iTunes 4.9 With Podcast Support

Today podcasting goes mainstream. Apple has released iTunes 4.9, which now has integrated support (and an odd purple icon) for organizing, downloading, and syncing podcast streams. iTunes’ new podcasting preference panel allows you to control how often it should check the servers for your subscribed podcasts, what to download, how many to keep, and which to copy to your iPod. The new version is available via Software Update, as well as Apple’s site.

I think it’s fantastic that Apple has embraced the podcasting phenomenon. When I first started listening to podcasts, I never would have imagined that they would go as far as adding an entire directory to the iTunes Music Store. The best part about all of this is that all the content is totally free, and there’s plenty of it. While podcasts have generally been home-recorded audio, Apple has made several deals with providers such as ABC News and Disney to provide content. Podcasting is going to explode now that it’s in everyone’s hands and is even easier then the standard iTunes Music Store. I can’t wait to see what new podcasts crop up.

If you don’t like what you find on iTunes, you can always apply Apple’s podcast interface to your own feeds. Under the Advanced menu in iTunes, you can choose to subscribe to any podcast feed by pasting in the RSS feed address. While I haven’t looked hard for it in the directory, I was able to easily add Slashdot Review to iTunes with nary a hiccup. Another nice feature is the ability to mark podcasts as played or unplayed by control clicking on the podcast itself or the entire feed header. Also, iTunes creates a new Podcasts folder in your iTunes Music library folder, making it easy to browse through the audio files yourself if the need should arise. For importing, iTunes added a Podcast option to the AAC Encoder, which encodes audio at 64Kbps — plenty for voice.

For those interested in creating their own podcasts, Apple has several items to help you along the way. For starters, they’ve added a big “Publish a Podcast” button to iTunes, where you can share the address of a podcast feed for Apple’s consideration. While Apple is the gatekeeper for the podcast directory, I’m confident that just about any podcast can make the cut. Also available is a (command line!) Chapter Tool application for adding chapters, images, and web links to specific timecodes in the podcast, so that the iTunes and iPod Photos show related images during stream playback. A podcast audio file with chapters shows a new menu at the top of the iTunes interface with a list of chapters, bulleted by the images which go along with them. MPEG-4 AAC (.m4a) files are the only audio format to support this feature, as they are the only ones over which Apple has control of the inner workings. While ChapterTool is still a beta command line application, I’m sure we’ll see some graphical interfaces for it in no time. I remember listening to an Engadget podcast many months ago, and agreeing with Phil Torrone that there should be some way to sync images and timecodes — this is the solution. The tools aren’t yet ready for the average podcaster, but the solid groundwork is there, and people will pick up on it.

Free content, new tools, and most importantly, listeners are what’s going to take podcasts to a new and more publicly aware level. This is just the beginning!

Update: New iPods are available at a very nice price point (20 GB for $299), as well as an iPod Software Update to enable podcast support all around.

Update: Jon points out that iTunes will bookmark not only AAC podcasts, but iTunes-registered MP3 ones as well. Now you can start listening to a podcast on your Mac, pause it, sync your iPod, and keep listening from that point via your iPod — seamless integration as you move from one place to another.

iTunes 4.9 With Podcast Support

11 thoughts on “iTunes 4.9 With Podcast Support

  1. iTunes 4.9

    This morning, Apple released iTunes 4.9, which includes podcasting support. You can subscribe and manage your subscriptions from iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. You can now add chapter markers, photos and more to your feeds. It’s all very exciting….


  2. This is very cool, but here’s a question. I’m already publishing a podcast feed that was included in the iTunes Store. Is it possible to have my current MP3 files as well as AAC files in the feed so that only iTunes would see the AAC? Chapter markers and pictures are a great feature, but I don’t want to alienate all the other listeners using different tools currently.


  3. My guess for handling the iTunes AAC/MP3 issue mentioned in the above trackback and comment is to swap out the links in the RSS feed by detecting the user-agent of the “browser”. iTunes’s user-agent string, “iTunes/4.9 (Macintosh; N; PPC)“, can be detected, and be handed an RSS feed with AAC links instead of MP3. Give everyone else the MP3 link, but also publish the AAC link on your sites as well. If you’re using PHP, you can use the $_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’] variable, and check if it contains “iTunes”. If so, return the AAC feed. Otherwise, return MP3.


  4. Joe says:

    And since all full sized Ipod’s are compatible with iPhoto, hopefully we’ll see Podcasters including exported albums along with their podcasts.


  5. A question about iTunes directory. My podcast is now on the directory, but I would like to figure out a way to go back and add art work, add more info to the listing, and a way to find out how many are now subscribing. I have not been able to locate any way to contact the folks at iTunes or any online assistance to accomplish any of these issues. Any ideas?


  6. As far as I can tell, you add all that information by using the custom iTunes tags in the RSS feed — as opposed to uploading it to Apple’s servers. I don’t know of any custom scripting solution yet, but I believe FeedBurner will add the information if you activate it.


  7. Collin-

    I wonder if you could offer some help, or point me to some other resources in the Mac world ?

    My podcast “SlashdotReview” was listed from the very beginning in the Top 100 of the iTunes Podcast directory, with ratings always in at least the 90’s to as good as the upper 60’s some days (and not even a corporate / celebrity hosted program!) I had a hosting outage July 18 that lasted for several days until I could re-configure to a new server. Over 2/3 of my listeners are through iTunes – and this is a daily M-F program plus a weekend summary on Sunday nights.

    Not only is it gone, I am not able to add it – in a “Catch22” that tells me it has already been submitted and is in the database. It is gone from the Top 100 listing, gone from the subscription list, and gone from the charts.

    How can I re-list SlashdotReview podcast with iTunes ?


    Andy McCaskey


  8. Bob Evans says:

    I had a version of the same problem in that I am trying to re-host my content on another server. I have a redirect in place at present, but have been unable at present to identify who to contact or how at Apple regarding updating my Podcast shows URI. Please let me know if you are able to determine this.


  9. Bob Evans says:

    Andy… It appears that you would need to remove your entry from the iTunes directory, then add it back. The only path I have found to removing an entry was the following:
    1. In iTunes, Clear/Remove/Delete your podcast from any subscription you may have
    2. Close then restart iTunes to clear the cache
    3. Go to the Podcast Directory
    4. Do a search for your podcast show
    5. Double click the entry found to see more detail on the show
    6. Click the “Report a concern” link on the upper right under Podcast Description
    7. In the resulting email form, select the Reason “is mine and I would like it removed from the Music Store”
    8. In the description, explain that you need to update the link to the feed (since it moved) then provide them the newe feed.

    I don’t know if they will simply update it or delete and force you to re-add. This is one path to getting back in the directory successfully however.


  10. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I needed to delete my podcast from itunes! This is because I created a new website with a new rss feed, so I will need to re-submit it to itunes. Thanks for the help!


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