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Podcast app Pocket Casts relaunches, hoping to make podcasts less excruciating to find

It's the app's coming-out party after being taken over by the biggest forces in US public radio.

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Pocket Casts overhauled its app to upgrade discovery, curation and playback. 

Pocket Casts

Podcast app Pocket Casts relaunched Wednesday with an overhauled app and a mission to make podcasts less awful to discover. It's a coming-out party for the podcast app taken over by a group of public radio giants earlier this year. 

In recent months, podcasting as a format has seemed like a bubble that may have popped. In a string of gut punches, BuzzFeed laid off its in-house audio team in September, podcast network Panoply eliminated its editorial division and Amazon-owned audiobook company Audible slashed its podcastlike original programming unit. But podcasting defenders describe those setbacks as aberrations, noting that other companies are betting on the durability of podcasts, including Spotify, iHeartRadio and Pandora.

Pocket Casts CEO Owen Grover argues that one of podcasting's liabilities has been the hurdles you have to jump to find programs you like if you aren't already a podcast superfan. "Podcasting fans ... deserve a listening experience that's easy to use, powerful and flexible," he said in a statement.

Pocket Casts was bought this year by public-radio heavyweights NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ and This American Life, and they put Grover, a vet of iHeartRadio, in charge. Combined, the new owners are responsible for more than 210 million podcast downloads every month.

On Wednesday, Pocket Casts said that the new app integrates Siri shortcuts, so you can ask Apple's digital assistant to launch the show of your choice. The company is introducing new podcast curation, both by humans and algorithm.

The app also includes episode search that lets you search within any series to find specific episodes, and it has filters to organize podcasts and fit them into playlists. The new app allows you to play podcasts without subscribing, so you can sample episodes without having to commit to a series. 

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