the grand world of podcasts, Seth. Thank you for the kind words. (Say, have you shared a list of what you’re listening to?)

      Thanks, too, for the praise for Pocket Casts.

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  2. Sam Anderson says:

    I’ve been using BeyondPod on Android for a few years and I’m pretty happy with it. The interface has a bit of a learning curve, but it might suit your needs.

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  3. Very fond of Overcast, but it appears to be iOS only.

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  4. stevearm says:

    I’m with Sam. If you are on Android, Beyond Pod is pretty good. The interface leaves something to be desired, but it’s been seamlessly keeping me supplied for 4 years. I’ve got it automatically downloading new episodes twice a day (only if on wifi) from a bunch of different RSS feeds, and it will re-sort the playlist based on what was downloaded and how I set my priorities.

    It always continues whatever I was in them middle of, but when that is done, the next one is always something from News (if there’s a new BBC update), then if I’ve listened/skipped all my News items, it will play the next Long Form entry. If those are gone, then the next category, etc etc.

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