iTunes 11.2: Podcast Management Changes

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Apple released iTunes 11.2 yesterday, and this includes a number of changes to podcast management. Unfortunately, my Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ was just updated, so the information in this post is not in the book. (The perils of writing about technology…) So if you have my book, this post will tell you what’s new.

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Unplayed Episodes: This isn’t new, because iTunes already had an Unplayed tab. The difference is the tab is now called All Unplayed, and it shows all unplayed episodes, even if they are unchecked. I check and uncheck podcast episodes according to what I want to sync to my Mac, and before this update, the Unplayed tab only showed unplayed checked episodes, and now it shows them all. (I check and uncheck episodes to sync a smart playlist to my iPhone. It’s conditions are: Media Kind is Podcast, and Kind Does Not Contain MPEG-4 Video File. I then check Match Only Checked Items.)

Access the Feed: You can now play podcasts without having to download them. Just double-click a podcast episode in any of the views, even if the cloud icon shows that it’s not on your Mac. It will start streaming. This is a good way to listen and not have to worry about downloading.

If you’re in List view, you can choose to show just a feed of the podcasts you’ve subscribed to:

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If you’re in My Podcasts view, you can choose to view Unplayed, Feed or Saved:

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If you only listen to podcasts on your Mac, you don’t ever need to download them (unless you want to save them; see below). The same is true for iOS: with the update to the Podcasts app, which reproduces iTunes’ behavior, you can choose to only stream podcasts, rather than download them. So using the feed may be a better solution for you. Just double-click the ones you want to listen to, and ignore the rest.

003.pngSaved Episodes: You can now save episodes. This isn’t new, but it’s become more automatic. When you update iTunes 11.2, it automatically marks any episodes you’ve downloaded as saved. To save new episodes, right-click on one, then choose Save Episode. This makes it much easier to maintain a podcast archive, while having iTunes automatically delete those episodes you don’t want to keep. (That’s next…)

Delete Played Episodes: iTunes was supposed to be able to delete played episodes in the past, but it didn’t work well. It’s too soon to say how it will work here. But you can set any podcast to delete episodes you’ve listened to. In My Podcasts, select a podcast, then click the gear icon next to its name.

If you turn on Delete Played Episodes, this should automatically delete them, 24 hours after they have been played. As you can see, there are other settings, such as whether or not iTunes should download episodes, and Limit Episodes, which lets you determine how many episodes should be on your Mac. This can be the most recent episode, several recent episodes, all those from the past week or month, or off.

So far, this looks like a more intelligent way to manage podcasts. You can stream them when you want to listen to them, instead of downloading them in advance. You could do that before from the iTunes Store – and you still can, if you search for a podcast and play it from its Store page – but this makes it simpler. You can save episodes if you want; just make sure to remember to do so. The only thing I don’t like is the way All Unplayed also shows unchecked episodes; I used checking and unchecking to determine what I sync to my iPhone, and it’s easier to see a list of checked podcasts.

So, if you’re a podcast listener, what do you think about the changes to iTunes? Have you encountered any problems?




38 replies
  1. Chip says:

    Still seems like a mess compared to the pre-overhaul days. Right after Apple split off the podcasts to a separate app, out of disgust I migrated to Downcast (iOS, and later the Mac app) and I honestly haven’t seen a reason to go back to Apple’s app. I used to organize my podcasts into custom playlists which the Music app dutifully replicated, but Apple pulled that functionality when it created its Podcast app. With Downcast I’m able again to view playlists based on play length and newness, in addition to organizing by type (eg Mac, Photo, Musicmaking, Science, Comedy). I only go back to iTunes for new podcast discovery and to download/save a podcast I liked from Downcast.

    The only downside to Downcast is the length of time for it to chug through my list of 182 podcasts (only a small percetnage of which I set for automatic download) every morning – anywhere from 2-5 minutes. For that reason I’m thinking of getting and trying Pocket Casts, which maintains its own GoogleReader-like server backside, resulting in blazing fast refreshes. Unfortunately, its custom playlist features are relatively primitive….

    Reply
    • Joel says:

      Looks like if you use the “stations” function in iTunes or in the Podcasts app,
      These will sync. They’re basically glorified smart playlists.

      If you wanna sync old school playlists (the kind you just make in iTunes on your computer) you have to sync those with a USB cable or via wifi syncing since those don’t sync via iCloud to your devices.

      Just tried it and my iTunes playlists that have podcasts end up showing in the podcasts app under “My Stations”

      Reply
  2. Clarke says:

    Is there a global setting that you know of for turning Delete Played Episodes off?

    It’s sort of a booby trap as is.

    Reply
  3. Chris says:

    With iTunes 11.2 i keep getting a dialogue, roughly “You have downloaded podcasts with a different apple user id than the one you are logged into now. Do you want to sync the podcasts?”. I had to change my apple user id about 18 months ago, but have had no ill effects previously. When I press “Sync”, nothing seems to happen. The dialogue keeps popping up every time I start iTunes and every time I do something with the podcasts. Very annoying. Had to go back to 11.1.5.

    Reply
    • Val says:

      same thing and I didn’t even change my itunes id ever. It almost becomes a “pop-up of death” where only pressing esc and quickly clicking back to music stops it, sometimes. The worst!

      Reply
  4. Luddette says:

    Do you know of a way to change the 24 delete hour default? When I have listened to a podcast, I want it to go away at the next refresh. Thanks for all this info.

    Reply
    • Jason says:

      This is exactly what I’m looking for, as well. I’m still getting a feel for all of the changes but this is the one that bothers me the most. Once I’ve listened to a podcast, I don’t want to see it anymore (unless I choose not to allow auto delete). Not the end of the world to wait 24 hrs, but would prefer to see it go sooner! Would love to hear if you or anybody has found a way around this!

      Reply
      • smj says:

        Ditto. Would it really be so hard to include a “delete now” option, or at least still allow right click -> delete? Plus, despite the files eventually being deleted they’re still listed under the “played episodes to be deleted” section of the podcast list, which in turn is causing them to continue to appear in my smart playlists.

        Why do podcasts go one step forward two steps back every single time Apple decides to ‘improve’ them?

        Reply
        • Kirk McElhearn says:

          You can delete them manually. But I do think there should be an option to delete them automatically right after you’ve played them.

          Reply
  5. Steve says:

    I see “Delete” has changed in 11.2. It used to give me the option, on an individual basis, to remove an episode from the visible Library list but keep an archived copy in the Finder. I can’t find an easy way to do that now. Any ideas if such a function still exists? (Preferably one or two clicks like it used to be, without having to mess around in the Finder.)

    Also, an unrelated podcast “feature” that has bugged me from several versions back: It used to play one episode and stop (my preference). Now it always automatically starts playing the next episode on the list, whether from the same podcast or the next podcast on the list. Any way to get it to play just one episode at a time as the default preference?

    Reply
  6. Mac McClelland says:

    any way to delete a podcast and not have it show again with the cloud icon next to it? i just want it to GO AWAY.

    Reply
    • Damien says:

      I’d like to know this myself. I like to view my podcasts in list format but now I have the podcasts I’ve downloaded and a long list of old podcasts with a cloud next to them.

      Reply
        • Mac McClelland says:

          you can’t delete the ones w/the cloud icon w/o downloading them first… at least, on a pc when you right click “delete” is not presented as an optioin

          Reply
  7. Atom says:

    Do you know if the delete podcast after 24 hours will delete podcasts that have, say been listened halfway through (e.g. the first part of an hour long podcast)… but haven’t had the balance of the podcast listened to until 2 days later?

    Or will it only delete podcasts 24 hours after the ENTIRE podcast has been listened to?

    Reply
    • Kirk McElhearn says:

      Podcasts only gets more displayed when you get to the end. But, that probably means that they won’t get auto-deleted if you don’t play to the very end. I’ll have to test that.

      Reply
    • Mac McClelland says:

      just hooked up ipod for first time after downloading software last week so not sure about the auto delete. but i do know that for many of my podcast subscriptions, tons of old episodes reappeared… like from last year… with that little cloud icon next to them… and i can’t get them disappear w/o downloading them and then deleting

      Reply
  8. Wes says:

    There used to be the ability to “show old episodes” when you right click on a podcast, but that seems to be gone. Anyone know how to access old podcasts?

    Reply
  9. Mike W says:

    I download rather than stream all podcasts & sync them to my Nano. I’ve noticed since the 11.21 update that when I sync the Nano back to the Mac, iTunes appears to delete all listened-to podcasts immediately when “Delete Played Episodes” is set to ‘Off’ (they are missing from both ‘My Episodes’ & ‘Saved’, and once again appear in ‘Feed’ with the cloud icon). With ‘Delete Played Episodes’ set to ‘On’, they are marked for 24-hour removal.

    Anyone know exactly how ‘My Episodes’ and ‘Saved’ differ? They appear to be one & the same, although perhaps would be different if one were streaming rather than downloading podcasts.

    Reply
  10. Matt Neuburg says:

    I agree with Steve – I’m now having a very hard time simply deleting a previously downloaded podcast! Selecting and deleting often does nothing, or it removes the listing but not the podcast file. Option-deleting is equally unreliable.

    Reply
  11. Rog says:

    I listen to podcasts when I travel and start setting up playlists of old episodes so I can catch up in the order I wish while on the road. With these changes many of the old episodes disappeared from my listings and play lists as they were unchecked to save space until I travel. Now I need to download all past episodes and figure out what was in my playlists. I wish the changes were not applied automatically and I was given a choice as this is a big pain, we are talking about 50 gig of podcasts that I now have to select each one to down load and then figure out if I listen to the past episode or not.

    Reply
  12. Tatil Sever says:

    I also use a playlist of podcasts to sync my iPhone (through a cable), so that I can listen to a bunch of podcasts in the order I’d like without having to distract myself while driving.

    Now that I got used to iTunes 11, I am fine with almost all of the interface changes in the podcast management of added in 11.2, but 11.2.1 caused a rather large complication. I used to be able to hit Option-Delete to remove a podcast from the playlist and the library. Now, it only deletes them from the playlist, so I need to delete the podcast from the playlist, then go to the podcast library, find the same item and delete it again. (If I don’t delete the podcast in the playlist first, the item stays in the playlist with a cloud icon.) As songs can be option-deleted from the playlist just as before, I cannot believe somebody took the time to change this behavior just for podcasts.

    It is as if somebody is intentionally trying to ruin iTunes for those using it to manage podcasts. Apple, you may have a mole in your ranks trying to steer business towards podcast apps!…

    Reply
    • Mac McClelland says:

      it’s a mess… with the change, some podcasts that i’ve been listening to for years are now showing episodes going back to 2012! and i can’t get rid of them.

      Reply
    • smj says:

      I have the same problem every now and then (through iTunes though). Fresh Air, Here’s the Thing, The Nerdist seem to be the worst culprits. I don’t know if they republish the whole feed or if iTunes is just getting confused but I’ll come home and find it’s downloaded hundreds of old episodes.
      Each time I have to mess around trying to delete the episodes from that feed while trying to keep the ones that I already had, and half the time iTunes then repeats the problem the next day. I usually end up unsubscribing and resubscribing to fix the problem

      Reply
  13. matt says:

    I’ve got completely the opposite problem – I like to download and keep podcasts and iTunes has decimated my podcast collection. Going back through a Time Machine backup, some of my shows have lost half of their saved episodes. Whoever thought that making an updated auto-delete feature default to ON needs to find a different line of work. What’s ridiculous is that there’s no way to automatically have episodes added to the “Saved” category.

    Reply
    • Alice says:

      Agreed. I just had the problem of a podcast, deleting an unplayed episode (only current episode is ever available, so no chance to get it back). I would REALLY love to have them automatically saved.

      Reply
      • Matt says:

        Assuming you’ve got time machine running, it’ll still be in the backup. That’s what I spent today doing – recovering my entire 150gb podcast directory from before the 11.2 upgrade, re-introducing it to iTunes, and then re-downloading all the episodes that had come out since.

        Part of the problem is that iTunes does not actually move all your previously downloaded episodes to “saved” even though it says it did. Random proportions of shows with episodes on disk will not get backed up the the “saved” category, and since iTunes not defaults to deleting episodes 24 hours after they’re listened to, it seems to be assuming all those old episodes it failed to save are delete-fodder.

        Introducing a new chronologically targeted auto-delete feature and defaulting it to on has to be about the dumbest thing a software designer can do. Siri and iOS Maps were never as bad as this.

        Reply
        • Alice says:

          I have Time Machine set up to save to a NAS, and we’re currently at the In-Laws. Its not so terrible to be missing one episode, but I’d like to set it up so I don’t lose any more. (Seriously thinking of switching to a different podcast app, if I can’t get the itunes settings right…)
          When the update came around, I did turn off the auto-delete-after-played function, but .. I don’t want to worry that it will happen again to another unplayed episode
          Perhaps I’m just not that mac-literate, but in itunes, what is the difference (now, since the update) between ‘not saved’, and ‘saved’? if they are already downloaded? is the ‘saved’ basically a promise from itunes, ‘I swear i won’t touch these files, so help me God’? I mean, the file exists on the computer already. I would have called that ‘saved’ (as a former PC user)

          Reply
          • matt says:

            As far as I can see, the difference between “Saved” and “My Episodes” is that *if* you have iTunes set to auto-download (rather than streaming), the episodes you haven’t manually saved are subject to whatever setting you use for auto-delete.

            When it first encounters your library iTunes 11.2 says it is marking all your previous episodes as “saved” and then has auto-delete after 1 day as the default, which would presumably only apply to new episodes, so you could change it and not have any problems.

            However, iTunes doesn’t actually save all your episodes, for whatever reason, and then the auto-delete hits your back-catalogue unless you’re ale to change the defaults before it does.

            It’s a monumental f-up IMHO.

            Reply
    • Nate says:

      Amen! I know I’ve got packrat tendencies, and I probably should have cleaned out *some* of those archives, but there are certain podcasts where I very deliberately have kept every episode, including some where the feed and the original episodes are no longer available online. The fact that the system defaulted to deleting so many of the “old” episodes is infuriating, and a horribly wrong-headed decision by the software designers.

      What’s especially frustrating is that every time I’ve played a podcast on my phone for the last several weeks it’s been telling me that I should download 11.2 because it works SO much better with the Podcast App. I know Apple’s only goal is to make money from me, not be my friend, but it’s still a little bit disturbing to be so blatantly lied to.

      Reply
  14. MN28 says:

    Please help me. I have no idea what most of you are talking about. I’m incredibly un-technological. The “what’s new” screen came on when I clicked on my podcasts link in itunes and… I can’t get to my podcasts. I clicked all the stuff at the top and nothing happened. I can get my music but can’t get past the “what’s new” page and clicking on anything and everything doesn’t show my podcasts. Is there anyone that can help this dinosaur, please? I’ve read this article and comments but can’t seem to get anywhere. I miss my podcasts!

    Reply

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