The Definitive Guide to Amazon Alexa

03.03.01Audio Streaming Podcasts
The Podcast Listener’s Guide to Alexa

As we adopt Alexa and other voice assistants at a phenomenal rate, we’re also listening to more podcasts, more often. Audio-centric, personal and uniquely intimate, Alexa and podcasts complement each other beautifully, and listening to podcasts is among Alexa’s most popular uses.

There’s plenty of room to improve the podcast experience on Alexa, however. At the moment, you won’t find for podcast services the deep integration users enjoy with Spotify. We eagerly await the ability to sync with podcast apps like Pocket Cast, Stitcher and Downcast in order to manage subscriptions and keep tabs on what we have, and haven’t, heard.

Here’s everything you need to know about the current state of podcasts on Alexa, including a few listening options with varying degrees of playback control.

Listen without adding skills.

By default, Alexa serves podcasts via TuneIn. If you ask, “Alexa, play the podcast Revisionist History,” she’ll summon the latest episode from the service.

While you cannot name a specific episode of a podcast, you can play the one that precedes the episode currently playing: “Alexa, play the previous episode.”

Should you temporarily switch to another podcast, music or alternative audio source, Alexa cannot resume from your stopping point; you’ll need to restart the episode from the beginning.

You can also ask Alexa simply to “play a podcast,” and she’ll play one you inevitably won’t like. (The niche nature of podcasts is what makes them so fantastic. Seek out the ones that suit your unique interests.)

Play podcasts from the Alexa app.

You can also use the Alexa app to find and control podcasts.

  1. Open the Alexa App on your mobile device or at alexa.amazon.com.
  2. Within the main menu, select Music, Video, & Books.
  3. Under Music, choose TuneIn.
  4. Select Podcasts.
    You can also use TuneIn’s search bar at any time to find a particular podcast.
  5. Explore categories to discover a podcast of interest, then a specific episode.
  6. At the top of the app, select your desired speaker(s) .
  7. Click the podcast cover to play.

Gain control with podcast skills.

A handful of podcast skills offer a bit more versatility, sometimes with the appearance of robust integration with podcast apps, but they’re all quite buggy.

Listen with AnyPod.

Among them, AnyPod remains most popular. It also offers the highest level of reliability, which says little of its quality, unfortunately. On top of Alexa’s limited default capabilities, AnyPod can play specific episodes, jump to a particular time and even manage subscriptions. However, the service lacks an app—mobile, Web or otherwise—or any sort of visual interface, which poses a challenge to listeners juggling numerous podcasts. Some AnyPod commands include:

  • Alexa, ask AnyPod to play episode [number] of [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod to [fast forward/rewind] [duration].
  • Alexa, play the [next/previous] episode.
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod for the [newest/oldest] episode.
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod to subscribe to [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod to unsubscribe from [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod, “What are my subscriptions?”
  • Alexa, ask AnyPod to play my podcasts.

Listen with Stitcher.

Of the foremost podcast apps, Stitcher is the first to offer an Alexa skill. In principle, the skill is quite promising, offering the ability to tap into the playlists managed in its Web and mobile apps, and even maintaining current listening points. But execution has been quite poor to this point, as indicated by the high portion of negative ratings in the Alexa skill store. Commands for the Stitcher skill, which work with varying degrees of success, include:

  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play the latest episode of [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play the first episode of [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play season [number] of [Podcast Name].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to rewind [duration].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to fast forward [duration].
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play my Favorites playlist.
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play Front Page.
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher, “What are my playlists?”
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher to play Listen Later.
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher, What is the name of this episode?”
  • Alexa, Ask Stitcher, “What is the name of this show?”
Take care not to install the Sticher Flash Briefing skill instead.

Enable podcast skills.

Like all Alexa skills, you can enable AnyPod and Alexa within the Alexa app or by voice command.

Enable skills via the Alexa app.

  1. Open the Alexa App on your mobile device or at alexa.amazon.com.
  2. Within the main menu, select Skills.
  3. Search for AnyPod or Stitcher.
  4. In the results, select the desired skill.
  5. Click Enable Skill.

Enable skills by voice command.

  1. Simply request, “Alexa, enable [AnyPod/Stitcher].”

If you opt for Stitcher, you’ll need to accept content for mature audiences, then link the skill to your Stitcher account—a good thing, in theory, as it keeps your material in sync. You can do so in the Alexa app by clicking the prompt on the Home screen, or by following these steps:

  1. Open the Alexa App on your mobile device or at alexa.amazon.com.
  2. Within the main menu, select Skills.
  3. At the top-right, choose Your Skills.
  4. Choose Stitcher.
  5. Within Stitcher, select Settings.
  6. Click Link Account and follow the prompts.

Stream from your favorite podcast app.

If you’re engaging Alexa through a Bluetooth-enabled smart speaker or headphones, you can pair that device with your phone or tablet, then play podcasts from your preferred app. While Alexa’s control will be limited to basic functions, such as playing, pausing and adjusting the volume, this will afford you the greatest managerial control of your subscriptions.

To pair your Echo device with your phone or tablet, follow the below steps.

The Echo Look does not support Bluetooth pairing.
  1. Ensure your device is in range of your Echo speaker.
  2. Disconnect any existing Bluetooth connections with the command, “Alexa, disconnect.”
  3. Set your smartphone, tablet or other device to Bluetooth paring mode.
  4. Set your Echo device to pairing mode with the command, “Alexa, pair.” She’ll confirm with, “Searching…”
  5. On your phone, tablet or other device, select your Echo speaker under Bluetooth settings. Alexa will announce the successful connection.

Having configured the connection, you can reinitiate it any time the devices are in range, with Bluetooth, active by issuing the command, “Alexa, pair with [Device Name]” or “Alexa, connect to [Device Name].”

Questions about listening to podcasts with Alexa? Tweet us.