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In the T4L post about what the Amazon Echo (and Echo Dot and Amazon Tap) is and how it works, I mentioned that one of things you can do with an Echo is listen to podcasts on it. Unfortunately, since Amazon doesn’t have its own podcast app, it’s not necessarily all that clear how to do so. This post lists a few options, with the pros and cons of each.
Use Bluetooth to send the podcast from your PC or mobile device
This is the easiest way to listen to a podcast on the Echo, Dot, or Tap. Just play the podcast through an app or website from your Bluetooth-enabled computer, phone, or tablet and pair that device with the speaker using Bluetooth.
This method also provides the best options for controlling the playback since you’ll have access to all the features of the player on your device, including skipping back and forward through the recording. For example, I use the Pocket Casts iOS and Android apps on my phones and tablets to play podcasts.
The main downside of this option is that you have to have a Bluetooth-enabled device. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it likely does have Bluetooth, but a lot of computers don’t. The other downside is that you have to have your device close by while you’re listening to the show to take advantage of all those features.
Stream podcasts from the TuneIn app
You can sign up for the TuneIn service, which lets you listen to 100,000 radio stations and millions of podcasts, for free. (There is a premium version that includes access to NFL and MLB games, thousands of audiobooks, commercial-free stations and more for $7.99/month.)
TuneIn is one of Alexa’s built-in apps, so you can stream it directly to your Echo. Unfortunately, there are a number of cons to this solution.
- TuneIn may not have some lesser-known podcasts. I only recently added The Luddite Lounge to it because I didn’t realize it was a place I should be adding my podcast to.
- Alexa has difficulty finding some TuneIn programs via voice. I had no trouble telling it to play The Vergecast and Real Time with Bill Maher on TuneIn, but it required a lot of trial and error to get it to find The Luddite Lounge. (!) Eventually it worked when I said, “Alexa, play program The Luddite Lounge on TuneIn.” However, I have never been able to get it to play Recode/Decode with Kara Swisher. 🙁 You can use the TuneIn menu in the Alexa app (mobile and browser versions) to play the podcasts, but that’s certainly not as convenient as just speaking to your Echo.
- For podcasts Alexa can find, you can’t just choose any episode from the show. It will start playing the most recent episode. You can say “Skip” or “Next” to go to the next episode, but you can’t use an episode’s name to locate a specific one.
- In addition to the “Skip” and “Next” commands mentioned above, the only other commands you can use are “Back” to go to the previous episode, and “Pause,” “Continue,” and “Stop.” There’s no way to skip forwards or backwards within an episode.
- The Alexa app’s TuneIn section doesn’t import Favorites from your TuneIn account. You can set Favorites in the Alexa mobile app but the process for doing so may very well be *the* most convoluted process I’ve ever seen in my life.
- Search for an episode of a podcast and start playing it.
- Click the TuneIn icon beside the episode that’s playing, to bring up that episode’s page.
- Click the Queue tab.
- Click the down arrow to show the option to show the link for Favorite Podcast. Click that and FINALLY it has been added to your Favorites list. NOTE: Clicking the link again does not remove it from the list… *sigh*
Add podcasts to your Amazon cloud music player
When you have an Amazon account, you automatically get Amazon Music, their cloud-based music storage service. You can add up to 250 songs to your library for free or pay $25/year for up to 250,000 songs. A podcast episode is considered the same as a song.
You can stream audio from your Amazon cloud service directly to your Echo. The advantage of this solution is that once you’ve put episodes into a playlist, you can move them around into any order you want.
The downside of this solution is that getting the podcasts into your cloud player and adding them to a playlist is ridiculously complicated. Here are the steps for doing it. NOTE: You can only do this from a computer; not from a mobile device. Likewise, you will need to install the Amazon Music app to your Windows or Mac computer; you cannot upload files using the web interface.
- Download the podcast to your computer. If you use iTunes to access podcasts, you can set it up to automatically download the latest episodes when they become available as long as iTunes is open on your computer. It will download them to a separate Podcast folder under iTunes media, with a separate folder for each show.
- Open the Amazon Music app.
- Drag the downloaded files from your computer to the Upload link in the right-hand column of the app. NOTE: Even if you have several separate folders for each show, you can drag the whole Podcasts folder to the Upload link and all the episodes in all the sub-folders will be added to the upload queue.
- Create a playlist for the podcasts in the Amazon Music app. Because I’m super creative, I call mine Podcasts. 🙂
- Move the uploaded episodes to your new podcast playlist. NOTE: The app only lets you move episodes to a playlist one at a time. The website version lets you move multiple files at once and reorder them, something else you can’t do in the app. (I told you it was ridiculous!)
Once you have added the shows to the playlist, you can then say “Alexa, play playlist Podcasts from my music library” and your Echo will start playing them in the order you created. NOTE: After the first time you do this, you may be able to drop “from my music library” from your command. But if you don’t say that part the first time, Alexa will look for that playlist in Amazon’s own library and, when it can’t find one, will pick some totally random playlist to play instead.
Also, like with the TuneIn method, you can use the Alexa app to manage playback but you still have the limitation of not being able to skip forward or backwards. (It would be SUPER awesome if Amazon could somehow consolidate Alexa with their own Music player…)
So those are all the ways I’ve figured out to play podcasts through an Amazon Echo so far. If you know any other methods, or have tips to make the methods above easier, please share them in the comments below!
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