A podcast feed, if left untended, can quickly become as overwhelming as an email inbox. Even the most dedicated listener and best podcast catching app can get overloaded with unplayed episodes, the same way an inbox gets inundated with unread messages. When a podcast feed gets out of control with downloads, it eats into your phone’s storage and makes a mess of your podcast app.
The solution is to keep your podcast feed tidy and well organized. It doesn’t take much. Half the battle is enabling the right settings and the other half is creating good habits around how you listen to shows and tend to your feed. Even if you’re tempted to subscribe to every recommended podcast out there, these tips will help you stay in control.
1. Let Your App Auto Delete Played Episodes
This tip is very basic but essential: Let your podcast app automatically delete episodes after they’re finished playing. Every podcast catcher app I’ve ever seen has this option, and it’s usually on by default. Leave it on or turn it on. Once a show has played, get rid of it. You can always download it again if you want to replay it.
2. When You’re Almost Done, Delete or Skip Ahead
You’re listening to a podcast and there are only two minutes left, but you’ve already lost interest. If quit your podcast app now, the show won’t automatically delete because it hasn’t finished playing fully. Make a habit of either manually deleting the show right there and then, or tap the skip ahead button until you reach the end so it will automatically disappear.
3. Make Playlists Based on What You Do While You Listen
Some podcast shows are great to listen to while at the gym. Others are ideal in the car. I have a select set I always play while I’m drinking my morning coffee. Create playlists based on the activities you do while listening to certain shows, which will keep your shows organized and ready to play so you don’t have to futz with creating a playlist every time you want to listen. In the Podcast app, these customized feeds are called stations. In Downcast app they’re called playlists. In Pocket Cast they’re called episode filters. You can assign a show to more than one playlist, and it won’t create duplicates. I like that the Downcast app shows the total amount of time left in my playlist, and because I have one playlist that contains everything, I can easily see how many total hours of un-played podcasts I have at hand.
4. Don’t Auto Download More-Than-Daily News Shows
Do not set to auto-download any podcast that releases a show more than once a day. Typically these types of shows are news digests, sometimes released as often as once an hour. In a US presidential election year, some of these shows might even have special bonus content from time to time, creating even more episodes that will clog up your feed. Set these shows for manual refresh and download or stream the episodes you want to play when it’s time to play them, or limit the number of episodes that will download (in the settings).
5. Let Go of Episodes With a Short Shelf Life
Certain kinds of shows have a short shelf life. These include news digest and commentary shows, as well as other content about world affairs. What often happens when we subscribe to a show about, say, the state of the global economy, is we start to believe we need to listen to every episode in order to stay informed. When life gets in the way and we miss a few shows, we might keep the episodes hanging around because we intend to catch up on them.
There’s no need to catch up on shows that essentially expire after a few days. If the content isn’t timeless, don’t feel bad about deleting un-played episodes.
6. Use Auto Skip
Most podcast apps have some kind of feature that lets you skip ahead either at the top of a show or at the end. Apple’s Podcast lets you do it universally across all podcasts in your feed, but Pocket Cast has this setting at the show level. When you set a show to automatically skip through long intros (I’m looking at you, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn) or notoriously long ads at the end of a show (cough, cough, 99 Percent Invisible), you might be more likely to play each episode to completion and thus have it auto-delete when you’re done.
These tips should help you keep your podcasts in line, and possibly free up some space on your phone. If you’re still short on storage, see my article on how to free up space on your iPhone.