Jan 082013

I’ve lamented before about the lack of Catholic podcasts. There are certainly some high quality ones out there, but there are relatively few compared to Protestant and even atheist podcasts

Now one avenue for getting quality Catholic media out there is to take an existing show produced for radio and make it available as a podcast. Catholic Answers, EWTN, and Al Kresta do this. This is an excellent way to increase discoverability and to allow people to listen to shows at their leisure.

Unfortunately I saw today two examples of Catholic media failure in this regard. The examples I found indicated they had no idea what a podcast really was. For one thing making an mp3 file available on a website is not a podcast. An actual podcast provides a syndication feed (RSS) where you subscribe to the podcast to listen to via a podcast application. These podcast application can be used on a computer or mobile device. The podcast application then checks when new shows are available and downloads them for use.

There were a couple of Catholic shows I wanted to check out. One was the Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick and the other is Patrick Madrid’s new show “Right Here, Right Now

At the top of the Son Rise Morning Show’s site there was a promising tab for “Podcasts”. It even had a Podcast button labeled “Full Feed.” This was not an actual Podcast RSS feed you could subscribe to but just a link to the same page which has a list of shows you could listen to.

Now that was annoying, but I thought maybe I could just download the show to listen to later on my iPad. Nope, no download link just streaming from the site. Plan B: Well I will just load up the page on my iPad to listen to it. Plan B Fail: Page would load, but no episodes appear on the iPad.

Update: Immaculate Heart Radio let me know that they do indeed have podcasts for some of their shows available in iTunes.  They will have Patrick Madrid’s show as a podcast in the future.

Second Update: The show is now available via podcast.

Next I went to Immaculate Heart Radio where I saw a banner for “More streams, podcasts, and more!” Now was there an actual podcast I could subscribe to? You guessed it, no. What they did have is a new mobile app for iOS and Android. This app allows you to listen to live streams and what it called “Podcasts”. In this case the only show available was “Bay Area Catholics” and not Patrick Madrid’s show. Plus again it was not really a podcast, but a show available on demand for streaming.

At least on their Audio Archives page you could download individual shows. It is certainly nice to support someone being able to listen to a show by clicking on a link on their site. Actual podcasts allow you to listen to shows when not online.

EWTN’s new mobile app is another thing I found quite annoying. For the most part mobile apps created for Catholic broadcasters are usually just not very good. Now I understand this is something they hire out for and cost is of great concern. This app certainly I think reflects that. On the plus side they had a universal app for both the iPhone/iPod Touch and for the iPad. There was really no consideration is how it looked/worked on the iPad and you could not change orientation from portrait to landscape for the menus. At least videos played in landscape mode (sometimes). If you lost internet connection and wanted to play where you left off for the video – no luck there. Overall the app was just not visually appealing in any way. On the other hand it might be perfectly usable for many people and it does provide something needed. Maybe I am too picky as being both a developer and somebody who has come to understand how important interface and aesthetics are. This app though looks to me like the iconoclasts won.

Here is something else I found embarrassing. EWTN has a page dedicated to using EWTN on your mobile phone.

On your Iphone or iTouch, start Mobile Safari browser.

Wow where can I get an Iphone? Is that a Chinese knockoff of an iPhone?

How about some instructions for Android users or is it this page just never got updated? Possibly since they don’t even mention their new mobile apps.

They do have a Mobile Apps page and here they link to the iOS and Android apps stores to download this. Oddly though instead of using the standard Android icon, they used the Google Play store icon.

Now I might be a pot complaining about the color of the kettle considering the grammar and spelling mistakes that appear on my site. Still I find the problems noted above to be indicative of some Catholic media.

  16 Responses to “Misadventures in Catholic Media”

  1. Jeff,
    I wanted to respond to the issues you raise about Immaculate Heart Radio’s web site and mobile apps. Immaculate Heart Radio does, in fact, offer podcasting of some of our shows. These shows are, for the most part, local offerings to various radio markets we serve. Bay Area Catholic and Setting Things Right are our two most commonly featured podcasts. They are full podcasts, you can subscribe to the RSS feed and they appear in iTunes as well as other aggregators. Other shows are simply placed in our archive.

    Podcasts of the Patrick Madrid show are coming. We are still working out details in order to get them on the web and as a feed for you. Immaculate Heart Radio currently only archives and podcasts shows that it produces, and Right Here, Right Now is our first show produced for EWTN… Rest assured, as soon as the kinks are worked out, you will be able to find a podcast of Right Here, Right Now with Patrick Madrid.

  2. Exactly. Also, I do not use Apple products so iTunes is no solution even if some shows I am interested in were available there.

    I solved the problem, but the solution is technically beyond many. I use Linux, streamripper, podcastamatic, and a couple custom scripts that I wrote. With these tools I “record” the shows from shoutcast or icecast and “publish” them for myself. With a little graphics work I now have a bunch of podcasts (including the Son Rise Morning Show and Right Here Right Now) done right and am very happy with it. Unfortunately, it does not solve anyone else’s problem

    It’s honestly baffling why so much effort is put into creating these shows and so little into distributing them.

  3. Ugh. Sadly, I haven’t seen any signs of this trend reversing.

  4. Highlaire: “This app though looks to me like the iconoclasts won.” Glad to see someone else is confused by Catholic media calling something a “podcast” when it clearly isn’t. I thought I’d been missing something.

  5. […] Misadventures in Catholic Media – Jeffrey Miller, The Curt Jester […]

  6. (((On the other hand it might be perfectly usable for many people and it does provide something needed. Maybe I am too picky as being both a developer and somebody who has come to understand how important interface and aesthetics are. )))

    There ya go again Victor! As usual your brotherly so called Christian Catholic cells don’t know what you’re talking about and if Catholics are half as bright as ya are, then you guys and guys are your own worst enemies and that’s all “I’M” going to say about “IT” NOW!

    Don’t ya mean guys and gals sinner vic? 🙂



  7. When Patrick started on IHRadio with “Right Here, Right Now”, I waited about a week but when it was clear that feet were dragging on building an RSS/podcast feed, I built my own which you can use for now here. It’s not pretty. No nice feed picture, no show description, no length, etc. But enough that the MP3’s get downloaded and labeled with the date in my podcatcher. I had hoped that by now my temporary RSS feed wouldn’t be necessary, but alas it’s still how my phone and Google Reader grab my latest fixes of Mustache powered apologetics from IHRadio.

    I’m hoping that the fine folks at IHRadio get a full fledged RSS/podcast feed going soon so that I can retire my hack.

  8. Thanks for this excellent commentary. I couldn’t agree more. As a podcaster myself, this is great feedback. For any newbies to the world of podcasting, (with all the folks who got new smart phones and tablets for Christmas), allow me to briefly plug SQPN.com, a network of Catholic podcasts with various formats and subject matter from the US, Europe, and Australia. Find it here: http://sqpn.com.

    And Jeff, might I ask you to update my blog address in your sidebar to a new site: http://www.amongwomenpodcast.patgohn.net. Thanks so much.

  9. I listen to catholic podcasts all the time. I tried a few different ways to get content, none of which was perfect. I now mostly use itunes even though I don’t use an i anything. Even that isn’t perfect. I then copy the mp3s to my smart phone to listen to later and found that itunes decided for me that if I haven’t listened through itunes then I must want to unsubscribe 🙁 On the positive side though I’m discovering new, great podcasts everyday. I found a podcast of the divine office that’s great. I love pray-as-you-go. I recently found Creighton Center for Catholic Thought that I find very enlightening. So far they have also been very consistent in producing one show per week. I really enjoy Ian on the Catholic Laboratory. I listen to others from sqpn and download shows from EWTN. It is what it is. I am grateful for all of the great content. Keep listening!

  10. Too many professional Catholics think that a love for Jesus can cover up a lack of talent, skill and intelligence.

  11. I left a comment a couple of days ago, but apparently it didn’t go through — maybe because it included several URLs. Mainly, I just wanted to say that while I don’t doubt your negative experience with Catholic radio podcasts, my experience has actually been pretty good. I subscribe to several podcasts of Catholic radio shows in either Juice or Winamp, including Kresta in the Afternoon, Catholic Answers Live, The Journey Home, More to Life (Greg & Lisa Popcak), and Catholic Connection. All of them work fine. Also, EWTN has a podcast page that contains podcast XML links for many of their weekly TV shows, as well as for their Open Line radio show.

    However, I will mention that I do not use any Apple products, not even iTunes on Windows, so I don’t know if these podcasts appear in whatever podcast directory you can find with iTunes.

    • Paul H,

      While it is certainly true you can find good Catholic podcasts and that there are actually podcasts, there was a pretty large gap when this happened. For example I was manually downloading EWTN and Catholics Answers shows for years before they had podcasts. This was true even after the point when podcasts were not just something for early adopters.

      As for my complaints they have nothing to do with Apple products or where podcasts feeds are listed. They fact is the shows I mentioned do not have podcasts feeds anywhere. Things have gotten better over time, but there is still a pretty large gap with Catholic responses to tech changes.

  12. I highly recommend Jimmy Akin’s podcast, available at SQPN

  13. Scott……your link brings me to the shows but the only way I can seem to subscribe is with Live Bookmarks. I find this also with other podcasts. How can I actually get the rss feed url so that I can copy/paste it into my podcast software to have it automatically downloaded? I use Radio Downloader. Thanks.

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