Earlier this year, I started listening to podcasts during my commutes. I don’t know why I had not done this earlier, but I am glad I started. I find podcasts informative and interesting. I listen to a few NPR podcasts, the Official Playstation blogcast, StarTalk Radio, and a few other science related podcasts. The way that I was listening to podcasts was via the Stitcher app on my iPhone.
Stitcher worked great and while they inserted ads from time to time, it was not egregious. That is until recently. Just a few weeks ago, Stitcher started inserting an ad after almost every podcast and this gets annoying — especially because I listen to some 60-second podcasts from Scientific American. Not only did Stitcher insert a copious amount of ads, they were usually the same ad over and over again (the last two weeks it was an ad for Lone Survivor).
Last week, I received an email from the Stitcher CEO, Noah Shanok, apologizing for the extreme amounts of ads. The email highlighted Stitcher Plus, which makes Stitcher an ad-free listening experience for $2 a month. It also highlighted the fact that Stitcher shares ad revenue with their content partners, though it does not specify what amount. And it makes an effort to emphasize that Sticher’s business model depends on ads.
I like Stitcher, but enough was enough. I switched last night to Downcast, which is a pay-once ($3) app from the iTunes App Store. It works better than Stitcher and gives me much better control of how I listen to podcasts (such as prioritizing podcasts) and also handles previously listened to podcasts better. And, instead of paying a monthly subscription to not have an app run ads, it is a one-time payment to buy the app.
One other thing I have noticed is that the audio quality of the podcasts are much better with Downcast. From what I have found, Downcast downloads the podcasts directly from the podcasts creators, using links from their RSS feeds. Stitcher, on the other hand, downloads the podcasts to their server and recompresses them in order to make the podcasts streamable over a mobile connection. The difference in audio quality is quite noticeable.
Stitcher may want to re-evaluate the amount of ads they are running, the frequency of which those ads are run compared to the length of the podcasts and if an ad-based business model will be sustainable. I don’t know if I will return to using Stitcher in the near future, but I wish them the best.