Exploring Version 7 Changes: Archiving

As part of the version 7 updates we announced last week, we thought it would be good to go into more depth on some of the new features. Why were they introduced, how they work, etc. Today let's focus on archiving:

Every release we look at our issues list (as reported via email, Twitter, feedback button in the app, etc) and pick some top ones to address. One of the ones at the very top, for years now has been something like this:

"When I want to go back and listen to old episodes of a podcast, I can't tell if I've actually listened to them or not. Sometimes the app marks things as played, sometimes I've marked things as played, sometimes I've actually played things".

This is heavily paraphrased obviously. Some people didn't like that the app used to auto-mark all but the latest episode as played on subscribe. Some people used marking as played as a way to get rid of episodes in filters and podcasts and then got angry at us when they couldn't accurately go through old episodes of a podcast they fell in love with later. There was a core theme in all of them: using marking as played was an easy catch all for everyone's case, but it also caused many people a variety of problems down the track. People were also frustrated by our two section approach to the podcast page (Unplayed at the top, Played under it) because they would mark something unplayed and it would "disappear". Ditto when they marked something as played "where did it go, this is super confusing?!".

So we tested out a whole variety of solutions to this issue. Things like an indicator for things you'd actually played in the player, various ways of showing and hiding things and in the end we came up with archiving. It's a common pattern, we didn't invent it. You archive emails. You archive photos. You archive articles in a reader app. Archiving is a clear signal that's not at all ambiguous: I'm done with this episode and I don't want to see it in my filters or podcast list.

So what happens when you archive an episode? If you leave the default settings as they are:

  • It's removed from your Episode Filters
  • It's hidden from the Podcast page
  • If it's downloaded the downloaded files are deleted
  • The play status remains unchanged (an archived episode can be unplayed, in progress or played)

We beta tested this for a few months and it was a huge hit. I also used it personally and came to love it. It was a purer, cleaner implementation of what we were trying to do before. Marking something as played that you never played is a weird way to get rid of something. We know this is a change to how the app has worked for a long time, but we're confident that if you give it some time and switch to archiving instead of marking as played, you'll find it better overall.

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About Russell Ivanovic

Chief Product Officer at Pocket Casts. Also Vice President of the Nonsense Department.