iPod Shuffle for Podcasts

The ipodder-dev and podcasters mailing lists have been lit up with people complaining about how the new iPod Shuffle is lousy for listening to podcasts.
Even InternetNews had an article to that effect, with Doc Searls and Adam Curry expressing their disdain for the new device. Well, the absolutely first thing I thought when I looked at the new device was “Wow, that looks perfect for podcasting.” I think my reaction is more in line with Eric Rice’s.

Not long ago, I had to make an emergency car ride of several hours. I own no iPod, and the only portable music device I have is an iRiver SlimX MP3 CD player. I didn’t have time to plan ahead and burn a CD of the podcasts I wanted to listen to. I did have my laptop with me, so I ended up setting it in the passenger seat and creating the playlist of what I wanted to hear on the drive. If I had an iPod shuffle, this would have been exactly what I would have synced to the device. I wouldn’t be storing anything on it, just putting on the things I want to listen to now, in roughly the order I want to listen to them. That sounds to me like the perfect situation, and being optimized for not needing the display actually helps out in the driving situation. Call me contrarian, but the empiricist in me says you can’t claim this doesn’t work for listening to podcasts until you’ve tried it. In my thought experiment, it does exactly the trick.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

11 thoughts on “iPod Shuffle for Podcasts”

  1. Marcus Berglund says:

    I have to say I agree with you, I bought myself a AU$50 mp3 player (uses SD cards), and all it has on the screen is a track number and time display, all I have to do is put my tracks in order. I’ve even recently moved to splitting tracks up in 10 mins segs (python script in linux) and putting in random music, makes it all much more manageable.

  2. Les Posen says:

    My take on podcasters and the Shuffle:


    Bottom line: Stop the whining about Apple, and think about the iPod Shuffle with out the podcast-centric world view

  3. Yep, I was thinking the same thing Dave. I could never justify a full iPod, but a Shuffle hits my price point and I think the play in order setting would work fine. I actually did some playing around in iTunes to somewhat simulate how the Shuffle would act and I think it would work out fine for me.

  4. Dave, you present one use case, for others it might be a daily drive/run/walk, or working out at the gym, whatever. People have different needs and usage patterns. If you run for an hour then gee, you could put the latest EGC and DSC on the shuffle and you’d be set. The only device not suitable for podcasting is one that does not play MP3’s.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Link: Podcasters: Curb your whining about the Shuffle and taking a podcast-centric view of the world. Link: Evil Genius Chronicles. i see that dave also agrees w/ eric’s pov… and, les makes a really good product development lifecycle point –

  6. Steve Holden says:

    The only thing I don’t like is the lack of a screen of some sort. I had the Creative Muvo 128 (no screen) and then upgraded in Nov to the Samsung Yepp with a screen and it is very nice to be able to see the name of the file playing (band/articst, song/album), and what time it is in the file.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My view is definitely shaped by how I listen to podcasts. My commute is a combination of a short bus ride, a 40 minute ferry ride, to a 15 minute van ride. Pretty much that whole time I’m listening to podcasts on my iPod photo 40GB. I’m subscribed to 28 podcast feeds and typically have around 30 or so shows in my to listen to playlist. In order to listen to that much content I have adopted some conventions. One is that virtually all music is skipped. Only the drum cadences can get through since I’ve always loved marching band music. I know I’m missing out on good music but I’d rather use the time I have to get to more spoken word content. Another thing I do, but less often, is “skim” through a podcast. If it does not interest me at the start I will skip ahead some and try to listen to some other parts before giving it the 1 star rating and moving to the next show. Both of these use cases require the ability to skip ahead. I have the advantage of not driving with my commute so I can look at the screen and easily skip ahead the three minutes for a song.

    So now I consider the iPod shuffle for these cases and it looks like it comes up short. No UI at all. And it’s not even clear that you can skip ahead. I’ve looked through the information on the Apple site and I can’t tell what happens if you hold down the next song button. Does it fast forward through the current song? If so, how fast? That would at least provide some of what I am looking for.

  8. Alexander says:

    What do I have to do, to make an audiobook file appear on the audiobook folder on my iPod?
    I didn't get it how does it work.
    Is there a special extension for audiobooks, because I've tried to convert to ACC (tutorial on this forum) but it didn't work.
    Please, help me.

  9. Mac-Guyver says:

    Dave imagines: “…the playlist of what I wanted to hear on the drive. If I had an iPod shuffle, this would have been exactly what I would have synced to the device.”

    Except then you would have been surprised when you went on the trip and found NO PODCASTS had downloaded into the Shuffle. Podcasts in the playlist that you set to sync DO NOT SYNC. The Shuffle would be fine for podcasts except that Apple purposely crippled the sync software (as some of the comments you link to explain).

    If you knew in advance that it was necessary, you could manually copy podcasts onto the ipod’s update list. So, besides having to understand how it’s broken, the main disadvantage is that it can’t select podcasts at random, or automatically manage a mixture of randomly selected music and podcasts. Oh, and some podcasts are in a file format that the Shuffle won’t play in its shuffle (as opposed to play in order) mode. Basically, the Shuffle won’t shuffle podcasts.

    All of which Dave probably realizes in a later review, but I couldn’t resist the dig & besides some hapless reader might be misled by Dave’s comment here.

  10. dave says:

    You are responding to an almost 3 year old post. I did use an iPod shuffle for about a year and a half after this post, and it worked fine. It sounds like you are making the assumption that I’d have used the shittiness that is the iTunes podcast client, which I never have. The shuffle will shuffle podcasts just fine if you have the sense to use a proper podcatching client.

    So, you felt the need to needle me on an old post about something that isn’t even technically correct. Rock on!

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