It’s not a surprise that Google has decided to discontinue Google Listen, its podcast search and playback app for Android. It’s the latest in a long string of projects and products that have been shut down as the search giant tries to narrow its focus. But I’m still a little disappointed, and scratching my head over the news.
People who listen to the “favorite apps” episodes of our own GeekWire podcast know that I’ve been a fan of Google Listen for a long time. I think it might be my favorite Android app of all time. I was always disappointed that Google didn’t bring it to iPhone, as well.
The best thing about Google Listen, in my mind, is the search function. Whereas most podcast apps let you search by the title of a particular show, Google Listen seems to benefit from more detailed indexing of each particular episode, delving beyond the title into the description and other data. Using Google Listen, I often end up searching not for shows, per se, but for specific topics that I’m interested in at any given moment — a particular sports team, or new technology, or hot news story.
It’s a great way to discover shows I’d never heard about, discussing subjects that interest me.
Yes, in other words, it’s great search app from Google, leveraging the company’s core expertise. Hmm, a great search app, from Google. Wait a second, why are they killing this off again?
Here’s the official blurb from the company’s post announcing the decision.
We launched Google Listen through Google Labs in August 2009, to give people a way to discover and listen to podcasts. However, with Google Play, people now have access to a wider variety of podcast apps, so we’ve discontinued Listen. People who have already installed the app can still use it, but after November 1, podcast search won’t function. You can access your podcast subscriptions in Google Reader in the “Listen Subscriptions” folder and download them from the Import/Export tab.
I know lots of people are fans of Stitcher and similar apps, and I use them, as well, but I’ve yet to find another app as good as Google Listen at finding relevant episodes based on searches for specific topics across a large database of shows.
If you have any suggestions for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, I’m listening.