Zune doesn’t support podcasting…or does it?


Zune_podcastAs Zune details became available some folks understandably complained about the lack of podcasting support, but there’s an important distinction here that people new to podcasting might overlook. While the Zune software currently doesn’t allow you to subscribe and download to podcasts natively the way iTunes does, the Zune hardware most certainly does support audio and video podcasts. A Zune software upgrade could add this functionality and I’d expect we’ll see that over time; Microsoft can only hide from RSS for so long: case in point being the integrated RSS reading within IE 7 and Outlook 2007.

I made a snap decision today and have a Zune in hand. In fact, right after I wrote my post about the Xbox Live Video service and the future possibility of watching those videos on a Zune, I called my better-looking better-half who was out shopping and had her pick up a Zune for me. I’ve already got podcasts on the Zune and it was a simple matter to be honest.


Any good podcatcher application (I used Doppler in this example) will allow you to specify where to save the RSS enclosures it downloads, so I simply created a "My Podcasts" folder under My Documents and configured the Zune software to monitor that folder. Just like Windows Media Player, you can tell the Zune software to watch as many (or as few) folders as you like for content.


That’s it….no rocket science here and now my podcasts are automatically synched over to the Zune hardware. This will work with videos as well, provided your podcatching software supports video file downloads. Bear in mind that some video podcasts are only available in a Quicktime format, but I suspect I’ll have a workaround for that before long and I will post if that’s the case. My previous viewing of "the show with zefrank" in Windows Media Center via TVTonic has my thinking about this particular issue. So…..anyone in the Philadelphia area want to share some music over WiFi? Now I know how the person with the first fax machine must have felt….



@ Kevin…

I know this blog post is about a year old, but I wanted to say thanks, anyway. I couldn’t figure out how to get the Zune to resume the file I was playing after it had been paused and left to sit for several hours. That is, until I read your first reply to Nate.

This blog post was the second result when I did a Google search for ‘zune remember where paused’. I suppose that means something. :)


I think the way I’m going to start doing podcasts on my Zune is just to tell the Zune software to monitor my iTunes podcast directory. (I only turn on iTunes to update my podcasts once a week or so anyway, and only start the Zune software when I’m planning on changing/adding files.) But the hard drive organization shouldn’t really matter in terms of playback, as long as the podcast creators set the file tags in a reasonable manner.


But…can you have folders within folders? Or subfolders? So, we can have all of one podcast in one subfolder, and all of another in a different subfolder.

Heng-Cheong Leong

You can’t delete podcasts directly in the iPod either. iTunes in the Mac/PC, however, does have a global preference that one can select to automatically delete all podcasts that have been played, so that one don’t have to do this manually. The other options in this preference item are not to delete, or to only keep the latest or the last 2/3/4/5/10 episodes.

Kevin C. Tofel

Nate, it’s all about the discussion, so for that, I say “thanks!”. :) We’ve learned some interesting things in this discussion, first and foremost that “podcast support” means different things to different folks. I simply wanted to clear the slightly muddy waters so that an ill-informed consumer didn’t say “The Zune looks nice, but I heard you can’t listen to podcasts on it because they’re not supported”. Feel free to replace “Zune” with any other DAP as well….

Based on some of the other great comments and questions, it’s safe to say that the Zune doesn’t provide as positive a podcasting experience than the iPod currently does. Some of the iPods features that Heng-Cheong Leong points out are sadly not supported on the Zune in the current firmware and software. Could that change? Sure, but we’re not guaranteed that.

Gorkon, I completely missed that our MobileTechRoundup show notes are visible on an iPod! These days I do most of my podcast listening on the Samsung Q1 UMPC….thanks for the tip.

John, I don’t see a way to remove a podcast file from the Zune without removing it from the Zune software on a host PC. I might have missed it, so I’ll keep looking but I think we’re out of luck on that for now. One question for you: when you’re walking the dog and listening to podcasts, what does the dog listen to? ;)

Great discussion everyone!

John in Norway

I have a question.
I listen to podcasts while I’m out walking the dog. Because I have such a bad memory, as soon as I’ve heard the podcast I delete it from the mobile device. This is fine if I use my pocket PC (Toshiba e800) but I’ve yet to find an MP3 player that allows this. Is there such a one? All the ones I’ve seen here need a PC.

Nate Green

Well…it seems that I set off quite a discussion.

Kevin, I apologize for implying that you were not familiar with Podcasts or Podcasting. I am not a regular reader of your blog, nor do I consume any of your podcasts. I found this post (if I remember correctly) linked off of Techmeme and as I do consume audio podcasts daily, I thought I would put in my two cents culled from my experience as a user. “Irrational lust” was harsh and probably inaccurate, but neither am I an iFanboy.

iPods are what most of us are accustomed to, and I don’t think it is out of line to question, when someone is trying to replace our iPods with their devices, whether we are losing functionality. That is why the online community, blogosphere, whatever, has been so negative about the lack of built-in podcasting support in this first Zune. Clearly it was not a technical hurdle and there is obviously nothing keeping the Zune team from implementing it later on or in a new model, but for those of us who love podcasts, it is of primary importance.

Heng-Cheong Leong does a much better job of listing the characteristics I was thinking of than I did. I was specifically thinking of and I use all the time his items 1(keep position), 2(sync position to PC), and 3(skip in shuffle). The podcast directory and the smart playlists are nice, but would not have been deal breakers.

This is not just about show notes. The experience that podcasting fans have become accustomed to at this point has evolved beyond “throw the MP3 on the player.” Podcasts are a unique type of content and specific attention to those unique qualities is what this side of the isle is thinking of in terms of “supporting podcasts.”


While the show note feature is nice on the iPod, it’s not needed to say it supports podcasting. Oh and Kevin…..one podcast you do has that….that’s MoTR! :D It just grabs the text part of the blog post and stores it on the iPod. When you press your center button 3 times when listening you can see the show notes. On the otherhand, I would expect Microsoft to totally bypass podcasting in the Zune software since they are most definitely in the money pocket of big media.

Second, the Zune has WiFi and it’s totally USELESS. If Microsoft was SMART they’d have:

A browser in the Zune. (for authenticating on T-Mobile)
Podcatching BUILT IN….the ZUNE downloads the podcasts itself!

If it had that now, I would buy one. As it is, Microsoft dropped the ball big time. If it just have 2 features, plus MAYBE the show note feature you could use this as a portable podcast listening AND catching device.

Mel Buckpitt

So if I have learned anything from this thread it is that if a MP3 device cannot display the shownotes it does not support Podcasting. Which is the same as saying if it cannot display album art it doesnt support portable music. Sounds daft to me!!

As far as I know all MP3 devices have some form of resume from where you left off function; my 2year old iRiver does.

Is there any portable hardware or software available that integrates the mp3 file and the show notes? I don’t but you could probably could do it with a web browser with an embedded media player running on a UMPC.

Heng-Cheong Leong

These are some of the “features” on the iPod that I find it useful for listening to podcasts.

1. The iPod remembers the position where you left off. Even after you stop/pause, play a whole bunch of other songs, and then come back to the podcast.

2. The position where you left off is sync back to iTunes on the Mac/PC, so that I can continue to listen on my Mac once I’m home.

3. Podcasts are automatically marked “skip in shuffle mode”, so no podcasts come up when I am in a music-listening mood.

4. iTunes Store / one-click subscription. Not essential (for techies), but very useful.

5. Smart playlists – I use it to separate podcasts that I must listen to, and podcasts that I can afford to automatically delete after certain period of time (a.k.a. river of news.) (This also requires meta-data such as last played and play count to be sync from iPod back to iTunes.)

Tablet PC User

@ Nate

Dude, what’s your problem! What do you mean KCT doesn’t do podcasts very much! The guy has 78 episodes at MOTR, plus many more video’s here at JKOnTheRun! I’m sure that he is actively listening to MANY other podcasts to be up to date!

Instead of being a complete jerk on the blog, you should drive to your local Target/Wal-Mart/Best Buy, and try out the device!

I sense sour-grapes from this iFanboy!

Kevin C. Tofel

Nate, thanks for the comment! Let’s clear a few things up right away and then get some answers to your questions. My intent wasn’t to provide a full review of the podcasting support for the Zune; it was simply to clarify what I think could be a confusing point for folks new to podcasts. As far as my being new to podcasts or not “doing” them so much, I’ve co-hosted and post-produced over 100 podcasts, was part of the first commercial podcast network and wrote one of the first (if not the first) print articles on podcasting back in October 2004. I get what you’re saying, but again, the intent of my post was one of clarification.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s address some of your questions. If you pause or shut off the Zune and then press play, it will pick up where it left off for a podcast or a song. The menu for videos actually has a Resume option, which I’d like to see in the audio menus. Single podcast episodes show as they would for single audio tracks on an album; provided the podcaster keeps their ID3 tags consistent, this works just like on the iPod. Unfortunately, I can’t answer your question about show notes embedded in the MP3 file as none of the podcasts I subscribe to or publish use that mechanism.

Is the Zune the best thing since sliced bread andor is it better than the iPod? Yes and no; it all depends on your particular needs. I own both devices, not because of some “irrational lust” but because they both satisfy my needs and I try to share opinions and thoughts on devices for other people to use in their purchasing decisions. Thanks!

Nate Green

Ummm, OK. So maybe you don’t do podcasts very much, but there’s a whole lot more to podcasting support than just RSS downloading in the music client. Does the Zune hardward remember where you left off? Cause, you know, when you are listening to that hour long political rant you really want to have to remember you were at 35:42 and fast forward back there the next time. Does the Zune understand episodes of a single podcast? How about show notes embedded in the MP3?

See, when we said that it sucked that the Zune did not support podcasting, we didn’t mean that we were too dumb to get our downloaded podcasts into the Zune software and synced to our Zune. There’s a lot more to podcasting support than that. (It is entirely possible that the Zune does all of these things and more. I have not read that anywhere, nor is that the argument you are using here to justify you completely irrational Zune lust)

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