What’s wrong with podcasts?

That’s a question that a lot of people have been asking — and answering — over the past year or so. Podcasting is such a new medium that there is very little received wisdom. It’s still a very open landscape, filled with potential. Hence it’s frustrating that it almost appears to be stagnant. Sure, there are plenty of new podcasts, but they are hard to distinguish from the rest.

So it’s with great excitement, joy, and more than a little pride that I’d like to introduce you to

What’s that, then?

The closest way to describe Constellation is as a “podcasting syndicate”, but really that’s unsatisfyingly reductive. It is mostly about podcasts, but it’s an attempt to break some new ground in that arena:

Constellation was born from the belief that podcasts can be so much more. For too long, the status quo has been left to a few hallowed entities to maintain. We’re changing that, starting right here. We don’t think that podcasting has to involve so-called geeks, expensive equipment and arcane tea-ritual-esque syncing procedures. Whether you’re a podcaster, podcast enthusiast, or just a regular person, you’re going to like what we have in store.

I was really excited to partner with the guys at Fiat Lux to make this happen. There are a few things you’ll find on that I don’t think you’ll quite experience anywhere else.

A grand stage for each episode

Podcast sites — even the ones hosted by Squarespace — are generally unimpressive. The visual side of things often takes a back seat to the spoken words. Of course, they’re of paramount importance, but we didn’t see why the way they’re presented had to be so drab. If you’ve put effort into a podcast, (and a lot of podcasters put in an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears that you’ll never know about,) why wouldn’t you want to showcase it as if it’s actually worth something? Not doing that is like putting an exquisitely cooked steak in a paper bag and throwing it across the restaurant in the direction of the customer’s plate.

The bland nature of so many podcast sites makes regular people think they’re for geeks, and that’s just wrong. Podcasts shouldn’t just be for people with computer science degrees, they should be for everyone.

Chapter jumping

One big complaint about podcasts is that they’re too long and meandering. Sometimes you don’t want to sit all the way through the comics talk to hear the bit you’re interested in. Our approach to chapters means that each podcast can be consumed the way you want it. And why not?

If you’re listening on the site, you can jump to different chapters with a single click. Not only that, the chapter links will work in certain podcatchers, too — like Instacast.

Friendly player

Speaking of podcatchers, you don’t need one to enjoy listening to Constellation podcasts. Our player works pretty great on mobile — it’s big and bold and actually present a touch target. We have plenty of other cool ideas that we’re going to be rolling out over the next while, as well, which should make the site an even better experience on mobile.

Our endgame is to completely negate the need for a podcatcher. Sure, if you want to use one, Constellation will always support that. The site also works out of the box with Huffduffer (unlike certain other sites…). At the end of the day, we want to eliminate the barrier to entry. Why should it be so difficult for your listeners to listen to your show? It shouldn’t.

So there we go

I’m not under any illusions that what we’ve done took particular genius. Nor does it solve a lot of the problems inherent to the medium. There are still bugs to be squished on the site, and plenty of features that didn’t make the launch in time.

What’s important, and what makes me proud to have worked on this, is that we’ve done something new. I think it’s a good direction, and I hope you do as well.

Anyway you can decide for yourself!