Overcast App Summer Update

Today’s Overcast update (2019.6) brings some great new features.

But first, I need to set low expectations for iOS 13, watchOS 6, and macOS Catalina updates this fall. Halfway through the summer, I’ve made much less progress than expected, having been overwhelmed by the required OS changes, my own technical and design debts, and unusually rough betas.

Rather than shipping a big iOS update, a standalone Watch app, and a Mac app on day one, these will probably come incrementally over the next year.

Fortunately, I haven’t stopped improving the app in the meantime.

Per-podcast customization, longer clips
You can now set download-vs.-stream and auto-delete behavior per podcast, one of the most frequently requested features over the last few years. (Sorry it took so long — it required a lot of server-side work for uninteresting reasons.)

I’ve also raised the clip-sharing length limit to 90 seconds. When I debuted this feature, I had to guess how it would be used and received, and 60 seconds seemed like a good limit. In practice, that’s sometimes a bit too short to capture a complete thought. 90 seconds should be better — most clips won’t need to be that long, but it’ll be nice to have the headroom when you need it.

“Suggestions for You” replacing Twitter
Overcast has had a Twitter-powered social-recommendations feature since version 1.0 in 2014, which made sense at the time: I didn’t have any popularity data to generate recommendations from, and social networks were nicer places to be than they are today.

But after five years, only 10% of active users have connected a Twitter account in Overcast, and only 0.2% of new podcast subscriptions have actually been added via Twitter recommendations.

Not only was the feature not providing much value to the 10% of people who enabled it, but the other 90% of Overcast’s customers haven’t been getting personalized recommendations at all.

In the meantime, I’ve accumulated five years of popularity data, so I tried writing my own recommendation engine. It worked — and it’s better.

Overcast now offers its own data-driven recommendation engine, and I’ve removed Twitter integration entirely.

Podcasts in the new “Suggestions for You” section of the Add Podcast screen are based on the shows you subscribe to, and what else their subscribers subscribe to, which gives much better recommendations without involving any social networks.

Most importantly, it works for all of Overcast’s customers.

This is reprinted verbatim; we may rewrite headlines and descriptions. Press releases can be sent to podcasts@circle270media.com

About the author: Brett Johnson

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