In 2015, we put out the first episode of our weekly podcast, NL Hafta. This is so far back in the world of podcasts that it predates platforms that are now synonymous with podcast consumption such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Podcast then was hardly the buzzword it’s now. News outlets even abroad were just waking up to the potential of the medium.
But while we were ahead of the curve in launching podcasts, we lacked in making them accessible to our readers. It didn’t help that digital publishing was still figuring out ways to embed podcasts in story pages. So, we relied heavily on platforms such as iTunes and Soundcloud to distribute our podcasts. The features of their podcast players offered experiences that our website couldn’t. But it came with a trade off: when we put up our paywall in 2017 and pulled Hafta behind it, the reliance on third party platforms led to a major pain point. Our listeners who could earlier download and stream the episodes with a couple of clicks on these platforms had to jump through hoops on our website to download the tracks.
We put out a stopgap of a player. It paled so badly in comparison with platforms such as Soundcloud and iTunes that we had to junk it soon enough and keep our podcasts outside the paywall. For years, even as Newslaundry podcasts topped the news charts across platforms, our website couldn’t offer a frictionless experience for podcast consumption.
Not anymore. We have launched a new podcast player, which is loaded with features like any decent podcast platform out there. And thanks to our subscriber, it even has features that are rare to find on a news website. We’ll come back to that. Let’s first run you through what all our new player can do, besides the regular play, download, forward and rewind controls, that is.
One of the reasons why podcast ticks as a medium today is that it fits so well in our multitasking routines. From washing dishes to walking to doing laundry, a podcast can complement all sorts of tasks. But there are so many podcasts and limited time. Hence, pros listen to podcasts at 1.5X, 2X speeds, and so on.
Our player lets you control the speed from 1X all the way up to 3X (yes, we are as amazed as you are with people’s abilities to listen to anything at 3X). We initially had only four fixed speed controls but this was so sought after that we pushed a play speed seek bar so that listeners could pick their own preferred speed.
Pick up from where you left
There’s no point having a podcast player if it doesn’t remember your timestamp from your previous session. Our player starts at whatever timestamp and episode you left at.
Skip to topic-based timestamp within an episode
Do you like listening to NL Hafta but wish you could skip the part where letters are read out or a topic that you already know about? You can simply go to episode notes and skip a topic or directly get to the part you’re most interested in. Not to pat ourselves but even the likes of Spotify and Apple Podcasts won’t give you this.
We want our listeners to prefer our podcast player over the likes of Spotify. We know that’s not easy and won’t happen overnight (our iOS and Android apps are on the way). A key feature to make this happen is to let users create their own playlists from episodes across all our shows, change their playing order, or just mark them for later.
How did we get all the features right? Well, we didn’t at once. There are still a couple of bugs we are working on. As much as we would like to pat ourselves on the back, the player has been made possible with feedback and suggestions from our subscribers.
We are also aware of the limitations of a podcast player on a website. Regardless of how good or feature-laden it is, it doesn’t match the experience of a native podcast app. And for that, we are already working on our phone apps. Until then, we don’t want our subscribers to miss out on a frictionless experience.
We have now enabled subscription-linked, private RSS feed for all our paywalled podcasts. These feeds will work as long as your subscription is active. Owing to the effort that went into it and the possible paywall leakage, we are opening this up for Gamechanger subscribers only. All you need to do is copy the RSS feed from your and paste in any podcast app that supports RSS authentication – Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Castro, PocketCasts, Podcast Go.
And here’s Abhinandan Sekhri explaining the whole thing if you’re new to NL Hafta.
A weekly capsule of our podcasts, part of some of India's most-followed podcasts on media, politics, pop culture, food and more.