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Use this skill for better podcast listening on Alexa

For podcast lovers, Alexa's native podcast playback for Amazon Echo devices might seem paltry. This third-party skill turns Amazon's voice assistant into a serious podcast machine.

Chris Monroe/CNET

While you can stream just about any podcast with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant for Echo devices, podcast playback on Alexa is rather limited. Without using Bluetooth or manually choosing what to play through Spotify, you can listen to only the most recent episode of any given podcast.

However, there's a third-party skill that brings much more functionality to podcast playback on Alexa. It's call AnyPod. To enable it:

  • Go to alexa.amazon.com or open the Alexa app on Android or iOS.
  • Tap the hamburger bar in the top left to expand the left menu (only in the mobile apps) and select Skills.
  • Search for AnyPod.
  • Click Enable.

How to use AnyPod

amazon-echo-skin.jpg

Taylor Martin/CNET

After AnyPod is enabled, play any podcast by saying, "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play 'This American Life.'" But that's where AnyPod and the native podcast playback similarities end. With AnyPod, you can:

  • Subscribe to a podcast: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to subscribe to 'The Joe Rogan Experience.'"
  • Unsubscribe from a podcast: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to unsubscribe from 'Criminal.'"
  • List your subscriptions: "Alexa, ask AnyPod, 'What are my subscriptions?'"
  • Play subscriptions: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play my podcasts."
  • Jump to a specific time in a podcast: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to [fast forward/rewind] 5 minutes."
  • Play a specific episode: "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play episode 65 of 'Criminal'" or, "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play 'Serial' chapter 1 episode 8."
  • Skip forward or back an episode (must currently be listening to a podcast with AnyPod): "Alexa, play the [next/previous] episode." (While playing your subscriptions, this command will jump to an adjacent episode in the subscription list.)
  • Jump to the first or last episode: "Alexa, ask AnyPod for the [newest/oldest] episode."
  • Reset your listening history (so episodes don't pick up where you left off): "Alexa, ask AnyPod to start over."

There are also some other subtle differences. For podcasts that are told as a story, like "Serial" or "S-Town," the podcast will automatically start with the oldest episode instead of the most recent. And if you're having trouble finding a podcast, try asking more broadly. For instance, you can say, "Alexa, ask AnyPod to play Alec Baldwin" to find "Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin."

Of course, there is at least one caveat. Not every podcast or episode is available through AnyPod. It found "This American Life" with ease, but it couldn't play episode 50. And, for some reason, when I asked for "S-Town" it played "Crimetown." For it to play "S-Town," I had to ask for "Shit Town."

The developer notes that if a podcast you publish or listen to is missing from AnyPod, you can request it by sending an email to anypodskill@gmail.com.