Syncing iTunes Podcast Settings Uses Your iTunes Store Account

Since Apple added podcast syncing to iTunes last week, a number of people have asked me how iTunes syncs these settings. It seemed obvious to me that this was using your iTunes Store account, but to many people this is not the case.

The setting for this is in iTunes’ Store preferences. Select iTunes > Preferences, then click Store. You’ll see this:


Check the Sync podcast subscriptions and settings option if you want to sync your podcast info across devices: from one computer to another, but also to your iOS devices.

There can be a problem with this, though. My son and I share an iTunes Store account for apps, movies, TV shows, and other content. But we absolutely do not share the same tastes for podcasts. So he can’t check this box, because it would replace his podcasts with mine; or would it replace mine with his…? We don’t really want to try to find out.

So, if you want to sync podcast subscriptions and settings, and you share an iTunes Store account with someone – a friend, spouse or child – make sure that other person does not check that option.

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iTunes 11 and Podcasts: You Cannot Delete Old Podcasts

I posted a first article about how Apple has broken podcasts with iTunes 11, and the more I look at it, the more I see that it’s a mess.

Here’s one problem: you cannot delete old podcasts. If you do – deleting them, and their files – they still show up in the podcast list. Here’s what you’ll see:


These podcasts never go away. They’ll show cloud icons for you to redownload them as long as they’re still available from the iTunes Store. So if you have a podcast with lots of episodes, you’ll have a very long list when you look at it in List view.

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iTunes 11: Apple Has Broken Podcasts (But Here’s How to Partly Fix Them)

One of the less talked about features of the most recent update to iTunes (11.1) is the new Podcast features. While the goal of the new features is to make it easier to manage podcasts across devices, the update has caused much consternation to many podcast listeners. (I’ll post an article about the podcast subscription and setting syncing soon.)

First of all, it deletes your podcasts. If you’ve been downloading and saving podcasts – because you haven’t gotten around to listening to them, or just because there are some you want to save – you’ll find that most of your podcasts are simply gone. One fellow writer sent this warning on a mailing list I subscribe to:

“I have a very carefully curated podcast library here, and upgrading iTunes for iOS 7 just blew out the entire thing; it appears to be re-downloading everything from the cloud. Lost my podcast ratings and iTunes references to existing files.”

Ps gmlsqwev 170x170 75Mine got deleted as well. I’m a fan of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion stories, and I have been carefully squirreling them away as I listen to them, so I can listen to them again some day (they’re very funny). I mark them as read, and I uncheck them, so they don’t sync to my iPhone or iPad. But with the iTunes update, most of them disappeared; only the last ten files were on my Mac. Not only that, but the “read” status was changed on all of them, and the ones I had unchecked now appear checked, but with little cloud icons next to them.

For another podcast that I save, Philosophy Bites, the episodes are still there, but the read/unread status is set to all unread. At least until I updated the podcast. You see, I hadn’t updated this in a while, so there was a ! next to the name. Once I updated the podcast, all my episodes showed as being in the cloud, and iTunes started downloading them all.

I looked in my iTunes Media folder, and its Podcasts folder contains a number of sub-folders, all of which have podcast episodes. All my Philosophy Bites episodes were there. So I dragged that folder onto the iTunes window, with Podcasts visible, and it correctly added back all the episodes. So the fix for lost episodes is simply to drag them back from your iTunes Media folder. However, this doesn’t fix the read/unread status, which is all over the place.

You’d think that if iTunes deletes your podcasts, you can get them back. I’ve been saving up the Prairie Home Companion podcast for years, and I have episodes back to 2007. Fortunately, these were not in my iTunes library, because after deleting the episodes from my Podcasts library, iTunes only shows me episodes going back to 2010 in the cloud. So if you have episodes of a podcast you want to keep, back them up, if they’re still in your iTunes Media folder, or if you have a backup; you may not be able to get them back from the Podcasts library.

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You Can’t Play Podcasts from the iOS Music App Any More

Syncing my iPhone to iTunes 11.1, I was surprised to see this:


I had been running the beta of iTunes 11.1, and the GM of iOS 7, but when I downloaded the final version of iTunes 11.1, I saw the above. So it looks like we’re stuck; no more using the Music app to play podcasts.

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Podcasts: Over One Billion Served

It seems like it was just yesterday when I co-authored a book called Podcasting Pocket Guide, with Richard Giles and Jack D. Herrington. This slim book, published in late 2005, was an introduction to the then-new medium of podcasts, and was one of the first books to cover this new trend.

The book was written just after podcasts became mainstream. They’d been around for a while, but in June, 2005, when Apple added podcast support to iTunes 4.9, it became simple to access podcasts. With just a few clicks, users could find, download and subscribe to podcasts, and sync them to their iPods. Apple certainly didn’t invent podcasts, but they made them work.

In the blog post presenting my book, I wrote:

With thousands of free podcasts available from Apple’s iTunes, as well as other podcast software and directories, podcasting is undeniably hot.

Yes, “thousands” of free podcasts, back in 2005. The book explained how to find, subscribe to and listen to podcasts, how to record them, and even contained a section covering 30 great podcasts, for newbies to the genre.

podcast-subscriptionsWell, it’s 8 years later, and Apple has announced that the iTunes Store has passed the 1 billion subscription mark. (To be fair, this probably includes a lot of short-term subscriptions; I’ve listened to one episode of lots of podcasts and then unsubscribed.) But there are more than 250,000 unique podcasts, in over 100 languages, and over 8 million episodes have been published so far. (Source: Macworld.)

Podcasts have become commonplace, with a broad selection of content from radio stations, newspapers, magazines, individual podcasters, and others, talking about just about anything. They cover comedy, tech subjects (I’m a frequent guests on several podcasts), news, music, politics, TV shows, comics, philosophy and much more. Yet every single podcast that Apple provides through iTunes is free; Apple makes no money from podcasts at all, other than the money they make selling hardware that connects to iTunes Store. Apple had teased the possibility of paid podcasts at a time, but that never materialized.

One could split podcasts into three groups, according to the way they are funded. Some are simple, “freelance” podcasts by people who just want to talk about a subject that interests them. Others are sponsored, with ads, just like radio shows. And a third group is promotional, podcasts talking about movies or TV series, designed to provide a deeper involvement among fans.

What amazes me is that Apple has a quasi-monopoly on podcasts. Sure, you can download many podcasts from individual web sites, and you can use other software to get podcasts, on platforms other than OS X or iOS, but iTunes is the go-to place for podcasts, and no major company has ever attempted to compete with Apple there. Perhaps this is because there’s no money in it; Apple doesn’t charge podcasters anything to manage their content, nor does it charge listeners to download it. I would have expected Google, for example, to have tried to set up a similar podcast directory, repository and download service, or even Microsoft to try to compete, but this hasn’t happened.

Apple didn’t invent podcasts, and only provided a repository and conduit for this medium. But as Apple celebrates a milestone, no other company’s name will be mentioned in the same sentence with podcasts.

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More on Podcasts and iOS 6

Following this post about how to remove the iOS 6 Podcasts app and use the Music app to listen to podcasts on an iOS device, I have written a more extensive article about podcasts on iOS for Macworld. I look at how the Podcasts app works, if you want to use it, and explain how to remove it, if you don’t like it.

Personally, I’m using the Music app, after trying the Podcasts app for a while (long enough to know what’s wrong with it to be able to write about it). The only thing I miss, however, is the two ways of displaying podcasts: in “grid view” and in a list. Also, in the Podcasts app, you can re-order podcasts, so if your favorite is not the first in alphabetical order, you can put it at the top of the display.

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Don’t Like the iOS 6 Podcasts App? Get Rid of It

If you like to listen to podcasts, but are dismayed at the way they are relegated to their own Podcasts app in iOS 6 (and in iOS 5 as well), you don’t have to use the Podcasts app. What’s changed in iOS 6 is that podcasts no longer show up in the Music app; with iOS 5, they still did, and you had the option of using either app. Now, you no longer have that choice, assuming that you have the Podcasts app on your iOS device.

If you recall, you had to install it on its own; it’s not part of iOS. So if you’d rather continue to listen to podcasts in the Music app, just delete the Podcasts app. When you open the Music app, tap on Other and you’ll see a Podcasts entry. You can access your podcasts from there as you did before.

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Apple Releases Podcasts App for iOS

Apple has released its Podcasts app for iOS. Available from the iTunes Store, this app automatically spots the audio and video podcasts on an iOS device, and lets you play them from there. There is also a Top Stations feature, which groups podcasts that you might want to discover.

I’ve only just started playing with the Podcasts app, and some things aren’t clear. For example, while podcasts display in this app, they are still visible in my Music app. (I don’t have any video podcasts.) Also, the Top Stations feature isn’t displaying artwork, so I don’t have any idea what podcasts are on each “station.”

This app will be most practical, if, as I recently suggested, it syncs podcasts via iCloud, so you can subscribe to podcasts on one device and not need to download them to iTunes and sync them. And if there is this syncing, you’d be able to listen to podcasts on any of your devices.

Here’s the feature list:

  • Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app
  • Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
  • Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
  • Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what’s most popular in Top Charts
  • Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available
  • Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
  • Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
  • Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
  • Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages and Mail
  • Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
  • Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices

I’ll post more information tomorrow after I’ve explored the app. But if you’re a podcast listener, download it and try it out.

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