How to play podcasts with Alexa on your Amazon Echo

Alexa isn't naturally good with podcasts – find out why and choose a better way

How to listen to podcasts on Alexa
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If you’re a fan of the latest and greatest podcasts, Alexa can be a great way to keep up with your favorites. The smart assistant has the capability to play podcasts natively via TuneIn, but there’s also a couple of alternatives to explore.

Read on for our guide to using Alexa to play podcasts on your Amazon Echo smart speaker – and also check out our handy list of Amazon Alexa skills you’ll definitely want to download and use.

Alexa podcasts TuneIn

Play Alexa podcasts via TuneIn

Alexa defaults to the TuneIn skill for listening to podcasts, which has a decent selection of titles for you to subscribe and listen to.

Just head into the Amazon Alexa smartphone app and dive into the Music & Books section of the menu (use the Play icon in the bar at the bottom). TuneIn will be listed among the top music services so tap on this part of the screen.

TuneIn is primarily a radio app, so you’ll need to scroll all the way to the bottom to find the options for podcasting. Get the feeling that it’s a bit of a forgotten feature? You might be right.

Essential guide: How to use Alexa announcements

Once in the podcast section, you can search for what you want to subscribe to. Some ideas are provided for you, although these are hardly a cutting edge curation of the latest and greatest podcasts. In fact, the list is full of generic genres that just screams low quality.

But the selection is pretty good. Search for S-Town, Serial, The Butterfly Effect – all the zeitgeisty podcasts from the last couple of years or so were present, so no complaints there. When you find one you want, tap it to play on one of your Alexa devices.

Once you've chosen the podcast you want to listen to simply tap it and it will play through whatever Alexa-enabled speaker you've got selected up top.

Normally, at this stage, we’d recommend some Alexa commands for you to try – but sadly we found the entire process brutally awful to use, so we're not going to recommend any. You can’t even subscribe to podcasts and Alexa is pretty rubbish at playing the correct episodes of serialised titles.

But there are a couple of workaround.

Alexa podcasts AnyPod

Use AnyPod to play Podcasts with Alexa

The AnyPod skill is a much beefier podcast choice for Alexa, offering more options than the standard. To enable it, just say “Alexa, enable AnyPod skill” or download it from the Alexa Skills Store.

The voice search works much better than via TuneIn, which really isn’t set up for podcasts, and the whole process is easier and neater.

What’s more, you can subscribe to a podcast, listen to your subscriptions, and AnyPod will work out the right episode for you to listen to. Listening to The Butterfly Effect took us to the first episode in the series, while a request for The Totally Football Show took us to the latest one. That’s the kind of experience you need when controlling a service with your voice.

We know you can't wait to get going, so here are the essential commands to get you started with AnyPod.

Play a podcast:

“Alexa, ask AnyPod to play [name of podcast].”

Subscribe to a podcast:

“Alexa, ask AnyPod to subscribe to [insert name of podcast].”

Play a specific episode:

“Alexa, ask AnyPod to play episode XX of [podcast name].”

Jump to the first or last episode:

“Alexa, ask AnyPod for the [newest/oldest] episode.”

List your podcast subscriptions:

“Alexa, ask AnyPod, ‘What are my subscriptions?’”

Skip forward or back an episode:

“Alexa, play the [next/previous] episode.”

Alexa podcasts Pocket Casts

Use Pocket Casts to play podcasts on Alexa

Thankfully, AnyPod isn't the only third-party skill you can enlist to help get to podcasts on Alexa, with Pocket Casts launching its skill in early 2019. To get it, you'll have to download it from the Alexa Skills Store and then link up your account.

Once you're all synced, you can access your podcasts by simply talking to any enabled speaker. And, considering this is the first iteration of the skill, it's not actually too clunky. There's still a bit too much back-and-forth, with the skill wanting confirmation on pretty much everything you ask for, but, as with AnyPod, the fact it's able to keep up with progress is exactly what the podcast experience on Alexa should be about.

There are a couple of downsides to be aware of, too. In our experience, the skill will always play the most recent episode - and sometimes, obviously, you want the oldest episode you haven't yet played. There's also no way to skip ahead during an episode if, say, the sync hasn't quite got things matched up with where you last left it. These are the kinds of things that can easily be patched up with new voice commands, and we expect it to keep getting better over time.

You can decide for yourself if Pocket Casts deserves your time, but here are some commands to get started with:

Play a podcast:

“Alexa, ask Pocket Casts to play [name of podcast].”

Subscribe to a podcast:

“Alexa, ask Pocket Casts to subscribe to [name of podcast].”

Get a recommendation:

"Alexa, ask Pocket Casts to give me a recommendation.|

Alexa Routines podcasts

Add podcasts to Routines

You can now also add Podcasts to your Alexa Routines, meaning that with one single command can control pretty much every aspect of your smart home, and play a podcast automatically.

To add a podcast to a Routine, you must use the TuneIn skill – for now at least. That's slightly annoying, but until Amazon opens Routines up further, that's the way it is. Go to the app and choose Routines. Start a new Routine and choose the command you'll give Alexa – then go to Music and type in the name of the podcast you want to play and choose TuneIn as the provider.

Once that's done, save the Routine and, of course, add any other smart home settings you want to run simultaneously – maybe you like to listen to your podcast in the warmth of a low, blueish hue. If you do, set this here. When you say the command, your podcast will play.

More Amazon Alexa guides

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