We want to make subscribing to podcasts easier. As easy and sending an email.

mailto:

When you click on a linked email address your default email client opens automatically and fills in the recipient’s address. Handy! An HTML scheme that makes that text a link is called mailto:, a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), enacted as the standard in 1998, some 30 years after email was invented.
Why am I schooling podcast fans on email schemes?

I want to make listening to or subscribing to a podcast as easy as sending an email. Or easier! Mark Steadman (founder of the podcast hosting platform Podiant) and I (founder of Podcast Advocate Network) are launching a campaign for a new URI called podTo.

The problem

This came about when I mentioned to Mark that a visitor to my site couldn’t figure out how to subscribe. This wasn’t a tech illiterate person. They listen to and subscribe to many podcasts. And the links to subscribe are prominent and plentiful on the site. This is just an anecdote about the larger problem of fragmentation within podcasting. Podcast listening veterans probably will, but do you think someone new to podcasts knows what all of these icons mean?

A listener is presented with a barrage of links for Apple Podcasts and Google Play Podcasts and Overcast and Pocket Casts and Instacast and Downcast and Castro and all the rest that don’t yet have the market share to even get included in an already too long list! This is not a simple nor elegant solution to acquire new listeners.

The vision

Our plan is that a potential listener would go to a podcast website (or any site or blog that wants to share a podcast) and there is just one simple “Subscribe” button, which would open a dialog box with just the supported apps on that listener’s device.

The technical bits

The premise is that, in the same way anyone can use the mailto: URI by adding it to the beginning on an email (example mailto:joinus@podto.org), a website could replace the http: of a podcast’s RSS feed with podto: and it would create a simple link (example podto://feeds.podiant.co/platform/rss.xml).

There are three parts to make podTo happen before we can start using it, and make listening to podcasts that much easier.

  • App developers need to add support to their apps to open this type of link.
  • Web developers need to implement podto: links on their homepages.
  • And users need to enjoy all the time saved while listening to the sweet sounds of podcasting.

Open to everyone

This will be a free and open scheme for all to use in the same way any other URI is used. Because of our passion for podcasting, we want to see podcasts recognized as a communication tool akin to email or a simple web link.

Anyone can follow @podToURI on Twitter to get the latest updates, and use #podToURI to join in the conversation. See more about the campaign, and a list of current supporters, at podto.org.

Call to action

Podcast listeners: send a message to the developers of the apps you use that you’d like #podToURI support for easier subscriptions.

Podcasters: ask your podcast host to support #podToURI to allow listeners to subscribe.

Developers: pledge your support with #podToURI on Twitter or email joinus@podto.org.

Hear Mark and me talk about podTo on Platform, our podcast about Podiant and the podcast industry:

We’re excited for the next episode of podcasting.