A few weeks ago, Marco Arment introduced the ability to share clips from podcasts to Overcast. While there was already a way to share a link to a specific time stamp in a podcast, this new feature makes it easier to insert playable media directly into a social media post or message, by creating a short audio clip or video.
Now, when listeners hear a particularly insightful, funny, or interesting tidbit in a podcast, they can quickly share that with their friends. Podcast creators can use the feature to highlight clips from their shows to promote them more broadly.
There are quite a few smart decisions that went into this obvious-in-retrospect feature. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Multiple formats: You can create audio-only clips or videos in portrait, landscape, or square layouts.
- Platform agnostic: Overcast itself is iOS and web only, but the output media can be sent to any service or app in your share sheet that will take video or audio. In another classy move, share links on the web site also include links to other popular podcast apps. Instead of trying to use this feature to cement users into his own ecosystem, Marco chose to promote the broader ecosystem of podcasting.
- Smart defaults: When you choose to share a clip within the app, it automatically selects a short clip backwards from what you just listened to. This saves you from having to hunt down the precise section of audio you want.
- Sensible constraint: You can’t share a clip longer than one minute. This makes sense for several reasons: it keeps the clip within the rights of fair use, it minimizes the processing and bandwidth needed, and it forces people to be creative about the clips they choose.
How could it be improved?
A lot of great work has already gone into this feature, but there’s always opportunities for improvement. Here are a few things that might make it better, with the caveat that they could require more work than they may be worth to implement.
- Add captioning: This is a pretty obvious accessibility improvement. (It’s also useful for people who don’t always have audio available when scrolling through feeds.) That said, there’s not an easy way to automatically caption audio content. There are services available, but they often cost by the minute and can be spotty in terms of accuracy. One possibility would be to let listeners add them manually. This would make the most sense for podcast creators, who may already have captions available to copy and paste. (This could also be a great pro feature for a Mac version of the app someday.)
- Highlight frequently shared clips: A common feature in Kindle books, the ability to see what others have shared can help key listeners in on important parts. Then they can also more quickly share popular clips.
- Let me split clips: Sometimes there’s cross-talk, sometimes a really brilliant insight is spread across a couple questions, and sometimes it’s just fun to remix. There’s also potential for abuse in here so it would be good to limit splitting to one or two spots at most (if this is even worth it).
- Allow web embedding: Maybe this is already possible and I simply haven’t discovered it. But it would be nice if there were an easy way to embed clips within a website that includes a link back to the full podcast in Overcast (much like a YouTube embed).
- Add share reminders: I’m often listening to podcasts in my car, and that’s not the most conducive environment for scrubbing an audio clip. I’d love to be able to tap something or say something to Siri to have it remind me when I’m in the app later so I can return to that spot in the podcast and create a clip.
- Differentiate voices on the clip visually: Again, this could be tricky and quite possibly impossible for questionable gain. But it could be helpful to see visually in the UI when conversations shift from one person to another to make it easier to select the right spots.
I partially shared this just because I’m excited to see more people sharing clips of podcasts they love. But it’s also a great study in listening to users and looking beyond what they ask for to what they actually want. Overcast already had a pretty good feature for sharing specific parts of a podcast - you could even link to a specific time within it. This makes it way easier to share bite-sized podcast snacks, though. I think there are several things any product designer could learn from this, though.
- Respect your competition: Rather than try to use this as a way to outmaneuver competitive podcast apps, Marco added links and images to some of his main competitors, knowing that can only strengthen the industry as a whole.
- Just enough configurability: Beyond selecting the clip you want, there are only two other options (both with smart defaults) — the format you want and whether to include share badges.
- Great sharing is great glue: This feature is super handy for helping listeners share their favorite content wherever they want to, just like good glue should be.