I’m an avid listener of podcasts and frequently use the Podcast app on iOS to look through the iTunes podcast directory. I dont, however, use the Podcasts app to listen to podcasts (I use Castro), which makes subscribing to a podcast I’ve found within the directory a bit of a chore.

The iTunes Store doesn’t surface a podcast’s feed, only providing an iTunes link (the same type of link used to link to music, apps or movies) when sharing from within the app. This means that the link will only work within iTunes or the Podcasts app, and it can’t be shared to another podcast app.

Since I can’t use the iTunes link to subscribe to a podcast in any other app, I have to do either of the following:

  1. Open Castro.
  2. Tap the + icon to add a new podcast.
  3. Search for the name of the podcast.
  4. Select the right podcast and subscribe.

Or:

  1. Visit the podcast’s website in Safari.
  2. Find the link to its RSS feed.
  3. Tap it, forgetting that Apple’s own Podcasts app handles RSS links.
  4. Switch back to Safari.
  5. Copy the link to the RSS feed.
  6. Open Castro.
  7. Tap the + icon to add a new podcast, at which point the URL in the clipboard is autofilled and I can then subscribe.

Ok, it’s not a long process, but it sure as hell is inconvenient.

Using Workflow for easier podcast subscriptions

A favourite of mine, Workflow is a fantastic automation tool that takes advantage of many features, such as extensions in iOS 8. Workflows can be run directly from the share sheet as an Action, providing a near-limitless number of possibilities.

After using Workflow for a few months, and reading what others have been able to do with it, I was determined to find a way to avoid either of the above processes when subscribing to a podcast, and I began to look for any way to somehow find the direct feed of a podcast from it’s iTunes link.

I stumbled upon this post on Super User, which explains how to decode an iTunes podcast link into a JSON file, surfacing all of its information – and the feed URL.

Using this information, I’ve created a workflow that can be called from the share sheet in iOS that will query the iTunes link, find the feed’s actual URL and pass it along to a third-party app of your choice, or just copy to the clipboard. You’re now able to browse the Podcast directory, or open any iTunes link to a podcast, and subscribe to any podcast using the app of your choice. No more app switching and searching for podcasts.

A quick rundown of what the workflow does to accomplish this:

  1. A regular expression is used to find the podcast’s ID number from the URL, storing it as the variable PodcastID.
  2. Gets the contents of the URL used to find more information about a feed, using PodcastID.
  3. Another regular expression is used to identify the feedUrl value, which gives us the feed’s direct URL and is saved as the variable PodcastURL.
  4. A menu is created with the option to copy PodcastURL to the clipboard, or open it in a number of third-party apps.
  5. An alert is displayed if the URL is copied to the clipboard.
  6. To open the feed in either Castro or Instacast, a regular expression is used to find and replace “http” or “https” with “castro” or “podcast”. For Overcast, Workflow includes a built-in action for Overcast which is used.

Changelog

2015-07-09: Updated workflow to provide better handling of podcasts with a URL in their name, and fixed an issue where SoundCloud feeds would not parse correctly.

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