Updated below with additional information.
Almost lost amid the flurry of announcements from Amazon’s devices and services team Wednesday was this intriguing tidbit for podcast listeners in a post about new Alexa features.
“Soon, Alexa will sync with your favorite podcast and on-demand audio apps–if you’ve started a podcast using the Spotify, SiriusXM, or iHeartRadio app on your phone, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off on your Alexa devices when you get home. We’re also adding the ability to navigate podcasts by timeframe and topic to make it even easier to get to the content you want.”
This would bridge the current gap between Alexa/Echo devices and podcast apps on smartphones — addressing a longstanding feature request from some users. The classic scenario is the commuter who arrives home with 10 minutes to go in a show and wants to seamlessly pick up at the same point in the show on the kitchen smart speaker while getting dinner ready.
Some third-party skills have tried to address this challenge, with mixed results. Native integration would tend to lead to a more seamless experience.
Google offers this capability on its Google Home speakers, syncing with the Google Podcasts app.
As described, the new Alexa feature is just a start, without support for Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or other apps beyond those listed. Another notable omission is TuneIn, given its longtime status as the default podcast player on Alexa devices, but it looks like the company is changing that, as well.
We’re adding support for Spotify’s podcast library in the US, so you can easily access hundreds of thousands of podcasts with Alexa. We’re also expanding the selection of on-demand audio available on Alexa to include SiriusXM’s vast On Demand library, which offers nearly 10,000 hours of archived shows, musical performances, and interviews. And we’re launching a preferred podcast setting so that you can pick your default podcast provider.
Update: Amazon says the feature will be available in the coming months, and can be implemented as part of the podcast skill by any podcast provider who would like to use it. The new navigation features will work by saying, for example, “Alexa, play [podcast name] from last week.”