All posts in “Podcast”

Anchor’s new app offers everything you need to podcast

Broadcasting app Anchor, which helps anyone record and share audio, is relaunching its app today with a new focus on serving the larger podcaster community. While in the past, Anchor was carving out a niche for itself in the short-form, social audio space, the new version – Anchor 3.0 – aims to be everything you need to record, edit, host, publish, and distribute a podcast of any length, as well as track how well the podcast is performing.

The changes follow Anchor’s close of a $10 million Series A from Google Ventures and Accel last fall, and arrive at a time when interest in podcasts is continuing to grow. Half of U.S. homes are now podcast fans, Nielsen has said, and 22 percent consider themselves “avid” fans. In addition, the rise of smart speakers with voice assistants has made it more convenient to listen to audio recordings in the home, helping to boost adoption further.

Anchor’s general belief has been that anyone should be able to easily record and share audio without the need for special tools or technical know-how. The new product represents a doubling-down on that belief, as it aims to remove the many obstacles that would-be podcasters face, from hosting fees, to the needs for special editing software, and the lack of insight into how well podcasts are being received by listeners, among other things.

Though Anchor had been targeting short-form audio, professional podcasters began using its app in greater numbers last year to take advantage of several of its tools. This included Anchor videos, which turns audio into shareable, video clips (which will be re-added to the new app in a later release), as well as a “call-ins” feature which allows them to receive voice messages from listeners that could be later integrated into a new episode.

But most of all, they were using the one-touch podcast feature that lets anyone record and distribute audio with a tap of a button.

“That’s when the floodgates opened, and we saw all this interest around podcasting, specifically using Anchor tools,” explains Anchor CEO Mike Mignano.

He says the team then looked to see how they could better serve their podcaster user base, and found that it was still surprisingly hard to create a podcast today.

“It seemed crazy how difficult it was to make an actual podcast. There’s the expensive microphone you have to buy, the difficult software you have to manage on your computer and learn. And there’s the process of uploading and paying to host your audio files,” he says. There’s also dealing with the podcast’s RSS feed, which not everyone understands.

What’s New

The new app will now drop users straight into a podcast creation screen, with color-coded buttons for using Anchor’s various features in addition to the big, red “Record” button.

There are buttons for recording with friends; for call-ins (now called voice messages, meant for direct, private conversations); for adding music from Apple or Spotify; and for adding transitions from Anchor’s built-in library of sounds.

As you create and use these components, they appear as drag-and-drop modules in a visual editor on the screen, so you can move them around to create your podcast episode.

This all color-coded as well, as is a bar at the top of the screen showing the length of each audio piece you’ve assembled. And Anchor has dropped the 5-minute limit on recording your voice, too.

Anchor will also now host your podcasts for free, and allow you to easily import your back catalog if you want to make a switch from your current hosting provider. There are no limitations on who can use this feature.

“In 2018, this is just the way it should be – there shouldn’t be hosting fees holding people back from this,” says Mignano.

After you’ve finished your edit, you can push a button to publish the podcast for availability on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Overcast, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Alexa devices, Google Assistant devices, Apple HomePod, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and, as of today, Spotify.

Also in the new app, and to a greater extent on the web, Anchor now offers podcast analytics which show things like plays per episode, total plays, downloads, and more. On the web, these are available as charts and graphs, and there’s a section showing which platforms listeners are coming from, too.

The web version offers a more advanced editor with the ability to upload audio files from your computer and re-use recordings from your Anchor history.

Of course, there is one concern for professional podcasters migrating to Anchor’s platform – and that’s whether it will be around in the long-term.

For now, the company isn’t generating revenue – it’s living off its funding. Podcasters who pay for hosting or self-host don’t generally have to worry with whether they’ll one day have to quickly migrate elsewhere because the company is shutting down or being acquired – and that’s always a concern with startups.

Mignano says Anchor’s plan is to eventually introduce monetization tools for podcasters, which will play a role in Anchor’s business model. (Specifics were not available, but Anchor would likely take a cut of the revenue it helped to generate, as is standard.) This seems like a good bet, especially considering how popular the format has become.

Several big names are launching on Anchor 3.0.

This list includes: Reshma Saujani & Girls Who Code, BuzzFeed, Relay FM, Penguin Random House author Alison Green, Tiffany Zhong and Zebra Intelligence, Seeker, Fatherly, Eniac Ventures, Abby Norman, The Outline, Cheddar, The Players Tribune, and Atlantic Records.

Along with hosting, every podcaster gets their own custom URL for their show, which includes buttons to subscribe anywhere its hosted – like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, etc.

Partners, and other Anchor broadcasters, will continue to see their work featured within the app, as before, but in a redesigned “browse” section that has more of an iTunes-like look-and-feel.

Anchor 3.0 is rolling out to iOS and Android, and on the web, starting today.

Has tech given us a dark future?

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Is the future broken?

Maybe not, but by many measures the present is. Over the past couple of years, the networks and devices that we’ve come to rely on for our information, consumption, and social interactions have had their toxic underbellies exposed: Social networks have been twisted by fake news and filter bubbles, the constant ping of notifications on screens has shortened attention spans and created addictions, and it sometimes seems all the big tech companies are determined to erase every trace of privacy left in the world.

We know how we got here. In fact, most of the conversation around technology in 2017 was about examining the problems and laying blame. Now the conversation has begun about repairing the damage and charting the best way forward.

One of the people leading that conversation is Andrew Keen. Keen is an author, and if you look at the titles of his previous books — The Cult of the Amateur, Digital Vertigo, and The Internet Is Not the Answer — you can tell he’s been a tech naysayer since before it was cool. But he’s singing a different tune with his new book, How to Fix the Future. Instead of diagnosing problems, Keen is proposing solutions, traveling the globe to educate himself and his readers on how governments, private enterprise, and individuals can build a kind of new “digital social contract” as the influence of technology in our lives inevitably grows.

Keen joins Mashable’s MashTalk podcast to discuss those solutions, and the five tools he thinks are essential in creating them: competitive innovation, social responsibility, worker and consumer choice, education, and — yes — regulation. While many in Silicon Valley might bristle at any discussion of government stepping in on their turf, Keen sees regulation as an essential part of fixing things, although he also explains that it’s not a panacea, and that it needs to be complemented with empowered consumers and innovative companies with new business models if it’s going to help instead of hinder progress.

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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How cheap Fire TV devices power Amazon’s streaming war

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

If you did some online shopping this holiday season, chances are you bought something from Amazon. And if you did, you certainly saw a splash ad for the company’s own devices, including one for the Fire TV Stick, which was slashed from the regular $39.99 to just $24.99.

I know I did. And when I saw the ad for the 17th or 18th time, even though I wasn’t planning to buy the Stick (I already had a first-gen device, which lacks Alexa integration), I found myself clicking “Add to Cart.”

I wasn’t the only one. Amazon says its customers bought 2.7x times as many Fire TV Sticks over the Black Friday shopping period than it did over the same period last year. It also claimed to have sold “millions” of Alexa-compatible devices.

That’s impressive. It also might make you wonder: How can any other purveyor of video streaming devices compete? Apple didn’t help itself when it decided to offer its Apple TV 4K at a prohibitive price point, starting at $179. To be fair, the Apple TV 4K more directly competes with the new Fire TV box, but the price difference is still eye-popping — you can buy a Fire TV today for just $54.99. Even if you look to streaming mainstay Roku, it’s 4K Ultra streaming box sells for $89.99.

Beware what you buy, though, since it might not be compatible with the services you want. Google made that abundantly clear recently by restricting YouTube from Amazon devices, and Amazon famously doesn’t make its streaming apps Google Cast-compatible, meaning they don’t work on Google Chromecast. It doesn’t even offer any Chromecast or Apple TV in its store… or at least it didn’t until this week.

Will things get better among streaming competitors? How does Amazon get away with selling its devices so cheap? And what are the guiding principles for its Fire TV line? Scott Henson, Amazon’s director of product management for Fire TV, swings by the MashTalk podcast to give some insights into Amazon’s streaming-box plans, as well as some thoughts on why how we’re watching is almost as important as what we’re watching. He also tackles the question: Will we ever see ads on Amazon video?

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

(Note: This podcast was recorded before Amazon announced it would accept Google Chromecast and Apple TV back into its online store.)

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Why it’s hard to get an iPhone on a budget wireless carrier

Image: Haley Hamblin/Mashable

Got a smartphone? Then you must also have a wireless plan, and if you live in the U.S., chances are it’s with one of the big four — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.

However, there are a bunch of other carriers you may have seen around, carriers with names like Cricket, Jolt, metroPCS, and Virgin. These are MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, and they exist by leasing spectrum from the major carriers. They’re also often a better deal, thanks to selectively targeting demographics and relying heavily on Wi-Fi to support the network.

One of those MVNOs is Republic Wireless. Founded in 2010, it made a name for itself by putting Wi-Fi calling on the map. Thanks to a Wi-Fi-centered strategy, Republic was able to offer incredibly cheap deals, which had the potential to cut big money off a wireless bill — a Mashable editor actually saved over $150 every month by switching. The big catch: The number of phones that actually worked on Republic was very limited. Notably, it didn’t — and still doesn’t — offer the iPhone.

After quietly expanding the number of phones that are compatible with its network, Republic Wireless is making noise again. It’s just announced two new hardware products that will debut in early 2018: a phone with no screen that looks more like a panic button, and its own smart speaker.

On this week’s MashTalk, Republic Wireless co-founder and CEO Chris Chuang explained who the products are for: families. The screenless phone, called Relay, functions as both a kid tracker and a way to communicate directly with them. The single button directly calls the parent, and it’s equipped with GPS so the parent can check the kid’s location anytime. The device also provides access to Google Assistant, so the kid can ask questions and get answers without bothering mom or dad (and yes there are parental controls for what information the Assistant can surface).

The smart speaker is called Anywhere HQ, and it’s also equipped with Google Assistant. It looks like any other wireless speaker, but if you pick it up off its (heavy) charging cradle and look at the bottom you’ll see all the buttons for a cordless phone. The big difference is that it’s a phone that works with your smartphone’s phone number, and it also works over the 4G LTE network — so you can take it anywhere.

If this all sounds great to you, but you’re still not psyched to jump to a carrier without the iPhone, Chuang has some good news for you: On the podcast he reveals Republic Wireless will offer an iPhone in 2018. He just didn’t say which one.

You can subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes or Google Play, and we’d appreciate it if you could leave a review. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @mashtalk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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Learn Spanish with this innovative podcast

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you’ll know how important listening can be. 

That’s why Duolingo has launched the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, for English speakers who are learning Spanish. The first episode is available for free on Duolingo’s website, iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. New episodes will roll out every Thursday. 

Each 15-minute episode is a narrative nonfiction story, similar to an episode of This American Life. Though they take place all around the world, the episodes feature Latinx characters, and discuss Latinx culture. 

The podcast is hosted by Martina Castro, co-founder of NPR’s Spanish language podcast Radio Ambulante. She is also the founder and CEO of Adonde Media, a bilingual podcast production company. 

Castro narrates the stories slowly in clear, intermediate-level Spanish. A paragraph is read in Spanish first, followed by an English translation, with segments clocking in at about a minute long. 

The English translations make it easy to check how much of the preceding segment you understood. They can also pull you back into the story if you got lost, or zoned out, during the Spanish section. 

Don’t expect the monotonous listening exercises from your high school Spanish class (or those you might hear on the Duolingo app itself). The stories are interesting, unnerving, heartwarming, and a unique portrait of Latinx culture.

Having taken four years of high school Spanish many years ago, I was able to get the gist of each section if I focused hard (though the English translations were certainly helpful). That said, you’ll want to listen at a time when you can focus — my intermediate-speaker’s brain had a lot of trouble translating if it was also doing something else. 

The first episode features the story of Rodrigo Soberanes, a Mexican journalist, who builds a friendship with a disgraced soccer player and makes a documentary about it. 

Upcoming segments will document a Chilean journalist who unexpectedly meets her future (Chilean) husband on a trip to China, and a woman’s journey to build a life in Buenos Aires after her boyfriend (whom she moved there for) leaves her.  

Duolingo told Mashable that it hopes the podcast will motivate intermediate and advanced Spanish learners to keep up with their studies throughout their daily, while communing, exercising, etc. (But as I said, for speakers as inexperienced as me, this is probably wistful thinking). 

It also hopes users who have completed Duolingo’s Spanish course will maintain their grasp on the language (and, incidentally, their involvement with Duolingo) by listening to the podcast regularly. 

The company also noted that Spanish speakers who are learning English could benefit from the podcast. 

If you want to learn Spanish, and you love a good story, check this podcast out. 68d8 b4a2%2fthumb%2f00001