Why isn’t Apple Podcasts showing you the latest podcasts?

By Jason Snell

ATP Episode 429 is out… everywhere but in Apple Podcasts.

I’m getting a lot of tweets and emails saying the same thing: the latest episode of (some podcast I’m involved with) hasn’t shown up in Apple Podcasts.

Unfortunately, right now my only answer is to say, “It’s displaying properly in every other podcast app around, so if you’ve ever thought of using Overcast or Castro or Pocket Casts or any other alternative podcast app, now might be a good time to try.”

This is an issue on Apple’s side. Apple is aware of it and presumably is working on a fix.

I do have a theory about what’s happening, though. This is just informed speculation, but:

  • The new version of Podcasts shifts from the model where each individual copy of the app talks to the RSS feed directly, to the model held by most podcast apps—a central server that monitors all the RSS feeds, pings them on a regular basis, and then updates the metadata in the individual app when needed. So the app phones home once to Apple rather than to every different server of every subscribed feed.
  • Separately, Apple’s had a “crawler” for years that goes out and grabs the RSS content of podcasts in its database to use in updating web pages and previews of podcasts. It’s not what the app displayed when you were subscribed to a feed, but it was what it used as a preview when you weren’t subscribed. The problem with this crawler is that it was very, very slow, at least for my podcasts. People used to complain to me all the time that the latest episode of my podcast that I was promoting wasn’t appearing in Apple Podcasts or in Apple’s web preview of the podcast; my standard reply was “Try subscribing to the podcast.” It always worked.

  • I assume that the new version of Apple Podcasts, which is reliant on an Apple crawler to update podcast RSS feeds, has forced Apple to drastically improve the speed and reliability of that crawler.

  • Possibly related, Apple is currently migrating a bunch of old podcasts that use its old Site Manager dashboard to the new and shinier Podcasts Publisher dashboard. That’s due by the end of the month.

So here’s my theory: Since Apple is migrating all podcasts to its more modern publishing system, perhaps the new, improved crawler only crawls the podcasts that are in this system? In that scenario, the podcasts that have not yet migrated would still use the old, slow crawler. The result: long delays for listeners.

Regardless of the cause, I hope this issue is resolved soon. And either way, I’m looking forward to my podcasts being migrated to a more modern set of tools within Apple’s system.

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