Podlove Publisher 2.7

We know it’s been a while since our last update but we needed to sort things out for the next incremental release of our podcast publishing platform. But here it is: Podlove Publisher 2.7 is now available for download and we encourage everybody to move forward to this new version of our sophisticated plugin as it brings some new features and a few of nice additions and general code improvements.

Along with this release, more Podlove stuff has changed. There are going to be a few more blog posts about this, covering the Podlove Web Player and an outlook of what we are working on for future versions of Podlove Publisher.

So for now, let’s have a look what’s new in Podlove Publisher 2.7.

Shows

For a long time people have been asking for a way to publish more than one podcast with a single WordPress installation using Podlove Publisher.

However, we were reluctant to make additions because this feature was already here: you can switch your WordPress installation to a WP Multisite installation and have several independent but still interconnected blogs where each can host a separate podcast. Podlove Publisher is 100% WP Multisite compatible and provides a network-wide control panel with network-wide templates and allows you to create groups of podcasts for overview pages.

But many feared the added complexity or the work to move to WP Multisite. Others just wanted something more subtle where separate shows would be more considered to be part of the same podcast. In general, these boundaries are fluid and many people wanted slightly different things or had a different approach to what they consider to be a part of what. That made things complicated when thinking about a solution to break up a single podcast into multiple components.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that we also wanted to keep things easy. “Easy” is not only about the user interface but about underlying concepts like Podlove Templates. Each added complexity needs to be addressed on all levels and thus we needed to be careful.

Introducing Shows

So what are shows, then? Shows are a selection of your podcast episodes that are grouped together and can be syndicated through a separate podcast feed. The main podcast feed still exists and syndicates all episodes as before.

Every episode can only be assigned to a single show. In that regard it does work differently from categories where multiple categories can be assigned to a single episode.

What a “show” means is mostly defined by you. You might have a podcast where each podcast is produced in a different language, so each show represents a single language. Or you just want to produce different formats in a single podcast: a magazine, an interview, music or whatever you feel like. So shows are useful to publish related content where some episodes are of interest to a selected group of people.

To add shows to your podcast, enable the Shows module and then create an entry for each show in the Podlove → Shows menu. You can optionally assign a podcast image for each show.

We recommend not using Shows together with our Seasons module as these conceptionally overlap and it might produce weird effects.

Also, when your shows are so distinct from each other that you basically address totally separate audiences and have hugely different meta data, you should still consider using our multisite feature. Multisites are much better suited to the idea of a podcast network.

iOS 11 meta data

After a long silence, Apple has finally changed and extended their specification of the iTunes Feed Extensions initially brought up around ten years ago. Some features have been retired: keywords are no longer used (as they haven’t proven to be really useful – their retirement actually happened two years ago) and they have fundamentally changed their approach to using subtitles.

Subtitles

This kind of a bummer for us as we still think subtitles are a great idea. We have been promoting subtitles on all levels throughout the Publisher since the beginning (for the podcast, episodes and other entitites). We still do as we are not buying into Apple’s new thinking around this.

We understand their motives however: many podcasters did not embrace the idea of subtitles. Many of them are just left empty or just replicate information provided in the summary field. So Apple decided to drop the subtitles and just use titles and summaries in their iTunes and Podcast apps on Mac, Windows and iOS.

But that doesn’t mean subtitles are no longer useful. First, most other podcast clients still use these and they are really, really useful for episode archives and podcast directories (among other things). So we keep things as they are. If you only care about iTunes (you shouldn’t), you can just ignore them (right now, there is no way to turn them off in the user interface).

Episode Numbering

Apple has also come up with a new approach to episode numbering. The idea of adding actual numbering metadata is good as it is common practice to enumerate episodes when publishing podcasts. Episode numbers are easy to remember and to refer to. It also enables podcast clients to order podcasts along some other data than just post dates.

Apple’s solution has some shortcomings though: numbering starts with 1 (many podcasts start with a “number zero” episode to intially address the audience before the “real” content starts) and it does have no way to number intermediate episodes. The spec also does not tell much about how duplicate numbering should be addressed.

We have added a migration tool to extract episode numbers from your existing podcast titles if you want to use episode numbers. We have also added the concept of a podcast mnemonic (a short abbreviation of your podcast name) that can be added automatically to your podcast titles if you want to.

But you can also leave things as they are as we think the traditional method of podcast numbering by including episode numbers (and mnemonics) in the episode title is still good practice and makes it easier for people to refer to your episodes. Choose your poison.

Podcast Type

The new spec also defines Podcast Types. So far, two types have been defined: “episodic” and “serial”. The first is how things have been until now. A “serial” type communicates the fact that your episodes are meant to be in full, starting with the beginning, as each new episode builds on top of the last. If your podcast is of that sort, you can now choose this type in Podcast Settings.

iTunes and the iOS Podcast app presents the first episode as the first to listen to when you go for the “serial” type. If you also use Seasons, new subscribers will be shown the first episode of the latest season.

Episode Type

There is also a new episode type to be chosen. Apple defines “full”, “trailer” and “bonus”. The idea is that “full” episodes are the “real” content and trailers are basically introductions to upcoming episodes. The spec is a bit loose at this point as these concepts are not thoroughly explained, so it’s just a guess how episode numbering should work in combination with these types.

It needs to be seen how these concepts will be adopted, which might or might not lead to other tweaks in the Podlove Publisher.

Podlove Template Changes

Various smaller changes have been made to the Podlove Template system, mostly to address the new meta data for the new iTunes Podcast Extensions as described above.

You can also now fetch the current number of downloads of an episode and display it on your web page by using the `episode.total_downloads` identifier.

For details on all the changes to the template system, refer to the
Publisher 2.7 Release Notes.

Podlove Web Player 4

We have been shipping our new Podlove Web Player 4 in a beta version for a while now, so this is not big news for you. We are going to explain all the great things that are in this all-new player in a separate blog post later on.

The Podlove Web Player 4 is now out of beta and it is now the default web player for new installations of Podlove Publisher. If you want to use the new player (you should!), you can enable it in the Podlove → Podcast Settings → Web Player tab.

Podlove CDN

The Podlove CDN (for content delivery network) used to be only for the Podlove Subscribe Button but is now more widely used by the Podlove Publisher.

You can now have the new Podlove Web Player 4 be delivered via CDN (again, this is an option you need to tick). Apart from faster load times, this enables automatic feature updates as the CDN will always deliver the latest and greatest version of our new player that is under constant development and is going to bring new features and bug fixes automatically.

If the CDN is not available, there is always a backup player that can be delivered by the Publisher if needed.

The Podlove CDN is just a name, the actual CDN behind this is KeyCDN which provides free hosting for open source projects like Podlove.

Thanks again to Podigee which has provided the resources for Podlove CDN up until recently. Podigee provides easy podcast hosting and is compatible with Podlove specifications and the Podlove Subscribe Button.

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