Can The Echo Play Podcasts? You Betcha!

Here’s another one of those natively-supported features that many Echo owners either don’t know about, or assume will be a hassle or cost money. Thanks to TuneIn integration, it’s actually very easy to add one or more podcasts into your daily or weekly routine, for free!

 

 

Sure, I’d love to listen to podcasts. But I don’t have the time.

You probably do, but just don’t realize it. Anytime you’re awake but your brain isn’t particularly engaged is a great time to add a podcast.

The Echo makes it convenient to add something great to the time you already spend getting dressed for work, soaking in a bath, folding laundry or getting ready for bed, for example. Podcasts are pretty brief, generally ranging from as little as 10 minutes to an hour. They don’t demand the same commitment from you as an audiobook.

 

Isn’t listening to podcasts a hassle? Don’t you have to register for each one to listen to them?

No! It’s true that there are a lot of “premium”, fee-based podcasts out there now, and those do require a subscription registration and payment. But there are lots and lots of totally free podcasts that are available to anyone who wants to listen with no sign-up required.

Many, if not most, free podcasts are ad-supported, but podcasters have learned to keep those ads very brief and non-annoying. Ultimately, the experience isn’t so different from listening to a favorite radio program—but with far fewer, and less annoying ads. The super-short podcasts, those that run 15 minutes or less in length, don’t typically have ads at all.

 

 

But aren’t podcasts mostly junk? I mean, anybody can have a podcast, right?

Well yes, anyone can have a podcast. But there are plenty of established and popular news and information outlets providing podcast versions of their content, too. Here are a few free ones to try:

Alexa, play BBC News podcast on TuneIn.
News brief of the same length and format you might hear on the radio or BBC News channel at the 15 minute mark each hour.

Alexa, play CNET Update podcast on TuneIn.
Top tech stories of the day. Usually less than 3 minutes.

Alexa, play The Adam Carolla Show podcast on TuneIn.
Comedy, commentary and interviews, ad-supported, runs about two hours.

Alexa, play The Marc Maron podcast on TuneIn.
Comedy, commentary and interviews, ad-supported, runs 1.25 – 1.5 hours. Note: there’s also a premium, paid Marc Maron podcast subscription, which lets subscribers access any episode at any time; the free version only provides access to the current episode.

Alexa, play The History Chicks podcast on TuneIn.
A fun way to learn about important women in history, ad-supported, runs about 90 minutes.

Alexa, play Astonishing Legends podcast on TuneIn.
Strange and unusual stories from throughout history and up to today that defy explanation, ad-supported, usually runs about 90 minutes.

Alexa, play What The Crime podcast on TuneIn.
Strange but true crime stories, sometimes ad-supported, runs about half an hour.

 

 

None of those podcasts interest me; how can I find some I’ll like?

Go to the TuneIn site and use the search box to search by topic, outlet (e.g., FOX News, NPR, CNET, BBC, etc.) or personality (e.g., Dana Gould, Kevin Smith, etc.).

Also check out TuneIn’s Top Podcasts page.

Once you find a program you like, make a note of the podcast title. Click through on the podcast title or icon to view a page with more information about the podcast, and a list of currently-available episodes. If you want to know how long each episode typically runs, click on a specific episode to load it, then look at the play/progress bar at the bottom of the screen: at the far right-hand side, the total running time for the episode should be shown.

Request your selected podcast by title when you want the Echo to play it, following the format in the examples above.

 

Sounds great, but what’s the catch?

There’s no catch. However, there are a couple of caveats to bear in mind:

1. As of this writing, on 12/11/15, the TuneIn support that comes built into the Alexa Voice Service only seems capable of finding podcast program titles, and playing the current/most recent episode. When you search TuneIn you’ll find listings of programs and individual episodes of those programs, but in my tests, Alexa can’t play individual, past episodes on demand, even when you get the title of the show and episode [or just the episode] right.

2. Alexa will not play premium/paid-subscription podcasts you have not subscribed to. But you already knew that, right?

3. The podcasts are coming from sources literally all over the world, and any one of those services will sometimes experience technical difficulties. Servers and networks can go down, sometimes new episodes are posted late by the creators, and so on. Don’t be surprised if every so often, when you ask Alexa to play a podcast for you, her response is, “Sorry, I can’t play the [podcast name] right now.” It won’t happen often, but don’t assume it will never happen.

 

Podcasts: yet another great Echo feature!

 

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